Video: Behind the Scenes: Glasgow Police Pipe Band’s Ceolry Concert

May 13, 2020 on 6:26 pm by Michael Grey | In Pipe Bands, Stories, Video | No Comments

I’ve always wanted to play tunes in a bagad, that great combo of musical sounds found mostly in Brittany, France. Just after I had finished up my time with the Toronto Police Pipe Band (and the hugely fun “damned suites” period) I thought I’d have my chance. With the good consulting of my friend (and Breton), Yoann Le Goff, I was sure I was good-to-go. Allons-y!

Just as I was about to dig in to what would undoubtedly be a significant professional development opportunity (oh, the corporate-ese is hard to shake), I found myself talking to Stuart McCallum, then a member of the Glasgow Police Pipe Band. Well. To tighten this story up, I ended up in Glasgow, a good few kilometres from Nantes, Rennes and Vannes.

There was to be no crisp white shirt, black trousers and cool embroidered waistcoat for me – this being the usual performance attire of the bagad. No, I found myself in the middle of a great bunch, the “polis” (the “polis” being the Glasgow vernacular for police). If I was lucky I’d have a Royal Stewart kilt and a place in the circle.

The storied Glasgow Police Pipe Band were the arch rivals of my time in the 78th Fraser Highlanders team of my vintage. And so I was to experience professional development of a different kind.

I was nervous coming to the band. While I’d known a past rivalry: the band, the brand, its history, I’d always respected its greatness. It’s all legend.

My Canadian citizenship aside, at this first January chanter practice I felt like a real outsider. My first band practice was at the famous carpeted big room in the 1960s-era Pitt Street headquarters in Glasgow – where else (now, mercifully, demolished – there was nothing of the Uffizi about this place). It was in this musty room that P/M Iain MacLellan and his team of maestros rehearsed and perfected their music that was to leave an impression – and record of excellence – that will last forever and a day in whatever place we have that holds such records.

At the first practice where my pipes came out of the box I remember Donald McKillop. A career-long copper and loyal bandsman, Donald is one of those golden guys that P/Ms everywhere treasure: competitively reliable and gifted with a personality that has a near-indescribable knack to knit a group together – especially in tough or tricky times. Anyway, on this day I was crouched at my pipe case assembling my pipes. Over walks Donald, he looks at me and my pipes and says, “that’s the f&*%ing best bag cover I’ve ever seen!”. I suppose there’s a degree of neediness about anyone who decides to put a Zebra print bag cover on their pipes, but, well, Donald made my day. And I was on my way.

As is the way in pipe bands, if you’re lucky, my time with the polis – and it continues – found me make great new friends, find a Uist cousin or two and have more than my share of just plain, happy times.

Oh, for plain happy times.

So. To today. For your lock-down enjoyment (and you will enjoy this). With both the permission of P/M Duncan Nicholson and Producer, Malkie Bow, we have a video.

Here for your enjoyment is a behind-the-scenes look at the Glasgow Police Pipe Band’s August 2014 “Ceolry” concert. To play on the stage at a big concert hall is intense. To play on the stage of a big concert hall in Glasgow in the middle of the week leading to the World Pipe Band Championships? Well, let’s say “intense” is a word that leans to meek in rightly underscoring the truth of the “pre-Worlds concert”.

Thanks to Duncan, Malkie and the band for this video.

M.

PS. Take care and practice your pipes and your drums. This stage and this hall, like many others, is waiting for you.

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