SPSL Pipers’ Club Meetings

SPSL Pipers Clubs

SPSL

November 9, 2013

Each month the SPSL host the London based Pipers Clubs. These clubs welcome pipers of all abilities, including friends and family, to come and enjoy a social evening. Pipers of any ability are encouraged to bring their pipes and play a few tunes, but can also just sit back and enjoy the performances through the night. These evenings have always been great in the past and we’d love to see more people joining in for the night. Whether you are visiting London for the weekend or there each week, do come through and join us.

Watch the Facebook Group , Twitter and the Website for any upcoming clubs! Our events page will be functional too so we hope to have each future event clearly visible from our main page : www.scottishpipingsocietyoflondon.co.uk ! We look forward to seeing you all soon.

 

The next pipers club meet up is Sat 16th November @ 7pm !

 

Unless otherwise advertised, the venue for the pipers clubs is :

The Calthorpe Arms
252 Grays Inn Rd
London
WC1X 8JR

Phone: 020 7278 4732

SPSL Tony Doherty – SPSL Christmas Invitational

Tony Doherty – SPSL Christmas Invitational

Tony Doherty –

December 11, 2013

 

This was a great event again this year with 11 pipers competing for the Pipe Band Forums Trophy and the newly introduced Glitter Ball.The last time I came to the Strictly Come Piping evening was in 2011 and it was pleasing to see it back at the Mudlark. This year there were a variety of pipers and not just those known locally, with a couple of well travelled established pipers that were a pleasure to hear also in attendance.

TonyDoherty-2013

Tony Doherty – University of Bedfordshire Pipe Band

The evening started with a new face to the solo scene, although very well known to the SPSL, Daniel Del Piccolo. Daniel had the hardest job of the evening and what an impressive start he made. Apparently feeling very nervous in this first outing but that did not show through on a nicely tuned instrument played with confidence and musicality. In the program notes he mentioned he is aiming to play in one of the Grade 4 bands near London, well he will easily attain that goal and maybe better served aiming at that organisations Grade 2 band.

Next on was Roger Huth, heavily disguised in a mask and wig, with flashing lights and LED’s all over the place, it could have been anyone. However, a nicely tuned set of drones and some familiar traditional reels soon gave the game away and despite the heavy makeup, it became very obvious it was Roger on great form as usual.

Calum Armstrong was the next performer, a young man coming to the end of his music studies in one of London’s Conservatoires. It was not easily recognised that Calum’s first instrument may not be the bagpipes, as he played some solid opening tunes on a pleasant sounding bagpipe. Then came a change, Calum had brought along with him a set of small pipes and as he was strapping himself into these, Calum explained that the set he would be playing consisted of a dual chanter which would enable him to play harmony along with the melody all at the same time. It was in some disbelief that many of the audience sat there stunned as this instrument worked and some lovely melodies flowed from the intricate fingers that were required. These small pipes were a very clever addition to the evenings entertainment and a final few tunes back on the highland pipes finished Calum’s fifteen minutes nicely.

Next to enter the arena was a younger member of the Society, Morty Dickson. On a beautiful looking set of pipes Morty played a lot of the favourites that the younger pipers all seem to aim for, Chris Armstrong’s Extreme being one of them. This was a nicely performed set of tunes and there is a great future ahead for Morty.

A new addition to the London area is Conor McCallion (if only for a short time), a member of FMM’s World Championship and Grand Slam winning band this year and 2011. I heard Conor play a few years ago in the London Junior contest while he was playing with Ballinderry Bridge, and it was clear back then that he was destined for success. To play in FMM, I would imagine you would have to maintain a strong melodic instrument and have powerful finger technique. It is obvious why Conor has achieved great things with FMM, the bagpipe was strong and solid throughout and Conors fingers produced quality movements time after time. I do hope Conor will be around for a while as he is worth a listen to whatever the contest.

Michael Basford - last years Strictly Come Piping champion

Michael Basford – last years Strictly Come Piping champion

During the interval, Roddy Livingstone from the SPSL produced a beautiful looking set of Naill Bagpipes and explained that the SPSL has purchased them with the intention of providing young pipers in the Society that show great promise with the opportunity to play them in competition. Hopefully helping them to pick up a few prizes along the way! On this occasion they were presented to Michael Basford, who over the last few years has established himself on the solo circuit in and around London and the South East of England. This year Michael has made the transition to competing at the games in Scotland over the summer, a big step to make and fingers crossed this beautiful looking set will serve him well in the coming year.

Another presentation was to Daniel Del Piccolo, who was presented with a Naill Pipe Chanter for his efforts in working on the SPSL website. This is a great looking site with many multimedia features that are growing by the day.

After the interval it was the turn of Andy Hall to grace the stage. Andy does a huge amount of work behind the scenes for the SPSL and has breathed fresh life into the organisation over the last couple of years. How Andy gets time to produce quality performance time and time again amazes me. Andy is a member of the rejuvenated Shotts and Dykehead Pipe Band under Pipe Major Ryan Canning. Andy competed all summer with Shotts and that is a band that demands top quality performances no matter what the weather may throw at them. Andy will then turn up at a solo event the next day, while most pipers will be getting over the pleasantries of the night before. Shotts and Dykehead along with Andy will no doubt be back as regular attendees in the Major prize list next year. A great deal of thanks and respect are certainly due this man.

