To Summon a Dancing Skeleton

August 9, 2019 on 11:36 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Stories | No Comments

I’ve always liked history. The study of things connected with the past, especially when people are in the mix is a pause-worthy pursuit. In history we’re presented a never-ending book and with every moment that passes a new piece is added to the story. Everyone makes their own stories; some big and some small. Because the stories help us understand the context of lives lived, most are interesting – to one degree or another.

With so many stories unfolding, we know history doesn’t happen in a straight line. History comes to be by a crazy and complex meshwork of countless interconnected occurrences and perspectives. And these: all happening at once – everywhere. We learn from it – and we repeat it.
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John Morrison of Assynt House

August 6, 2019 on 6:30 pm by Michael Grey | In Stories | No Comments

I was talking to Glasgow piper, Craig Turnbull, a little while ago. He had been travelling in the Western Isles and the subject of the famous reel. “John Morrison of Assynt House” came up. Craig had passed by Assynt House in Stornoway. I always had it in my mind that Peter MacLeod, Senior, the composer of this reel – a piece of music that is without doubt, one of the greatest music compositions of all time – named it for a place in Ross-shire, north of Inverness (Scotland).

Our discussion ended with me committing to do a little research to find out what was what. Because. I was sure I was right.
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The best advice a boss ever gave me

June 17, 2019 on 4:01 pm by Michael Grey | In Random Thoughts | Comments Off on The best advice a boss ever gave me

If the word leadership could be instantly removed from the English language the internet would have almost 4 billion fewer traces of Linkedin’s favourite noun. Four. Billion. People love “leadership”. We may not always be especially charmed by local political leaders but for leadership as a notion, an idea – there’s a lot of love.
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Tunes from John Wilson (1906 – 1979)

May 29, 2019 on 4:51 pm by Michael Grey | In Audio File, Solo Piping, Stories, Video | Comments Off on Tunes from John Wilson (1906 – 1979)

There aren’t a lot of easily available recordings of great players of the past – especially the long past. Here are a few samples from the great John Wilson. I no longer assume people know of him, or, for that matter, almost any of the greats of the not-so-distant-past.

John Wilson was born in Edinburgh. He came from a piping family, his Uncle John, for instance, was “The Baldooser” (how’s that for a nickname). You can find the jig named “The Baldooser” in Willie Ross’s first book. John Wilson took to the pipes very young and, even then, was a good player. His life changed forever when as a kid in Edinburgh he was playing on the beach with a detonator (as one did) and blew off big parts of his left hand. He always noted in the story’s telling that this happened the day before the Great War’s Armistice in 1918; the irony appealed to him, I’m sure.
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Reservoirs for the heart

May 7, 2019 on 10:47 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Solo Piping, Stories | Comments Off on Reservoirs for the heart

It was a bleak, frosty, light-starved January day in Edinburgh about twenty years ago that it found me. The kind of day where the only cure for quaffing a little too long – and often – from things in Glasgow connected to things Celtic called for a long walk in cold. Oddly, it’s that special kind of lugubrious, frigid grey that is the Old Town in winter, that can be the most curative.
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The Great Highland Bagpipe will take you places

February 25, 2019 on 8:47 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Stories | Comments Off on The Great Highland Bagpipe will take you places

Amidst the magic found around the instrument we know as the Great Highland Bagpipe is an invisible golden ticket to untold amazing experiences. Learn the fundamental ways of the pipes and the world can be your oyster. The extraordinary travels and remarkable people and events that the pipes can conjure are boundless. There’s no prerequisite of grand champion status: pipers and pipe bands of every standard routinely encounter greatness – if not unforgettable bagpipe-made moments. From presidents, prime ministers, the Pope and pop stars, pipers the world over can find themselves in the most unlikely of performance situations.
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The Walking Dead of Qualifier Friday

February 23, 2019 on 9:49 am by Michael Grey | In Pipe Bands, Random Thoughts | Comments Off on The Walking Dead of Qualifier Friday

With less than a score of grade one bands projected to attend the 2019 World Pipe Band Championships (and quite possibly an entry closer to ten than twenty) any case to be made for a Friday qualifier, or play-off, may likely come across as pretty weak. That the grade 4B contest in 2018 featured 18 bands in each run-off suggests that organizers have a perspective on optimum numbers for any contest (grade 4 is the less-experienced end of the grading spectrum, with grade one, the highest).

For those who aren’t dialled-in to the world pipe band thing – especially as it applies to the idiom’s premier grade – here’s context:
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Ronnie Rollo: Folk Artist

February 13, 2019 on 8:05 pm by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Random Thoughts, Stories | Comments Off on Ronnie Rollo: Folk Artist

In a recent mid-winter clear-out of my house I found myself with a little extra wall-space. I also found a few things I’d forgotten. Anyone who knows me knows that walls were made for one thing: to hang stuff. When I was younger I used to move a lot. And here’s a Top Tip for the itinerant: I found that the fastest way to make a place feel like home is to nail to the wall a favourite photo, picture or poster (even before all boxes are unpacked). I say “nail”, I mean hang, as in hung. A well-hung picture makes any strange new place instantly more familiar.
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In Praise of Morag (and teachers)

January 2, 2019 on 8:44 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag | Comments Off on In Praise of Morag (and teachers)

I can remember the near-precise moment I was hit with a serious dislike for cane drone reeds. I was last on in the Gold Medal contest at Oban and it was at the start of the last line of the crunluath a mach of my tune – maybe 20 seconds from the finish line. I’ll let Seumas MacNeill, one of the judges of that year’s event take it from there: “The strongest challenge to this fine piper was coming from Michael Grey … playing a quite magnificent In Praise of Morag. As so often happens in such a competition, everything went well until almost the very end, when disaster struck in the form of a stopped bass drone. Michael, and many more of us, will grieve over this for years to come.”
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New Book: Young MacCrimmon and the Silver Chanter

December 17, 2018 on 10:29 am by Michael Grey | In Reviews, Stories | Comments Off on New Book: Young MacCrimmon and the Silver Chanter

I picked up the new children’s book, Young MacCrimmon and the Silver Chanter as a Christmas present for a (lucky) kid on my list. It’s a rare book that doesn’t gift its reader some new insight or bit of knowledge. Written by Mick Broderick and Robert Wallace and illustrated by Norman Matheson, this children’s book didn’t fall short: I was reminded that the late Broderick stood as a great Scottish tradition bearer and found piper-solo-piping-judge, Matheson, to be an outstanding illustrator – and so, an artist beyond his piping.
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