Editor’s Notebook: Piping Reports/ Pipers Persuasion/ Talk Piobaireachd/ Florida School/ Military Music

John MacDougall playing at the games and mentioned in an Oban Times report from 1967

Don’t you like reading about the piping heroes of the past? I certainly do. Yet as I wrote this week, media reports on our solo and band competitions are practically extinct, a dying art.

Sure, you can search online and you’ll find the ‘results-and-everything-was-great’ type of article from, say, the Glenfiddich Championship, but no real opinion-based comment journalism.

We used to have a piping correspondent for the Oban Times, the West Highland Free Press, the London Times, and commentators in the Piping Times, and when John and Bunty MacLellan were around, the International Piper.

All offered facts and forthright views on performance. Writing for these organs were the likes of Seumas MacNeill, John MacFadyen, the aforementioned John MacLellan, David Murray, Fred and Ronnie Morrison, Frank Richardson, Archie and James Campbell. All great and good writers prepared to put their name and knowledge on the line.

Where are we now? I think Piping Press is the only place you will find subjective comment.

Part of the problem is that pipers and bands only like it when you write nice things about them. Give your opinion and you risk a social media pile on. I wonder if John MacDougall complained to John MacFadyen, a contemporary competitor, when the latter wrote that he didn’t like his variations in MacSwan of Roaig as per our report this week? I doubt it.

The modern piper should reflect that in 50 years time there will be scarce a record of their achievements.

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Pipers Persuasion

Allan Hamilton: I’ve just completed another tidy up job on YouTube videos and posted an upgrade on the 214 BB Pipe Band. How to deliver on a shoe-string maybe. Going steadily through my archive of other Pipers’Persuasion videos and refreshing them too. The 214 one is timeless and a shining beacon on long devotion and dedication.

Talk Piobaireachd

We had an excellent session on Wednesday evening from Malcolm McRae. It is not easy discussing the finer points of the great music at 6am as was the local time when Malcolm took the microphone from Queensland, Australia.

In an engrossing hour we learned of his teaching from Bob Brown and some of the traditional touches that are in danger of being lost. Fortunately recorded and scheduled for posting on the PS website.

After several decades of travelling here to judge, Malcolm has decided that 2023 was his last. I hope he enjoys his retirement but modern communications mean that no matter where you are you can still keep in touch and make a contribution to the art.

Florida P&D Academy

We have 25 pipers and 12 drummers signed up for the 2024 Academy. Principal Chris McKeown is expecting a few latecomers so has extended the closing date to February 1. Click here to register.

Instructors are myself, Barry Donaldson, Bill Caudill, Matt Pantaleoni, Stephen Creighton and Simon Hodgett. The school finishes the day before the Northeast Florida Games at Green Cove Springs where the instructors will be judging bands and solos.

Military Tunes

Colonel Milan J Kobulnicky, US Army Special Forces, Retired, the man behind the collating of worldwide military pipe music: ‘This year the team is focusing on Collection 5 which is Regimental Marches and Duty Tunes for all UK Regiments, past and present. 

‘We do have far long-term distant plans and some research already to also capture the regimental marches and duty tunes for pipes for Canadian, ANZAC, South American and even a few rare USA regimental collections.  Those are even harder to document now and finding anyone with expertise to help. You are welcome to share the attached.’ Contact Milan here.

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