Survey Summary: 100 Years of Pipe Bands

January 1, 2020 on 8:00 am by Michael Grey | In News, Pipe Bands | No Comments

With over 200 respondents a summarized view can now be passed along of the “100 years of pipe bands” survey offered last month to readers of bagpipe.news (and those of my blog). In my working life (corporate communications) I’ve always found surveys a good way to take a temperature check of a group of people. You’ll know political pollsters are masters in calculating the exactness – or degree of accuracy – of any group of responses. You may be surprised to find – as I once was – that response levels do not have to be especially high to show a degree of accuracy. I projected that 5000 people would likely be reached through both bagpipe.news and blog channels. Considering participant rate and target audience size it might be said that from the “100 years of pipe bands” survey, a confidence level of 95% can be inferred, with a margin of error of 7%. Margin of error (that the results don’t jive with the perspective of the target group) is quite high here. 5% is the industry standard (you can read more about confidence levels and survey margins of error here).
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Carpe Diem

December 18, 2019 on 6:40 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag | No Comments

It says something about me – or, at least, my age – that when the clocks struck midnight on December 31,1999, I thought the wild empyrean future had arrived: the year 2000. The year marked the beginning of the third millennium, one predicted to start with, among other things, a massive failure of the world’s computer systems. Then, to even say 2000 in the context of a calendar date fairly tripped up the tongue. To George Orwell, his 1949 novel, 1984, was his imagined distant future. By 2000, the year 1984 was old news. And here we are: at the front steps of the remarkable year, 2020.
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100 Years of Pipe Band Music (Survey)

November 28, 2019 on 2:02 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Pipe Bands | No Comments

In listening to a recording of the 1947 World Champion, Bowhill Colliery Pipe Band, I got to thinking about the many, often dynamic, changes that have come to pipe band music over the last 100 years. From music to pitch and overall sound the transformation of the art form over a relatively short period has been remarkable. You can hear Bowhill Colliery here.

Bowhill’s march, strathspey and reel is interesting – if not the easiest listening – in part, because parts of tunes have not been repeated to fit the 3 minute and 30 second recording limit of the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) 78 RPM record. This is from a Beltona production recorded their winning year. Their tunes: Highland Wedding, Athole Cummers and Mrs MacPherson of Inveran.
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More Mississippi than Molendinar

October 18, 2019 on 5:27 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Music, Photographs, Pipe Bands, Score & Sound File, Whinges | Comments Off on More Mississippi than Molendinar

Hamish Henderson is generally acknowledged as the father of the Scottish folk revival. It was Henderson, poet, activist and folklorist – among other things – who is credited with coining the phrase “the carrying stream”.

Broadly, the carrying stream refers to the passing along of cultural tradition, especially words and music. The flow of the stream, any stream, is a tranquil image on its own. Even Heraclitus had something to say about it: no one ever steps in the same stream twice since it’s never the same stream – and they, with that step, are not the same person. Let the thought of that undulating water transporting a little culture and a lot of music, and the idea of the carrying stream and the forward movement of tradition becomes at once attractive – and easy to understand.
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A Line Up of Knees

October 10, 2019 on 7:08 am by Michael Grey | In Humour, Photographs | Comments Off on A Line Up of Knees

I was talking to John Walsh the other evening and learned – among other things – he had one brand new knee. It was last week in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia when his plastic patella was, er, planted. Like so many procedures of this kind there’s no shortage of discomfort in recovery.
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To Summon a Dancing Skeleton

August 9, 2019 on 11:36 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Stories | Comments Off on To Summon a Dancing Skeleton

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 | Comments Off on John Morrison of Assynt House

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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