Letter on Alistair Campsie Book/ RSPBA Calendar/ Gordonstoun Trip

Alistair Campsie and book

I do sometimes wonder about those writings on piping where the ‘shop window’ is so immensely off-putting that we never look further at the goods behind it, writes reader David Livingstone. The writings of Alasdair Campsie on the MacCrimmons and the pibroch settings of Simon Fraser immediately spring to mind.

It is clear that the MacCrimmons existed and were eminent and respected pipers, but everything we currently know and take for granted about their position at the pinnacle of pibroch composition and teaching can be traced back to the writings of Angus MacKay.

Interestingly, a hundred years earlier, Joseph MacDonald (who was taught by the piper to the chief of Clan MacKay, a MacLeod, and moved quite widely in musical and piping circles before leaving for India, describes his ‘Compleat Theory’ as recording the traditions of the ‘first masters and composers in Mull and Skye’.

He gives no names, but is clearly referring to the Rankin, MacArthur and MacCrimmon legacies, and the styles in his book seem to bear more resemblance to MacArthur’s than MacCrimmon’s (as communicated by Angus MacKay). We’ll have to guess about the Rankin influence. Certainly no suggestion of any one of the three being more important.

Campsie over-states his case to sell his book, but one is left wondering if there is a germ of truth in the notion that Angus MacKay may have done something similar to endorse the eminence of the style he played and taught.

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RSPBA Calendar

The full calendar for the summer band season is now available on the RSPBA website. It is subject to change. It offers a wide range of competition for all grades. We would encourage all bands to get out and compete at the minor events as well as the major.

May: Banchory and Gourock on the 12th; UK Champs. in Bangor NI on the 18th.
June: Mid Ulster and Innerleithen on the 1st, Markinch and Girvan on the 2nd; British Champs. at Forres on the 8th; Ardrossan on the 9th, Colchester & Aberdeen on the 16th, Ayr and Lochore on the 22nd.
July: All Irelands & Annan 6th; Corby on the 14th; Renfrew the 20th; Scottish Champs., Dumbarton 27th.
August: Dundonald & North Berwick 3rd; Bridge of Allan 4th; Euro. Champs. Perth 11th; Worlds 16th & 17th; Rothesay 24th; Cowal 31st
September: Chatsworth 1st; Peebles 7th; Pitlochry 14th.

All details and entry forms here.

Gordonstoun School Trip

Michael Tait, the school PR man writes: Gordonstoun’s pipe band has been invited to play at the Hong Kong rugby sevens. Almost 40 students from the school will play before an estimated 40,000 fans in the Hong Kong Stadium on April 7.

The Gordonstoun band

The band will spend several days in Hong Kong, including a performance with local pipes and drums at the tournament’s fanzone. The students will also play at Ocean Park, one of Hong Kong’s largest theme parks.

Drummer Kathryn Nip, 13, from Hong Kong, said: ‘I am very excited to be able to show my home country to all of my friends in the band. I am especially eager to perform at Ocean Park, because I went there a lot when I was young!’ 

More than 40 different nationalities call Gordonstoun home, and the band includes students from Switzerland, Thailand and Hong Kong. Gordonstoun is HM the King’s old school and the band were invited to play his Coronation celebrations last July.


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