Matt Supranowicz was the next class performer to entertain. Matt arrived from Australia about a year ago and has managed to walk into the Shotts and Dykehead Pipe Band too. A solid performance on a great instrument illustrated why Matt is such a respected competitor in many parts of the world.

Best dressed piper of the night - Robert Gibb

Best dressed piper of the night – Robert Gibb

Next on was Robert Gibb, Robert had travelled down from Scotland and had a superb instrument, great fingers and finished with a flurry of flashing lights. It was a great pleasure to hear Robert perform some solid 2/4 marches and is obviously a successful competitor in the games over the summer. Hopefully the family association he has with Matt Supranoicz will mean we may see more performances from Robert in future.

A few weeks ago Stephen Cussen did a great job hosting at the last Pipers Club meeting and he certainly seems to have played himself into great form for Strictly Come Piping. Stephen started off with some rapidly played 9/8 marches which were well executed on a superb sounding instrument. Stephen moved on to a tune called Cathcart, the title track from the 2004 Scottish Power Pipe Band album. I’m sure the only reason this tune remains in his repertoire, is Stephen played on that CD! Next came some traditional jigs, again demonstrating impressive technique on a solid and steady bagpipe. The finish came in a burst of complex finger work with a few very difficult hornpipes The Mad Hornpipe, Blue Cloud and Frances Morton. A cracking performance and it was really good to see Stephen back in excellent form.

Allan Dunsmore, always a favourite with the crowd and he did not fail to please them once more. As is now expected, Alan’s finger technique is as clean and precise as ever. A superbly performed Piobaireachd, possibly the only one of the night, on a great bagpipe would yet again see that Alan will be somewhere near the top this year!

Last on to perform was last year’s winner, Michael Basford. Michael themed his fifteen minute selection on tunes from the Glenfiddich. This was an interesting lesson in history and Michael performed many classic tunes on a nicely set up bagpipe. Michael is without doubt a great talent and the presentation made earlier in the evening is a lovely accolade that will no doubt help see Michael to some great success in the solo arena in future years to come.

The whole evening was an extremely pleasurable outing. The piping was entertaining from the very first piper to the very last. The quiz questions were testing and covered all varieties of the piping world. Subject matter from Angus MacDonald to Australia and Roddy MacDonald to Pipe Bands had the audience constantly scratching their heads. The poor sole lady behind the bar did a great job. The committee of the SPSL must be congratulated for a superb evening, Andy, Jackie, Roddy etc.
And finally congratulations to Allan Dunsmore the winner of Stricly Come Piping 2013.

Thanks to everyone for a great evenings entertainment. Well done indeed!!

Tony Doherty

 

SPSL Some Memories Of Piping In South Africa

Some Memories Of Piping In South Africa Len Durham

Some Memories Of Piping In South Africa

February 9, 2014

I have lived in London for about 8 years.  Before that, I lived on Guernsey in the Channel Islands for about 20 years and before that in South Africa, where I was born and brought up and learned my piping.  Guernsey is a tiny island, about a fifth the size of South Uist, and somewhat of a piping desert.  I was the only piper on the island until I taught a couple of pupils and, strangely enough, was later joined by two other piping lawyers from SA who had taken up jobs there.  On the other hand, the island of Jersey, 25 miles away, had a flourishing pipe band led by Iain Macleod so I became a long-distance member of the band.  Getting to band practice, in the summer at least, involved leaving work in time to catch the tide, setting out for Jersey on my boat (and sometimes the ride was quite hairy, making me wonder whether I really loved the pipes that much), band practise, spending the night on board in Jersey and leaving early enough the next day to get back to Guernsey in time for work.  Strangely, at one stage there were 4 piping South Africans in the Channel Islands, and all of us were lawyers.

The proximity to France gave the band plenty of opportunities to get to Brittany and over the years I had a ringside seat from which to observe the standard of piping in Brittany rising to the excellence it enjoys now.  These trips, sometimes on our own boats and which included the L’Orient festival and many other more social events, were great experiences with many a tale to be told.  

Len Durham piping on board his boat in Granville harbour during a Jersey Band trip to France

Len Durham piping on board his boat in Granville harbour during a Jersey Band trip to France

Jersey had a surprising connection to my piping upbringing in SA.  My tutor in SA had been a pupil of one Lachie Millar (of whom more later) who was in turn a pupil of MacDougall Gillies.  Iain Macleod of Jersey’s piping heritage is from his grandfather who was also a pupil of MacDougall Gillies, probably around about the same time as Lachie Millar.   Iain is passionate about the Cameron style of playing piobaireachd, which was also the way my teacher had been brought up.  As a boy having my lessons in SA, I knew that here was something controversial about this style but I had no idea what or why.  My teacher passed away when I was still quite young and before I became very involved in piobaireachd.  That was the end of the Cameron style in SA, but when I got to Jersey I was surprised at the connection to Iain both through our tutors and our pipes – when my tutor died, I was able to acquire his Henderson bagpipe that had been made for him in 1929.  The engraving on the silver is a beautiful Juniper berry pattern, the like of which I had not seen elsewhere or since – before I got to Jersey that is.  Iain Macleod has a slightly older but identical set of Hendersons which had been made for his grandfather.   I have still not seen any other set with the same pattern.  By 1929 MacDougall Gillies was no longer alive but the romanticist in me sees a connection between the pipes, MacDougall Gillies and his pupils.

