Antigonish 1996: Not all 3-pace rolls

February 27, 2023 on 7:51 pm by Michael Grey | In Music, Pipe Bands, Stories, Video | Comments Off on Antigonish 1996: Not all 3-pace rolls

Among my stash of digitised VHS video is a good few hours of footage from the Peel Regional Police Pipe Band of my time as Pipe Major. The band then – as it is today, it seems to me – was well-travelled. With the exception of my first season (Antigonish!) we hit the World Pipe band Championships in Glasgow every year. In fact, its amazing to say now, as I think back, we even managed to make trips to Scotland for championship contests TWICE in the same season (Ayr and Renfrew) – to be clear: the band travelled to Scotland twice in the same summer. The commitment from this group was remarkable. It doesn’t take much thinking to reflect on the sacrifice members (and their families) made financially. And, for that matter, its true, so many bands do today – though – I, wonder, as a by-the-way, if that is diminishing a little.

The band of my vintage were an ambitious bunch. Yes, they wanted to play good music well, but they also wanted to win. We were all of the same mind.

Still, even with that keen collective eye on the prize – again, noting the investment in time and money that goes along with that aspiration – the band was also up for new music and doing things differently. Looking at this video I must pay tribute to this group: not only did they sacrifice annual summer leave (aka holidays) for the band, they were also always up for new music and fresh ways to make that music. Many pipe band people will relate to the financial investment. On the music front, even with two wise veterans of Bob Hardie’s storied Muirhead & Sons Pipe Band playing in the ranks (Pipe Sergeant John Elliott and Eddie “Drones” Gorman) the Peel of this time were all on-board with our approach – conventional or not.

For those who figure in the video this will be interesting. Nostalgic even. But for others, the medley section may be of interest – for another reason: in mainline global pipe band jurisdictions, no band starts without a damned three-pace roll (cue the online corrections). As I’ve said before, the three-pace roll to the bagpipe note “E” is among the most naive musical affects ever invented.

You will be the judge if there is merit to this way of thinking. But I can say this was an especially fine group of musicians. They loved the new ideas as much as the old.

The shiny prize was important but the inherent prize in playing well and playing from your heart, well, that mattered. Knowing this, I’ll guess – with some reflective optimism – that having played these tunes, these people will have had their fill of prizes of a different kind.

Happy days.


PS. The medley played around the 7 minute mark is:

Lament for the Harp Tree (urlar)
I Laid a Herring in Salt (slowish)
I laid a Herring in Salt (jig time)
Jig by D A Campbell
Jenny Hazzard
Lament for the Harp Tree (Variation 1)
Standard on the Braes o’ Mar
Blackley of Hillsdale
Thailler a bha mi; sherridh is feader a their mi
Willie the Mudslinger
A Week Past October
Rubbernecker’s Waltz
The Glengarry Pipers

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