Online Piping Competitions

June 10, 2020 on 7:01 pm by Michael Grey | In Pipe Bands, Random Thoughts, Solo Piping, Tips | No Comments

Hats off to New Zealand. This past Monday (June 8) marked the first day since February that there’s been no active cases of Covid-19. Among many other pleasant pre-pandemic freedoms, the country can again hold public events without limitations on numbers. Thinking of piping and pipe band competitions the Royal New Zealand Pipe Bands’ Association enjoyed a pipe case full of good luck in the timing of their final contest of the year. Presented in the South Island city of Invercargill on the weekend of March 13, the organization’s national championship came in just under the quarantine wire. I thought at the time it would be the world’s final pipe band championship of 2020. And I may be right (sadly). Barring, of course, some kind of online “championship” – just the kind of post-apocalyptic thing New Zealand pipers and drummers can take off their to-do – or worry – list.
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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!
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Survey Summary: 100 Years of Pipe Bands

January 1, 2020 on 8:00 am by Michael Grey | In News, Pipe Bands | Comments Off on Survey Summary: 100 Years of Pipe Bands

With over 200 respondents a summarized view can now be passed along of the “100 years of pipe bands” survey offered last month to readers of bagpipe.news (and those of my blog). In my working life (corporate communications) I’ve always found surveys a good way to take a temperature check of a group of people. You’ll know political pollsters are masters in calculating the exactness – or degree of accuracy – of any group of responses. You may be surprised to find – as I once was – that response levels do not have to be especially high to show a degree of accuracy. I projected that 5000 people would likely be reached through both bagpipe.news and blog channels. Considering participant rate and target audience size it might be said that from the “100 years of pipe bands” survey, a confidence level of 95% can be inferred, with a margin of error of 7%. Margin of error (that the results don’t jive with the perspective of the target group) is quite high here. 5% is the industry standard (you can read more about confidence levels and survey margins of error here).
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100 Years of Pipe Band Music (Survey)

November 28, 2019 on 2:02 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Pipe Bands | Comments Off on 100 Years of Pipe Band Music (Survey)

In listening to a recording of the 1947 World Champion, Bowhill Colliery Pipe Band, I got to thinking about the many, often dynamic, changes that have come to pipe band music over the last 100 years. From music to pitch and overall sound the transformation of the art form over a relatively short period has been remarkable. You can hear Bowhill Colliery here.

Bowhill’s march, strathspey and reel is interesting – if not the easiest listening – in part, because parts of tunes have not been repeated to fit the 3 minute and 30 second recording limit of the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) 78 RPM record. This is from a Beltona production recorded their winning year. Their tunes: Highland Wedding, Athole Cummers and Mrs MacPherson of Inveran.
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More Mississippi than Molendinar

October 18, 2019 on 5:27 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Music, Photographs, Pipe Bands, Score & Sound File, Whinges | Comments Off on More Mississippi than Molendinar

Hamish Henderson is generally acknowledged as the father of the Scottish folk revival. It was Henderson, poet, activist and folklorist – among other things – who is credited with coining the phrase “the carrying stream”.

Broadly, the carrying stream refers to the passing along of cultural tradition, especially words and music. The flow of the stream, any stream, is a tranquil image on its own. Even Heraclitus had something to say about it: no one ever steps in the same stream twice since it’s never the same stream – and they, with that step, are not the same person. Let the thought of that undulating water transporting a little culture and a lot of music, and the idea of the carrying stream and the forward movement of tradition becomes at once attractive – and easy to understand.
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The Walking Dead of Qualifier Friday

February 23, 2019 on 9:49 am by Michael Grey | In Pipe Bands, Random Thoughts | Comments Off on The Walking Dead of Qualifier Friday

With less than a score of grade one bands projected to attend the 2019 World Pipe Band Championships (and quite possibly an entry closer to ten than twenty) any case to be made for a Friday qualifier, or play-off, may likely come across as pretty weak. That the grade 4B contest in 2018 featured 18 bands in each run-off suggests that organizers have a perspective on optimum numbers for any contest (grade 4 is the less-experienced end of the grading spectrum, with grade one, the highest).

For those who aren’t dialled-in to the world pipe band thing – especially as it applies to the idiom’s premier grade – here’s context:
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Performance Options

December 12, 2018 on 7:39 am by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Pipe Bands | Comments Off on Performance Options

A frequent topic of conversation in some pipe band, em, circles relates to performance options. For instance, is the three-pace roll start and march to centre field (where the band moves to centre stage and curtly turns their collective back to the audience) the best we can do? Except for the most change-averse, most interested in such things, I think, say a big “no”.
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“Let me take your picture”

November 30, 2017 on 7:14 pm by Michael Grey | In Humour, Photographs, Pipe Bands, Stories | Comments Off on “Let me take your picture”

Here’s a classic example of one of those forced picture-taking moments (FPTMs). It’s not often anything good comes of it (see exhibit A below). Here, with my eldest sister, Jane (Campbell) is the 17 year-old me in my 48th Highlanders of Canada number ones (minus feather bonnet but still, with impressive head of hair, I must say … in those days it was always said to the barber, “just thin it out”).
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Andrew Bonar (Boney’s Jig)

October 20, 2017 on 1:21 am by Michael Grey | In Music, Pipe Bands, Solo Piping, Stories | Comments Off on Andrew Bonar (Boney’s Jig)


It was some sad day to learn of the passing of Andrew Bonar.
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Canada @150: A baker’s dozen of tunes

June 28, 2017 on 6:09 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Pipe Bands, Solo Piping | Comments Off on Canada @150: A baker’s dozen of tunes

This year, as some might know, is Canada’s 150th anniversary of “confederation”, as we Canadian-types say. It was in 1864 that politicians of the day met in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and started to agree to something called Canada. By July 1, 1867, we had Canada – and – our first Prime Minister, John A MacDonald, Glasgow born – in the Merchant City area, quite possibly – set the stage for a Canada where the pipes are never too far away from earshot. In fact, one Colin Roy MacLellan made a prize-winning pibroch in honour of the great man, “Salute to Sir John A MacDonald”, published (2016) in his father’s, Captain John A’s, “Complete Compositions of Ceol Mor”. An excellent tune.

And so a compositional seque to now: in honour of Canada’s 150 (and seizing an excuse as good as any), a “top” 13 tunes list made up of Canadians. I list them here, with the composer’s surname in alphabetical order.

Nothing too serious here, all in the name of Canada’s anniversary now – I reflected on tunes that were (a) composed by Canadians, or (suspected) naturalized Canucks and (b) tunes that I had a sense are – or at one time were – quite popular. I know there’re loads of good and great tunes of real merit around. This is just a list. One list in a moment in time. And yes, most of these people built many more than one excellent tune.
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