Chanter sole with Juniper Berry pattern

Chanter sole with Juniper Berry pattern

The main Piping organisation in SA is the Scottish Piping Society of the Witwatersrand.  The similarity to the name of the SPSL is no co-incidence as the first secretary was Dan Crichton who had been secretary of the SPSL before moving to SA and was one of the prime movers behind the SPSW.   Lachie Millar was a founder member and later became the society president.  He was from Argyll, moved to SA early in the 20th Century and did well in his adopted country.  His widow left the Society a generous bequest, including his house.   The ravages of inflation have diminished the value of that bequest but it has been enough to provide for what was once one of the highest cash prizes for piping to be found anywhere, the “100 Guineas” (for those not old enough to know, this was £100 plus 100 shillings), bi-annual visits by visiting pipers and a venue for tuition, recitals and practice.  At first, the venue was Lachie Millar’s house.  The Society sold the house and invested in a room and hall in a new Church of Scotland building in central Johannesburg.  That was our home, for tuition and ceilidhs for many years.  Sadly, the area where the church is built has now become a dangerous no-go area and the church itself has been taken over by squatters so that part of the Society’s good fortune has been lost and another venue has had to be found.

There have been pipers in SA more or less since the British arrived there in the late 18th Century but the late 20th century seems to have been a bit of a golden age.  The legacy from Lachie Millar put the society in a privileged position.   It had its own premises and was on a sound financial footing so was able to offer free tuition (Friday nights at the SPSW became an institution among pipers in Johannesburg), it offered the 100 Guineas prize each year and, every second year, was able to bring one of the current leading lights in Scotland out to SA to judge, perform and teach.

Emigration from the UK in the 30s and 40s had brought a number of top class players to SA and many of them were able tutors.   Those who I knew best were P/M George Ackroyd and P/M Allan Watters, both of whom had Black Watch connections.  George was a formidable personality who had been P/M of the Black Watch before moving to SA in 1937.  He had been one of the first pupils of John Grant at the Army School of Piping in 1918 and was later a pupil of John MacDonald of Inverness.  In SA he became the P/M of the Transvaal Scottish Regiment (a territorial unit) and was mobilised with them at the outbreak of WWII.  He served in Abyssinia and then the Western Desert and was taken prisoner at Tobruk.  He was able to keep his pipes with him throughout.  On a Friday night we would all gather at the Society’s rooms, probably 10 or 12 of us round the table and work through the 6 tunes which had been set for that years’ 100 Guineas plus any tunes which we were working on ourselves.  We had a great collection of recordings, including many from Bob Brown which were later used in the Masters of Piobaireachd series, so a lot of time was spent listening and analysing performances of the set tunes by the masters of the day.  Woe betide any of us who didn’t practice or who came to class with long hair – George brought his military approach to lessons and was often heard to tell a young piper that he would play better if he had his hair cut!  He had other words of wisdom as well and once took my fiancé aside to tell her to remember that pipers marry their pipes and live in sin with their wives.

Allan Watters was from Perthshire and was also a Black Watch man, becoming P/M of the 1st Bn during WWII, in time to lead them into the battle of Alamein.  He remained P/M until he left Scotland for SA after the war.  He was the tutor of  several school bands and over the years taught hundreds of boys to play the pipes and so made a major contribution to piping in SA.  He also set us all a wonderful example of decency and integrity and he was one the few judges whose decisions were simply never debated or disputed.

 Allan Watters (at John MacFadyen’s workshop in 1973)

Allan Watters (at John MacFadyen’s workshop in 1973.

There were many others who had made SA their home and who contributed in a less visible way to the piping scene, usually in bands and there were others who came to SA for shorter periods such as Jimmy Young, who spent a few eventful years there as P/M of one of the bands and Brian Mulhearn.  SA has produced several notable players in the last few years, probably the best known being Chris Terry, Gareth Rudolph and Craig Sked.  Some South Africans in the London piping scene have been Peter Candy, David Mason and Daniel del Piccolo.

There were a number of pipe bands in SA and most, but not all, solo players were also in bands.  The highland games season was a long one, starting in February and finishing in September.  SA is a big country so the long distances had to be dealt with as well – bands could not afford to fly so would drive, often overnight, the 1000 miles between Johannesburg and Cape Town or the 400miles from Johannesburg to Durban for a weekend contest.

