Mary Aitken

June 16, 2014 on 6:21 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Random Thoughts, Video | No Comments

One of my favourite two-parted jigs is that named, “Mary Aitken”. It’s a tricky little finger challenge first published in 1936 in John Wilson’s outstanding first book of music. Written by Malcolm R MacPherson (son of “Mrs MacPherson of Inveran” and Angus), a piper more famous for his playing than his composing, the tune is named for a champion Highland dancer of the day: Mary Aitken of Aberdeen.
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John Wilson (Edinburgh/Toronto)

November 6, 2013 on 9:45 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Photographs, Solo Piping, Stories | Comments Off

A glance at the “this day in history” section of pipes|drums just now reminded me that John Wilson (Edinburgh/Toronto) died on this day in 1979. He was a great hero of mine. Confident, bold, full of epic stories and opinionated in the extreme (oh, and a superb piper, even in the last years of his life). John Wilson both fascinated and intimidated me. Before I attended private lessons at his Willowdale (Toronto) home I’d be in his small classes at Moss Park Armouries (downtown Toronto), in the 48th Highlanders band room; we’d almost always travel home together riding street car and subway – John Wilson never owned a car. I loved his sureness. I loved his stories.
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Bagpipes in a Canoe: Aspiration Number 27 … Check

September 29, 2013 on 6:30 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Photographs, Pipe Bands, Solo Piping, Stories, Tips | 2 Comments

Back in January I wrote about Sir George Simpson, the Dingwall-born Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. As part of his 18th century trading adventures in the Canadian wilderness he’d travel with an entourage of honking big canoes and always – apparently – with a piper. Sir George’s piper always played in the big canoe – white water rapids notwithstanding - and for years, knowing this small fact, the piping-in-a-canoe thing has intrigued me.
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Overheard: France

April 3, 2013 on 5:50 pm by Michael Grey | In Humour, News, Overheard | 2 Comments

I’m not an eavesdropper – seriously – but it’s amazing how often I happen (yes, “happen”) to overhear remarkable words; that is, words worthy of remark. I know you’re the same.
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Suck In and Buckle Up

February 23, 2013 on 6:48 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Pipe Bands, Tips, Whinges | Comments Off

I was talking to a friend the other day about flying. He’s one of those people who flies a lot. Not because he has scads of spare cash to holiday, rather, it’s all about visiting family – far flung family. Circumstances in his life sees most of his clan at the other side of the world. For him, like so many, flying isn’t a luxury, it’s a utility.
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A Tune in a Canoe

January 27, 2013 on 6:55 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Random Thoughts, Solo Piping, Stories | 5 Comments

I’ve been inspired, I’ve a new aspiration: to play bagpipes in a canoe. And the inspiration?
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Another Year-end List: My Top 12 in ’12

December 30, 2012 on 3:49 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Pipe Bands, Random Thoughts, Stories | 2 Comments

I thought I might as well jump on the year-end list bandwagon and dream up my own list. Blogs are made for lists and here’s one: my “top 12 in 12”: a random list of twelve of my very personal standout mostly piping memories of 2012 (“random” meaning I might have a different list if I sat down tomorrow and again thought about the year that was).

In no particular order:
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Support the Music before it Fades Away

October 3, 2012 on 8:02 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Whinges | 4 Comments

Ten years ago Arthur Herman wrote an interesting book about how the Scots invented the modern world. Adam Smith, David Hume, James Watt, Alexander Graham Bell – the list of Scots firebrands and original thinkers is long and impressive.

In Canada we know that Scots had a big hand in inventing the country. Sir John A MacDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, was a Scot through and through. Same for his successor, Perthshire-born Alexander Mackenzie. Canada’s history is riddled with Scots. Canada’s pathfinders and trailblazers are disproportionately over-represented by Scots. Time’s are changing and, sadly, I say, that while a strong weave of Scottishness can still be felt in the backbone of Canadian society, the cultural imprint of Canada’s Scottish forebears fades.
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MyVote: Cool App or Seriously Seditious?

August 30, 2012 on 5:07 pm by Michael Grey | In Music, News, Pipe Bands, Random Thoughts | Comments Off

Earlier in the summer pipes|drums was one of the first news outlets to announce the launch of Kenny Constable‘s free MyVote app. Since then the app is getting loads of play – and use – from keeners around the pipe band world.
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Australia’s Funniest Home Videos

April 15, 2012 on 7:06 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Random Thoughts, Video | Comments Off

After Saturday’s Toronto Indoor Games and a late night on the D-town I was out and about at the crack of dawn today helping a film-maker friend shoot the famous Paris to Ancaster bike race [N.B. must say, I'm quite proud of myself for having tip-toed out of the house without stirring couch-surfing band members].
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