When I decided to start making recordings that went beyond a capella bagpipes a lot of good musical things started happening.Â One ofÂ the best?Â The chance was created toÂ work with other, non-bagpipe musicians.Â One of the first musiciansÂ – and best – that I’veÂ worked withÂ isÂ fiddler and violin-playing maestro, Oliver Schroer.
Oliver is known globally, inter-continentally, the world over as an explosiveÂ creative force.Â Â His style, his technique and his musical insightÂ is something to see – and – I must add, has contributed to the stratospheric musical elevation ofÂ all myÂ musical intentionsÂ to which he has lent his mind -Â and bow.Â His recording, “Jigzup”, is one of my favourite CDs.
I think back toÂ my first effort outside the pipe box, “Cuts from Traditional Cloth“.Â Oliver came to the studio having seen only a few cold scores.Â My tracks were recorded and Bob McDowall, theÂ well-kentÂ Scottish producer, handed him a set of cans and lined him up at the mics.Â Â On one remarkable take he recorded the melody – and that’s all we wanted.Â He thought harmonies wouldÂ really improve the feel, and so he set out to record perfectÂ improvised harmonies – again in one take.Â This is all fairlyÂ amazing stuff, I reckoned.Â Even the ever hard-tae-please, Bob, agreed.
On Shambolica! Oliver again lent his talent.Â WhatÂ to do with a bagpipe march, strathspey and reel set (a question many of usÂ ask to this day)Â ?Â Oliver’s improvised efforts on his electric violin transformedÂ staid and narrow musicÂ [I say that respectfully]Â to tunes Freddie Mercury might’ve conceivably played in the back of his stretch limo!Â Â Oliver made the “Banker, Bird and Schoolmaster” track on Shambolica!Â Â Â Â Â
Oliver’s going through a pretty tough time right now.Â Really tough.Â Last year he came home fromÂ a gig at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival only toÂ hearÂ news from his doctor that he had leukemia.Â Since that timeÂ he has been valiantlyÂ fightingÂ thisÂ damned disease,Â which has now been pronounced, as Oliver said in his Facebook post today,Â “incurable and terminal at this point”. Â
Consider dropping in on Oliver’s site.Â There’s lots of good music, good info; there’s opportunities, too, for you to lend a hand should you feel so inclined. Â
On Monday, April 7th, CBC Radio 2 isÂ broadcasting a two-hour recording of a recent Oliver Schroer benefit concert staged atÂ Hugh’s RoomÂ in Toronto.Â Tune in.Â
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.Â I want to use the time left to me to be as alive as possible.Â Obvious stuff for me.Â Why be miserable when I can smell the proverbial flowers.Â Â There is no time line indicated in all of this.Â It is me against the disease.Â We are both tough.Â And somewhere down the line, that disease will win over my body.Â But my spirit will persevere.Â Sending out love, and thanks,Â Oliver”
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