The standard of band playing in SA has probably never been as high as the standard of solo playing.  The visiting pipers of those days were largely soloists and paid little attention to bands so in many ways, we had to make our own way.  Nevertheless, we were very enthusiastic, travelling long distances each week to get to practice and working hard to get our playing right.  We operated in a bit of a vacuum, without the benefit of being able to listen to bands better than us, never a good thing where the standard of playing is concerned.  Bands were however the bedrock of piping instruction.  From the 60s onwards, the army was an important part of SA life because everyone of eligible age was required to do National Service and then a period in the reserves, which were frequently called up because of the border wars going on in the 70s and 80s.  Pipe bands played their part in that, not least because pipers and drummers in the territorial army bands could get credit for time spent at practice, parades and other duties (including, sadly, military funerals) thereby reducing the risk of being called up to be sent to Angola or other places where the army was on active service.   The standard of bands rose throughout the late 70s and early 80s aided by the likes of Bob Shepherd who came out as a guest of the Pipe Bands Association in 1983 and gave band playing a great boost.  Of course, numbers were always an issue and a band with as many 12 pipers was a rarity indeed.  In 1984, my band, Richmond Avenue, ventured to Scotland intending to play in the Worlds but were thwarted by the politics of the time and the Glaswegian boycott of all things South African.  Since then things have changed politically and SA bands are now common at the Worlds, Edinburgh Tattoo and elsewhere, a far cry from the old days.

The games in SA always had both band and solo contests and the solos would usually have a dozen or so competitors in the senior events.   The first “solo only” event was the “100 guineas” which started in the mid 1960′s.  Having a leading Scottish piper as judge every second year added to its prestige.

Visits by leading Scottish pipers were great highlights for us.  Over the years that I can remember the SPSW arranged visits by J B Robertson, Donald Macleod (a photo of him in Johannesburg appeared on the front cover of the Piping Times recently), Ronnie Lawrie, John Maclellan (several times), Bob Brown, John MacFadyen, Willie McDonald of Inverness, Angus MacDonald (Scots Guards), Murray Henderson and more recently Rob Wallace.  Other leading pipers who have visited SA but not as guests of the SPSW include Bob Nichol, Finlay MacRae, Donald Morrison, Angus MacDonald (Glasgow police), Bob Shepherd and Bob Worrall.  In 1966 we were visited by the Royal Irish Fusiliers, who were then based in Swaziland and that year Norman Dodds (then a pipe-corporal in the RIF) won the 100 guineas.

The performances of the top visiting soloists were enthusiastically attended by the locals.  Not having the luxury of frequently hearing piping at this level, we were mesmerised by the performances and I can still remember John MacLellan’s performance of the Battle of the Pass of Crieff as long ago as 1966, which is what convinced me to take up piobaireachd.  Many of our visitors also led workshops and I was able to attend workshops with Bob Brown, John MacLellan (several) and John MacFadyen, each one different but an experience not to be forgotten.

The workshop with Bob Brown in 1970 was the first and for that reason perhaps the most special for me.  He was due to visit again but sadly passed away before the visit took place.   There were 12 of us, wearing the kilt was obligatory and we had a piper wake us with Johnny Cope each morning.   Before the workshop started we each chose a tune to learn and then each day we all sat together as he sang through, and then we sang through, the tunes.  After a few days, all of us were playing our own tunes and had a good feel for all 12 tunes.  By the end of the week several knew all 12 of them in the RUB style.

RUB in SA.  He is talking to SPSW secretary Nick Kinsey and Capt Bill Shepherd, from what was then Rhodesia.

RUB in SA. He is talking to SPSW secretary Nick Kinsey and Capt Bill Shepherd, from what was then Rhodesia.

He had judged the 100 guineas the previous week and took us thought the notes he had made on our performances.  It had been only my second piob contest and I had gone way off in Black Donald’s March – he was fairly complimentary up to that point and then his note was to the effect “Gone badly wrong but I won’t ask him to stop because he’s wearing such a nice Gordon kilt” – RUB having been a Gordon Highlander.  During this workshop he paid me the great compliment “If I had your fingers and my experience, I could go places”.  He had come to us almost directly from New Zealand and was full of enthusiasm about a young New Zealander he had just met – Murray Henderson, of course, and Murray tells me that Bob had kind things to say about piping in SA after this trip.  Bob surprised me by how open he seemed to be to different interpretations of tunes, as I had expected him to be very much “my way or no way”.  He taught us his way but always acknowledged that there were other settings and interpretations.  He was not sold on Kilberry however – as a bright eyed 19 year old, I arrived at the workshop with my brand new Kilberry Book of which he remarked “You’d be better off with the Daily Record under your arm”.  Of an evening we had the chance to just sit and listen to him, tune after magical tune.

John MacFadyen was very much a “my or no way” instructor.  His workshops, where we all also wore the kilt, were based on individual teaching of tunes that in many cases he chose for us based on his assessment of our standard.  This meant we each learnt those tunes well, but little else, although he had us all playing our own tunes very well by the time he left.  My tunes from him were the Earl of Antrim and then Macleod’s Controversy.  The evenings were spent listening to John who was then at the top of his game.  His workshops were at a wonderful venue that had a huge room with a blazing winter fire – perfect for listening to a master piper.  For me, perhaps the most memorable from these workshops was his performance one evening of The Flame of Wrath, which was a tune he was giving to one of the students and which John played for us at his aggressive best.  Chris Terry, who was a very successful solo competitor in Scotland in the 1980′s moved from SA to Scotland and became one of John MacFadyen’s  pupils.   Chis Terry now makes a wonderful set of drones, based on John MacFadyen’s MacDougalls.

LenDurham-DuncanMcFadyenInSA

Tea time at a John MacFadyen workshop – John MacFadyen, Bill Shepherd, John Farmer and Len Durham

John MacLennan visited us several times and we got to know him well.  His workshops were always relaxed and productive.  We each had a tune to learn but John also worked through many other tunes, with lessons tape recorded.  Bunty visited with him several times as well and added to all of them by her sense of humour, knowledge of piping people and places and, on one trip, her avid research into Hector the Hero, who had been in SA during the Boer War.

