Back to school(s) for a lesson in medley construction

March 15, 2017 on 5:49 pm by Michael Grey | In Music, Pipe Bands | No Comments

One of the most important, if not inspiring, events on the global piping calendar these days, surely, has to be the annual Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships. Yes, a Scottish-confined event – no Canadians need apply – but what a grand testament to the health of the bagpipe in the homeland of the instrument (and the pipe band, too, I don’t want to miss out drummers). For any hope of the bagpipe to thrive anywhere we need the instrument, and the pipe band, to flourish in Scotland. Of this I’m sure. And this event is both a barometer to the long-term vitality of the art and a hugely popular event if measured alone by sheer numbers of entrants and attendees.

All this is thanks to The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust. For anyone looking to get some ideas about how to replicate their good work locally, I encourage you to visit their website and learn more.
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Backstory and Reflections: Live in Ireland 87 Project

March 3, 2017 on 5:14 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Photographs, Pipe Bands, Stories | No Comments

Writing a blog has to be the ultimate in vanity exercises, or “vanity projects”, as is usually said when referring to almost anything a person undertakes that requires a healthy ego. We flatter ourselves imagining – or blindly assuming – that people are gagging to get a dose of our words and unsolicited opinion. I invite you (surely countless readers) to consider otherwise. But I do believe this to be true. A blogger rides the pud-puller that is the web log – the blog (come to think of it, Facebook musings are much the same).

It seems to me, too, that the blog can be that and something more. It can be this and that: in my words here, I try to also use this self-made forum as a record of stuff that happens to and around me. I guess you’d call that a diary. Yeah, that’s it; a diary. I’m not as a faithful a diarist as I’d like but when I look back on the last ten years of my dunaber blog I’m reminded of people, events and opinions changed and retained. So, in looking back, I’m happy I kept a little record of one part of my life.

With this in mind I want to provide a little context and reflect briefly on the “Live in Ireland 87” project, so in future years I’ll recollect and today you’ll know a little of the background of the thing.
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Our Aunt Ethel

July 17, 2016 on 2:46 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Pipe Bands, Solo Piping, Stories | Comments Off on Our Aunt Ethel

IT’S estimated there are over seven billion people inhabiting our dear blue place — planet earth. That’s a seven and nine absolute zeros. To me, an unimaginable number of anything, let alone a measure of human souls. And yet, time and again, in the face of big numbers, we encounter a small world.

“It’s a small world — though I wouldn’t want to paint it,” said comedian Steven Wright. And there’s nothing like a looming, inestimable paint job to put something in perspective. Sure, we know the world is massive. I think it’s knowing this that has us easily imagining cosy comfort when some serendipitous happening meets our day. Like finding your neighbour is sister to your high school English teacher’s mum. “It’s surely a small world.” “Awww, we’re all connected,” you might groan. Or not.
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Vertiginous Pipe Bands

July 6, 2016 on 7:56 am by Michael Grey | In Pipe Bands | Comments Off on Vertiginous Pipe Bands

When I was a kid and whiling away summer hours at the lake and stuck indoors-bound by rainstorms and whatever – and if memory serves me right, rain aside, it might be punishment for something; anyway, I’d reach for any old amusement that might while away those hours. Playing with matches was never on the list because that was allowed at the lake – oh, sweet happy days. But still, a summer place with no electricity (or plumbing) helped mark the bar pretty low when it came to entertainment. Or, high, depending on the cut of your Birkenstocks.
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Halfway through 2016 and Reflecting

June 16, 2016 on 4:29 pm by Michael Grey | In Humour, News, Photographs, Pipe Bands | Comments Off on Halfway through 2016 and Reflecting

I think it’s the early sunrise and especially bright eye-squinting mornings, just a little south of the 49th parallel, that reminded me today that we’re almost at the halfway point of 2016. Whoosh! That’s how time goes – and that’s how time flies. And so, as not to forget, and maybe omit something from what will surely turn out to be a mighty and interesting late-December 2016 summary, I thought I’d jot down a few personal highlights of the year that’s been so far. Not for you, of course, but for me! Me. Me. Me.

When thinking, in processing thoughts, just what makes a person think – of anything? What ignites a thought? A chance meeting with a new acquaintance or old friend? An email, a text, a dog’s bark, the weather, an online video, the news – the cat licking it’s arse – what random action or environmental thing triggers (and apologies in advance for using that word) a thought or thinking? And, again, in this case, thinking as reflection.
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Piping Today: A magical winter week in Glasgow

February 24, 2016 on 5:03 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Pipe Bands, Tips | Comments Off on Piping Today: A magical winter week in Glasgow

I once read something somewhere about the spiritual power of making music in a group. The words I recall spoke to group music creation in a sacred sort of way. Making music with others joined energy and life forces and, well, made magic. Magic a word used here, I think, to describe the indescribable. And the indescribable, to me, usually stands as the best and worst things in life and, from time immemorial, inspirational fodder for the poet. Anyway, these hazy recollections stayed with me and it was only in the last week of January did they again burble up.
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A Musician’s Struggle: Rehearsal Space

January 9, 2016 on 7:51 pm by Michael Grey | In Pipe Bands, Random Thoughts, Solo Piping, Whinges | Comments Off on A Musician’s Struggle: Rehearsal Space

When you’re a musician it’s never easy finding practice or rehearsal space. In big cities especially, high density and thin walls make snagging the right reliable place tricky in the extreme. But when you’re a piper – or group, like a pipe band – the challenge is layered with bias, barriers and brutal complication. I’ve found myself “practicing” tunes in some seriously ropey places: the B3, or third sub-level, of an underground parking lot on Bay Street across from Toronto City Hall, pretty much every men’s WC of any indoor contest or event I have ever participated in and the reclined front passenger seat of a Renault 5 (in the pouring rain while parked on Dunollie Terrace, Oban).
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The Balmoralist (Life Imitates Art)

September 28, 2015 on 3:45 pm by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Pipe Bands, Random Thoughts, Solo Piping, Tips | Comments Off on The Balmoralist (Life Imitates Art)

A couple of years ago I asked John Slavin, MGD (Master Graphic Designer) if he would work up a logo for me, for Dunaber Music. And so, after a little quick consult, he did. What John came back with, with his first sketches, is what I use today. As I have said time and again (usually to an open-mouthed gathering of rolled eyes): you just can’t beat the impressive presence of a piper wearing a Balmoral bonnet.
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Jane Campbell: An Early Look at a Tune [Drum Score]

July 20, 2015 on 8:21 pm by Michael Grey | In Music, Photographs, Pipe Bands, Stories | Comments Off on Jane Campbell: An Early Look at a Tune [Drum Score]

You may know I’ve been working a little these days to help make the January 30, 2016, “Live in Ireland 87” concert happen. In doing that I’ve found myself going through my (many) boxes of scores, letters and other assorted ephemera. I can say with hand on heart that, over the years, I really have saved a lot of paper.
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Toothpaste and Judges

May 27, 2015 on 6:54 pm by Michael Grey | In Humour, Pipe Bands | Comments Off on Toothpaste and Judges

Judges working around the games might be compared, in a way, to a tube of toothpaste. Yep. You read that right.
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