Canada @150: A baker’s dozen of tunes

June 28, 2017 on 6:09 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Pipe Bands, Solo Piping | No Comments

This year, as some might know, is Canada’s 150th anniversary of “confederation”, as we Canadian-types say. It was in 1864 that politicians of the day met in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and started to agree to something called Canada. By July 1, 1867, we had Canada – and – our first Prime Minister, John A MacDonald, Glasgow born – in the Merchant City area, quite possibly – set the stage for a Canada where the pipes are never too far away from earshot. In fact, one Colin Roy MacLellan made a prize-winning pibroch in honour of the great man, “Salute to Sir John A MacDonald”, published (2016) in his father’s, Captain John A’s, “Complete Compositions of Ceol Mor”. An excellent tune.

And so a compositional seque to now: in honour of Canada’s 150 (and seizing an excuse as good as any), a “top” 13 tunes list made up of Canadians. I list them here, with the composer’s surname in alphabetical order.

Nothing too serious here, all in the name of Canada’s anniversary now – I reflected on tunes that were (a) composed by Canadians, or (suspected) naturalized Canucks and (b) tunes that I had a sense are – or at one time were – quite popular. I know there’re loads of good and great tunes of real merit around. This is just a list. One list in a moment in time. And yes, most of these people built many more than one excellent tune.
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The collateral damage of nice

June 16, 2017 on 6:13 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag | No Comments

To be clear and direct in communicating – getting across what you really feel to your fellow person – must surely be one of the rarest of human traits. In my experience, it’s the norm for people to often do whatever can be done to avoid saying what might be said in the most concise and unvarnished of ways. In our use of words, in our lexicon, we’ve even invented a special category for words that are indistinct, words that soften the impact of a purer, more literal alternative. We have the euphemism.

Death and dying are taboo discussion subjects in much of the world. Rather than to die or to have died you’ll know it’s much better to have “passed away”. To have passed away must be among one of our most common euphemisms. Like quietly leaving a big party, easing away from a large dinner table or fading from sight at the end of a long road, people just “pass away”. So much nicer to think of death that way, isn’t it?
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Photo Intensity: Glasgow Police Pipe Band

May 31, 2017 on 6:42 pm by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Pipe Bands | No Comments

It’s the last few remaining hours of the month of May and I’m feeling it’s a good time to post a positive highlight of the month – or my month – that was …
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Damn you short attention spans

April 3, 2017 on 7:48 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Stories | Comments Off on Damn you short attention spans

“It was the moon on nights like this, it was nights like this, it was the wind as it pawed at you or cried as it approached, the sound of the river, the clotted stars against the dark sky, the way a horse will snort at the sight of you, the way pine needles seemed to rust as they died. It was too much to be named. It was all that could not be taken away until it was taken away at last. It was given before you knew what to make of it and taken before you’d had a chance to understand its extent and beauty.”

These words by writer André Alexis come from a short story of his – “On Such a Night” – published last week in Canada’s Globe & Mail. These beautiful words especially resonate; they passed through my screen only a couple of days after the passing of my old friend and mentor, Reay Mackay. The last line, in particular, stays with me and has caused me to reflect. Unless you’re a Buddhist monk or of that rare ilk – of the deeply thoughtful and self-aware – the norm, surely, is for us to not savour and appreciate the present.
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From GS’s Scrapbook: A Highland Dancer: “One of the finest I have ever … seen”

March 30, 2017 on 5:17 pm by Michael Grey | In Delightful Data of the Day, Photographs, Stories | Comments Off on From GS’s Scrapbook: A Highland Dancer: “One of the finest I have ever … seen”

Here’s another interesting look into one man’s personal book of record, the scrap book of one of the greatest pipers in history: George Stewart McLennan of Aberdeen. Again, as before, the clipping provided here is courtesy of his grandson, Hamish.
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Back to school(s) for a lesson in medley construction

March 15, 2017 on 5:49 pm by Michael Grey | In Music, Pipe Bands | Comments Off on Back to school(s) for a lesson in medley construction

One of the most important, if not inspiring, events on the global piping calendar these days, surely, has to be the annual Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships. Yes, a Scottish-confined event – no Canadians need apply – but what a grand testament to the health of the bagpipe in the homeland of the instrument (and the pipe band, too, I don’t want to miss out drummers). For any hope of the bagpipe to thrive anywhere we need the instrument, and the pipe band, to flourish in Scotland. Of this I’m sure. And this event is both a barometer to the long-term vitality of the art and a hugely popular event if measured alone by sheer numbers of entrants and attendees.

All this is thanks to The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust. For anyone looking to get some ideas about how to replicate their good work locally, I encourage you to visit their website and learn more.
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Backstory and Reflections: Live in Ireland 87 Project

March 3, 2017 on 5:14 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Photographs, Pipe Bands, Stories | Comments Off on Backstory and Reflections: Live in Ireland 87 Project

Writing a blog has to be the ultimate in vanity exercises, or “vanity projects”, as is usually said when referring to almost anything a person undertakes that requires a healthy ego. We flatter ourselves imagining – or blindly assuming – that people are gagging to get a dose of our words and unsolicited opinion. I invite you (surely countless readers) to consider otherwise. But I do believe this to be true. A blogger rides the pud-puller that is the web log – the blog (come to think of it, Facebook musings are much the same).

It seems to me, too, that the blog can be that and something more. It can be this and that: in my words here, I try to also use this self-made forum as a record of stuff that happens to and around me. I guess you’d call that a diary. Yeah, that’s it; a diary. I’m not as a faithful a diarist as I’d like but when I look back on the last ten years of my dunaber blog I’m reminded of people, events and opinions changed and retained. So, in looking back, I’m happy I kept a little record of one part of my life.

With this in mind I want to provide a little context and reflect briefly on the “Live in Ireland 87” project, so in future years I’ll recollect and today you’ll know a little of the background of the thing.
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Humblebragging, narcissism, neediness and sanctimony

January 27, 2017 on 11:04 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag | Comments Off on Humblebragging, narcissism, neediness and sanctimony

ANYONE that uses Facebook will know that from time to time there are interesting bits of information that break through the often unfiltered cringe-making that is the backbone of social media. And so it was last week, smashing through a sea of humblebragging, narcissism, neediness and sanctimony (and pictures of food) – some likely of my own making – came Helen Keller. Her name is one from days gone by but like most great examples of humanity, Keller’s, I think, is one still generally known.
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From GS’s Scrapbook: Dundas, Canada

January 15, 2017 on 3:21 pm by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Stories | Comments Off on From GS’s Scrapbook: Dundas, Canada

Thanks to Hamish McLennan, grandson of George S McLennan, for this interesting old newspaper clipping; one gleaned from the late great man’s scrapbook.
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Happy New Year – oink!

January 1, 2017 on 6:46 pm by Michael Grey | In Humour, Photographs | Comments Off on Happy New Year – oink!

Posting a photo or graphics of any kind is almost always the easiest way to fire up a blog. So here are a few to help wish one and all a Happy New Year.
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