The universal comment from the visiting judges was that the standard of (solo) playing was good but the sound of our instruments was not what it should be.  Johannesburg is 6000 feet above sea level and very dry so in those days of cane drone reeds, hide bags etc, everything to do with tone and steadiness were a real struggle.  The problem was often how to keep the pipe moist enough to blow, and seldom how to keep it dry.  The long drive to contests at the coast was always rewarded by a bagpipe that sounded many times better than it did up country.  We also blamed poor quality chanter reeds arriving from Scotland, which was undoubtedly the case, but understood that that sort of climate was not what pipes were designed for.   When Bob Shepherd visited he brought a box of his reeds with him and when he took the box out after about a week in Johannesburg, they had all dried out and were unblowable. That was a constant problem and the advent of synthetic drone reeds and bags has been a boon everywhere but nowhere more than in Johannesburg.

Now and again old sets of pipes of uncertain history would turn up.  In our band over the years we assembled quite a collection of quite good old pipes which members had unearthed somewhere or other.  One day the drum major of the band noticed something that looked like a pipe box lying in someone’s garage and made some enquiries.  It was indeed a set of very beaten up and very old pipes.  The owner had no real idea of what they were or whose they had been, except that it had been someone in his wife’s family many years before.  They weighed less than a normal bagpipe would and didn’t look good so the drum major concluded that they must be Pakistani and the owner offered them to him for the equivalent of about £5.  When I saw them my pulse quickened – the chanter was stamped “MacDougall Breadalbane”.   I quickly made them my own.  It is hard to be sure what make they are but except for the chanter, they are probably not MacDougalls.  Based on comparisons with other sets, are probably an old set of Lawries.  They are ebony (which is why they are light) but are so old and well used that the bottom section of the bass drone has worn smooth from being held/rubbing against the piper playing them.  Sadly, a couple of tuning pins had broken and been inexpertly replaced and they have some cracks which open up when played much but they do have a nice tone despite that.

The “£5 bagpipe” – Lawries, perhaps – plus MacDougall chanter

The “£5 bagpipe” – Lawries, perhaps – plus MacDougall chanter

Like piping in other parts of the world, it is flourishing in SA at present, with a number of new bands springing up in recent years.  The 100 guineas is still competed for and there are some very capable players in SA.  The biggest disadvantage is distance from the real top players.  Gareth Rudolph has recently moved back there and his experience of competing in Scotland and as an instructor at the Piping Centre, will add greatly to things there.   A new prize has recently been set up to award a two week trip to Scotland to a young competitor in memory of the late John Farmer, a stalwart of the SA scene (he was the pupil who learned Flame of Wrath from MacFadyen) has so far been able to bring two young competitors over, the promise that they make being a commitment to pass on what they learn once they get home.

Piping has been a life-long passion and wonderful opportunity for me to learn great music, have fun, meet wonderful people and keep on learning.  When, more than fifty years ago, my granny took me to the highland games in Johannesburg and whetted my appetite for the music and the atmosphere, little could she or I have imagined the pleasure that lay in store.

SPSL Norman MacKenzie

Norman MacKenzie Myself and London

Norman MacKenzie

November 17, 2013

Forward Momentum –

 

I was born and brought on the Isle of Lewis , in the parish of Ness, about twenty miles north of Stornoway, and two miles from the Butt of Lewis. My first language is Gaelic, and we all learnt English in school aged five. There was a lot of Pipers there as I grew up hence the popular tune “The Ness Pipers”, by Iain Morrison.

The natives are friendly but they still have missionaries there. The music of the Pipes was the first music I heard when I was four years old, when my mother used to stop my next door neighbour playing in the in the evening and waking me up. Unfortunately he was later lost during the War in 1940. I joined the Army age 18 yrs. and that was the only time I cursed the Pipes, every snowy February morning at 6am in Cameron Barracks, Inverness. The first Pipe Band I saw was the Seaforth Highlanders led by PM Donald MacLeod .

 

After the Army I spent over seven years in the Merchant Navy mainly in the New Zealand Shipping Co. and left to join the Met. Police when I married and then transferred to the Port Of London Police where I was at home with ships. I joined the SPSL in probably 1965 and later served on the Committee, stewarding, printing programmes, etc. We were very poor in those days with hardly any sponsors, but we had regular fantastic recitals, Angus MacDonald. Angus John MacLellan, John and Iain MacFadyen, and many others, together with full audiences, often with standing room only.

 

My ambition is to keep fit, stay healthy, and in the spring to go the Donald MacLeod Competition in Stornoway. If there is anything in the world I would change it would be this Government, and to send Cameron and Boris to a Gulag in Siberia.

 

The SPSL is doing extremely well and has been for the last few years, and the Bratach Gorm Competition this year was no exception, it was all run so efficiently, but it is most important now to support the young pipers, and there are many of them as last weeks Competition showed. I would like a couple of changes to the programme, judging from the comments some of the audience were making.

