A Great Spirit

April 5, 2008 on 7:40 pm by Michael Grey | In Music, News, Stories | 2 Comments

When I decided to start making recordings that went beyond a capella bagpipes a lot of good musical things started happening.  One of the best?  The chance was created to work with other, non-bagpipe musicians.  One of the first musicians – and best – that I’ve worked with is fiddler and violin-playing maestro, Oliver Schroer.

Oliver is known globally, inter-continentally, the world over as an explosive creative force.   His style, his technique and his musical insight is something to see – and I must add, has contributed to the stratospheric musical elevation of all my musical intentions to which he has lent his mind - and bow.  His recording, “Jigzup”, is one of my favourite CDs.

I think back to my first effort outside the pipe box, “Cuts from Traditional Cloth“.  Oliver came to the studio having seen only a few cold scores.  My tracks were recorded and Bob McDowall, the well-kent Scottish producer, handed him a set of cans and lined him up at the mics.   On one remarkable take he recorded the melody – and that’s all we wanted.  He thought harmonies would really improve the feel, and so he set out to record perfect improvised harmonies – again in one take.  This is all fairly amazing stuff, I reckoned.  Even the ever hard-tae-please, Bob, agreed.

On Shambolica! Oliver again lent his talent.  What to do with a bagpipe march, strathspey and reel set (a question many of us ask to this day) ?  Oliver’s improvised efforts on his electric violin transformed staid and narrow music [I say that respectfully] to tunes Freddie Mercury might’ve conceivably played in the back of his stretch limo!  Oliver made the “Banker, Bird and Schoolmaster” track on Shambolica!     

Oliver’s going through a pretty tough time right now.  Really tough.  Last year he came home from a gig at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival only to hear news from his doctor that he had leukemia.  Since that time he has been valiantly fighting this damned disease, which has now been pronounced, as Oliver said in his Facebook post today, “incurable and terminal at this point”.  

Consider dropping in on Oliver’s site.  There’s lots of good music, good info; there’s opportunities, too, for you to lend a hand should you feel so inclined.  

On Monday, April 7th, CBC Radio 2 is broadcasting a two-hour recording of a recent Oliver Schroer benefit concert staged at Hugh’s Room in Toronto.  Tune in. 

Some inspiring words today from Oliver’s email note to his friends and supporters:

“And in the mean time, I do not plan to mope around.  I want to use the time left to me to be as alive as possible.  Obvious stuff for me.  Why be miserable when I can smell the proverbial flowers.   There is no time line indicated in all of this.  It is me against the disease.  We are both tough.  And somewhere down the line, that disease will win over my body.  But my spirit will persevere. Sending out love, and thanks,  Oliver”




  1. Jeez Mike that sucks….sorry to hear this. Sean

    Comment by Sean Mc — April 7, 2008 #

  2. It does but boy does Oliver have a fantastic and inspiring attitude. He wrote a beautiful note today to friends and supporters (see his facebook page – referenced in the post here). An excerpt:


    ” …So then, this is how things are shaping up for me in my present headspace. I feel I have burned brightly in life, and lived life very fully. I feel I have achieved a great deal in life. And as I look back on the life I have lived, I am concentrating on all of the positive aspects, on all of the beauty I have experienced and generated, and getting a lot of satisfaction and pleasure from that thought and reality. And the fact that my life is shorter than it might have been ceases to trouble me very much.

    I do want to encourage you, that when you do stuff, and get into projects in life, make sure you have the maximum amount of fun and satisfaction you can have. Don’t settle for just a bit of fun. You might have heard the saying, ‘More is less’. Well, that only applies sometimes. Often, more really is more. And when it comes to getting satisfaction from creative projects you are involved with, you can bet that more is more, so grab the moment and make the moment big…”

    Comment by mike — April 8, 2008 #

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