 

No. 1. That the announcement of Tunes were sometimes inaudible. (Maybe they should be written a board; certainly at the Bratach this was true).
No. 2. That the approximate start times of competitions could be in the programme as they used to be.
No. 3. That the London Medallion and Rovertson Bowl competition takes place later in the afternoon, as it the most popular and well attended of all the competitions, as happens in Inverness. This also applies to the Hornpipe & Jig. I fully agree with this.

 

Norman MacKenzie

SPSL Norman MacKenzie

Norman MacKenzie Myself and London

Norman MacKenzie

November 17, 2013

Forward Momentum –

 

I was born and brought on the Isle of Lewis , in the parish of Ness, about twenty miles north of Stornoway, and two miles from the Butt of Lewis. My first language is Gaelic, and we all learnt English in school aged five. There was a lot of Pipers there as I grew up hence the popular tune “The Ness Pipers”, by Iain Morrison.

The natives are friendly but they still have missionaries there. The music of the Pipes was the first music I heard when I was four years old, when my mother used to stop my next door neighbour playing in the in the evening and waking me up. Unfortunately he was later lost during the War in 1940. I joined the Army age 18 yrs. and that was the only time I cursed the Pipes, every snowy February morning at 6am in Cameron Barracks, Inverness. The first Pipe Band I saw was the Seaforth Highlanders led by PM Donald MacLeod .

 

After the Army I spent over seven years in the Merchant Navy mainly in the New Zealand Shipping Co. and left to join the Met. Police when I married and then transferred to the Port Of London Police where I was at home with ships. I joined the SPSL in probably 1965 and later served on the Committee, stewarding, printing programmes, etc. We were very poor in those days with hardly any sponsors, but we had regular fantastic recitals, Angus MacDonald. Angus John MacLellan, John and Iain MacFadyen, and many others, together with full audiences, often with standing room only.

 

My ambition is to keep fit, stay healthy, and in the spring to go the Donald MacLeod Competition in Stornoway. If there is anything in the world I would change it would be this Government, and to send Cameron and Boris to a Gulag in Siberia.

 

The SPSL is doing extremely well and has been for the last few years, and the Bratach Gorm Competition this year was no exception, it was all run so efficiently, but it is most important now to support the young pipers, and there are many of them as last weeks Competition showed. I would like a couple of changes to the programme, judging from the comments some of the audience were making.

 

No. 1. That the announcement of Tunes were sometimes inaudible. (Maybe they should be written a board; certainly at the Bratach this was true).
No. 2. That the approximate start times of competitions could be in the programme as they used to be.
No. 3. That the London Medallion and Rovertson Bowl competition takes place later in the afternoon, as it the most popular and well attended of all the competitions, as happens in Inverness. This also applies to the Hornpipe & Jig. I fully agree with this.

 

Norman MacKenzie

SPSL PM Gordon Walker

PM Gordon Walker wins the Beaton Cup in London!

PM Gordon Walker

November 11, 2013

The Mary Flora Beaton Cup is a very important trophy at the London Competition. It was presented in memory of Allan Beaton’s mother and in previous years has been the decisive prize in deciding the Overall Champion, and the entry to the Glenfiddich that goes with the ‘Overall’.

 

As part of our new website strategy we have created a ‘weekend magazine’ reprise of the Beaton Cup competition. We suggest you prepare your favourite really good coffee or decant a really excellent bottle of red that you have been saving for a special occasion or open that 18 year old Glenfiddich and invite some friends over.

 

Please sit back and enjoy a selection from the best hornpipe and jig competition in the world – The Mary Flora Beaton Cup 2013!

 

Gordon Walker

Finlay Johnston

Cameron Drummond

Willie McCallum

Glenn Brown

Bruce Gandy

Margaret Dunn

Andrew Carlisle

John Angus-Smith

 

Thanks again to the competitors for allowing us to enjoy these performances.

SPSL Jack Goes For Gold

Jack Goes For Gold Part 3

Jack Goes For Gold

November 9, 2014

The barred window cries rain water into a growing puddle on the brick floor. Rotten straw is bunched in a  pile against the wall and on it a body lies.

Gaston.  LeTrek was once the king’s favourite. He had proved himself in battle and matched wits with the courtesans of Versailles. Once renowned as “Europe’s most dangerous man” he is now chained upon the rancid floor of a prison he knows not where. The iron banded door groans open, wide as the grave.

“Mr LeTrek? I am overseer Sanclare. You will come with me”. The overseer’s face showed no sign of pity. No humanity behind his half moon spectacles shone through. Three days of torture at the hands of unknown assailants that robber LeTrek of his energy and some of his secrets. He did not resist when the sack was placed over his head. The headsman’s axe had been singing its ringing sirensong in his dreams these past few nights and LeTrek now wondered if his premonitions were to come true.

The cold kiss of rain hits his shoulders as he’s half led and half dragged by soldiers out of his prison and into the courtyard. LeTrek breathes deep of the clear damp air thinking this may be the last time he can enjoy it. A gentle creak and the smell of horses tells him there’s a carriage ahead. His knees clang gains the footstep and he is barrelled into the open door.

Inverness

July 19th 1789

“Sing the tune in your head before you play it lad”

Jack shuts his eyes and the memory fills his senses. He is just a child in it, 10 or 11 years old when he was sent for Piobaireachd, but the music and the man who taught it to him are as present in his memory as they were the in the days he learned them. Angus was a gentle and patient man who took joy in seeing young players flourish in the Ceol mor. Jack had been a couple of years younger than Angus’ son John Roy and learned alongside him during the summer on Rassey when his father went across to see relatives. For about 10 days out of every year Lord Minto let his head ghillie enjoy some time away to get lessons himself from the old man and was more than pleased that his son did so too.

The tune pours out of the instrument. It had travelled surprisingly well and Jack had been playing it for an hour at every stop he and Duncan had made all the way from London. Into the variations now, pick up the rhythm.

Express the light and the dark of the tune.

Let the flow carry you.

Don’t think.

Do.

BOOOOOMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The explosion rocks the building and Jack near drops the pipes. The fright he got threw him out of the centred focus his was polishing for the contest.

“Damn” he sighed sweeping across to the table where his kit bag lay open to receive his pipes. Dr Alves barges through the door.

“Good God Man!!!!!!!” The good doctor’s spectacles hung precariously from one ear. “Where did that come from?”

“I’ve no idea Doctor. We must away and see if anyone is hurt”

“….aye. Aye. Yes. We must away”

Jack slid his pipes into the kit bag and left them on the table. He turns to the doctor and they both hurry from the room. Once in the street it became obvious that the harbour was ablaze. The shouts of sailors forming bucket chains and yells of the injured rose as a beacon for Dr Alves and Jack. Once on the scene the doctor leapt off to help any injured and Jack ran off to a now burning jetty where the fire had seemingly came from.

Within 30 feet of the flames an old familiar scent hit Jack square in the face. It’s terrifying odour caressed him and was compounded by the following heat. The dawn of realisation swept over Jack.  Gunpowder.

 

 

 

SPSL Harpenden Solo Piping – Results

Harpenden Solo Piping – Results

Harpenden Solo Piping –

July 13, 2014

A great day inDerek Midgley, Hapenden the sunshine at Harpenden. Nice to see Derek Midgley for the USA, Angus Nixon from  South Africa and Pete Murray  from Australia competing alongside our regulars.

Open Piobaireachd

1st   Derek Midgley

2nd Jamie Forrester

3rd  Andrew Hall

Open March

1st   Derek Midgley

2nd Andrew Hall

3rd  Tom Curd

Open Strathspey & Reel

1st   Jamie Forrester

2nd  Derek Midgley

3rd  Tom Curd

Open Jig

1st   Jamie Forrester

2nd Andrew Hall

3rd  Derek Midgley

Amateur Piobaireachd

1st   Gareth Utting

2nd  Pete Murray

3rd  Lachlan MacDonald

Amateur March

1st   William Waldrope

2nd Gareth Utting

3rd  Lachlan MacDonald

Amateur Strathspey & Reel

1st   William Waldrope

2nd  Gareth Utting

3rd  Lachlan MacDonald

SPSL Going Digital

Going Digital Andrew Hall

October 2, 2014

The end of the season; the shock of being back to work, a bit of a break from piping, the start of a winter’s work…everyone views it differently.

Me? Pam says I’m a grumpy sod if I’m not piping or at least looking through books and playing new stuff on the practice chanter.  She laughs at me because of the piles of music books and my lists of tunes that might be worth a look.  The lists get lost under the same books when they’re piled up in the corner again.  And I end up playing the same tunes again every year!

This year has been a particularly busy year with a compressed full-on band season, trying to cram in solo events to maintain some sort of track record, as well as balancing home and work.  Towards the end of the summer I found that some tunes were a struggle – they’d been rehearsed so much that they’re almost stale.

It was almost a relief to think of moving on to some new material.  But how?  When I sit down at home I’m usually challenged to play x box F1 with Euan or wrestling with Finlay.  Or Duncan (you remember him?) just barks at me because he thinks it’s funny.  Incidentally he turns 11 this weekend!

This time I decided to try something different and have a look at some of the music that’s published electronically.  I thought I could in some way use my work commuting time to learn new tunes.

Chris Armstrong’s Re:tradition collection was published a couple of years ago and in his introduction he explains how he challenged himself to deliver his music in a different way.  For me, as a consumer of that music, the result is revolutionary.

The tunes are presented in a downloadable format and they all have embedded music files.  I’ve got the whole lot on my phone.  No more piles of music books for me.  Picture the scene on the London Underground – me with the head phones on chuntering away in strathspey and reel ‘hi en dro, hi en edre’ language.  Typically in London no-one seems to notice.

What I think is completely new is the way I can learn the tunes and at the sametime listen to how the composer would play them.  It really brings the tunes to life and makes it so much more interesting to study them.  There are tunes in there that I would probably not have noticed in a standard collection.  This is because the audio let’s you hear the expression in the tune and draws your ear to almost every tune in the collection.  And the audio also highlights a few places where you might think ‘I could put more expression into that.  Hold the low A before the taorluath!’

In the first week the stand out tunes were the big four parted strathspeys.  Good musical tunes in a traditional competition style.  I’ve picked out two to learn immediately.

Then I noticed the reels.  Again many of them are traditional competition style.  There’s one which is going straight into my list for London.  I’ll try it out on the audience at the October Pipers’ Club in the Calthorpe Arms.

This week the marches caught the ear.  Pipe Major RWS Pollock was my first piping tutor and his tune is a big four parted march with an unusual off beat in the second phrase.  It takes some listening to before your ear adjusts to the melody.  Not unlike listening to Winston himself!  (I’m sure the Lord Mayor of Randalstown wouldn’t mind me saying that!).

There are many cracking tunes in the collection and I’m hoping to learn most of them.  For now the stand out tunes for me are a traditional march, strathspey and reel; Jonathan Cheyne, Bob Shepherd and Alan Minty.  Also for the London piping enthusiasts the strathspey Les Cowell in Chris’s collection would go well with the reel Patricia Cowell in RS Macdonald’s collection.

I’d thoroughly recommend that SPSL members acquire the collection if they have not already done so.  Chris will be competing at the Bratach this year so the society members will have an opportunity to hear him playing in London again after a couple of years away.

The business world claims that creating a digital organisation is not just about implementing new technology. If you want to see true and lasting value from technology, people need to change their mindsets and behaviours, and consumers will lead that change.

The collection is definitely delivered in a different way and it has fundamentally changed the way I’m consuming pipe music. Other digital
publications are also available including a number from the Piobaireachd Society who are a major supporter of the Annual London Competition.

What’s that?  You’re kicking me off the train?  For making too much noise?
Never mind. I’ve just discovered another great new 2/4 march!

See you at the Pipers’ Club on October 11th.

Andrew

SPSL Going Digital

Going Digital Andrew Hall

October 2, 2014

The end of the season; the shock of being back to work, a bit of a break from piping, the start of a winter’s work…everyone views it differently.

Me? Pam says I’m a grumpy sod if I’m not piping or at least looking through books and playing new stuff on the practice chanter.  She laughs at me because of the piles of music books and my lists of tunes that might be worth a look.  The lists get lost under the same books when they’re piled up in the corner again.  And I end up playing the same tunes again every year!

This year has been a particularly busy year with a compressed full-on band season, trying to cram in solo events to maintain some sort of track record, as well as balancing home and work.  Towards the end of the summer I found that some tunes were a struggle – they’d been rehearsed so much that they’re almost stale.

It was almost a relief to think of moving on to some new material.  But how?  When I sit down at home I’m usually challenged to play x box F1 with Euan or wrestling with Finlay.  Or Duncan (you remember him?) just barks at me because he thinks it’s funny.  Incidentally he turns 11 this weekend!

This time I decided to try something different and have a look at some of the music that’s published electronically.  I thought I could in some way use my work commuting time to learn new tunes.

Chris Armstrong’s Re:tradition collection was published a couple of years ago and in his introduction he explains how he challenged himself to deliver his music in a different way.  For me, as a consumer of that music, the result is revolutionary.

The tunes are presented in a downloadable format and they all have embedded music files.  I’ve got the whole lot on my phone.  No more piles of music books for me.  Picture the scene on the London Underground – me with the head phones on chuntering away in strathspey and reel ‘hi en dro, hi en edre’ language.  Typically in London no-one seems to notice.

What I think is completely new is the way I can learn the tunes and at the sametime listen to how the composer would play them.  It really brings the tunes to life and makes it so much more interesting to study them.  There are tunes in there that I would probably not have noticed in a standard collection.  This is because the audio let’s you hear the expression in the tune and draws your ear to almost every tune in the collection.  And the audio also highlights a few places where you might think ‘I could put more expression into that.  Hold the low A before the taorluath!’

In the first week the stand out tunes were the big four parted strathspeys.  Good musical tunes in a traditional competition style.  I’ve picked out two to learn immediately.

Then I noticed the reels.  Again many of them are traditional competition style.  There’s one which is going straight into my list for London.  I’ll try it out on the audience at the October Pipers’ Club in the Calthorpe Arms.

This week the marches caught the ear.  Pipe Major RWS Pollock was my first piping tutor and his tune is a big four parted march with an unusual off beat in the second phrase.  It takes some listening to before your ear adjusts to the melody.  Not unlike listening to Winston himself!  (I’m sure the Lord Mayor of Randalstown wouldn’t mind me saying that!).

There are many cracking tunes in the collection and I’m hoping to learn most of them.  For now the stand out tunes for me are a traditional march, strathspey and reel; Jonathan Cheyne, Bob Shepherd and Alan Minty.  Also for the London piping enthusiasts the strathspey Les Cowell in Chris’s collection would go well with the reel Patricia Cowell in RS Macdonald’s collection.

I’d thoroughly recommend that SPSL members acquire the collection if they have not already done so.  Chris will be competing at the Bratach this year so the society members will have an opportunity to hear him playing in London again after a couple of years away.

The business world claims that creating a digital organisation is not just about implementing new technology. If you want to see true and lasting value from technology, people need to change their mindsets and behaviours, and consumers will lead that change.

The collection is definitely delivered in a different way and it has fundamentally changed the way I’m consuming pipe music. Other digital
publications are also available including a number from the Piobaireachd Society who are a major supporter of the Annual London Competition.

What’s that?  You’re kicking me off the train?  For making too much noise?
Never mind. I’ve just discovered another great new 2/4 march!

See you at the Pipers’ Club on October 11th.

Andrew