D R MacLennan: Solo piping innovation in 1928!

December 31, 2022 on 2:18 pm by Michael Grey | In Music, Pipe Bands, Solo Piping, Video | No Comments

On the last day of the calendar year I offer a genuine curiosity: a recording of what is likely among the earliest recordings of the Great Highland Bagpipe played alongside other (non-bagpipe or percussion) instruments. This 78 RPM shellac (pre-vinyl) recording from 1928 stars a luminary from one of the great piping families of the last 200 years in Donald Ross (“D R”) MacLennan.
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John MacFadyen plays “A Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick”

November 28, 2022 on 4:58 pm by Michael Grey | In Music, Solo Piping, Video | Comments Off on John MacFadyen plays “A Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick”

Here’s another tune offering from the late John MacFadyen, the Donald Mòr MacCrimmon composition, Lasan Padruig Coagach, known to so many of us as, A Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick. A singularly wild tune with nothing quite like it in our current repertoire.
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Great Piping: P/M William “Billy” Gilmour

October 29, 2022 on 6:47 pm by Michael Grey | In Music, Solo Piping, Stories, Video | Comments Off on Great Piping: P/M William “Billy” Gilmour

I’ve known about Billy Gilmour and his marvellous musical abilities for almost as long as I’ve been piping. Early on in my musical education I luckily found myself in the orbit of The 48th Highlanders of Canada. Through my lessons with my great first teacher, George Walker, I landed in the band – yes, for a little while, but a great while.
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Màiri Mhòr nan Òran at The Northern Meeting, Inverness

September 15, 2022 on 5:02 pm by Michael Grey | In Solo Piping, Stories | Comments Off on Màiri Mhòr nan Òran at The Northern Meeting, Inverness

When in Inverness, Scotland a couple of weeks ago to take in The Northern Meeting solo piping competitions (meaning, to judge a couple of the events). I found myself, in advance of the contests, with some time on my hands. Even the most piping-mad people need a break from the gathering’s fine piping sounds. And, so, I did.
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Angus MacPherson, Invershin: A 1957 visit with a great tradition-bearer

July 15, 2022 on 8:52 am by Michael Grey | In Delightful Data of the Day, Music, Solo Piping, Video | Comments Off on Angus MacPherson, Invershin: A 1957 visit with a great tradition-bearer

An interesting recording found me not so long ago. A buzzy interview (as in sound distortion) with Angus MacPherson, Invershin from 1957. I thought the near-half hour talk inspiring. This surprised me. On reflection: Here was a man in his ninth decade talking about life – and piping (of course) – imbued with the earliest echoes of the piobaireachd and the culture of that time.
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Scenes from Cambridge Highland Games (1989!)

January 30, 2022 on 9:03 am by Michael Grey | In Pipe Bands, Solo Piping, Stories, Video | Comments Off on Scenes from Cambridge Highland Games (1989!)

I’ve just had a bag full of old VHS videos digitized. They’ve been kicking around collecting dust for years; after having sourced a place for a digitization job for The Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario, I thought I’d get my lot done at the same time.
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In Praise of Ear Learning

December 1, 2021 on 4:57 pm by Michael Grey | In Solo Piping | Comments Off on In Praise of Ear Learning

It dawned on me as I waded through the day’s Duolingo French exercises: learning a language is easiest by immersion; that is, to be constantly around the sounds of the language. To live it, to learn what the sounds mean, what they represent. In childhood, for instance, I’d have to think it’s often the things done wrong that prove to be the speediest way to ingrain words. As goes the old axiom: we most often learn best from the mistakes we make: “Mon Dieu! Idiot! Le poêle est chaud ! Tu t’es brûlé la main !”.
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A Tune from John MacFadyen

November 13, 2021 on 5:13 pm by Michael Grey | In Solo Piping, Stories, Video | Comments Off on A Tune from John MacFadyen

The piobaireachd, Rory McLoude’s Lament has always been a favourite. The old Anglicized spelling of MacLeod is likely connected to its first appearance in the Campbell canntaireachd manuscripts. And, as this is the spelling chosen by the editors of book eleven of The Piobaireachd Society Collection (1966), this is how pipers generally spell the tune. But that’s enough on letters. It’s a fine piece; in fact, Joseph MacDonald, in his Compleat Theory (1762) described it as a “…very soft lament …”. This tune, too, was among the first I learned from the hands of Bill Livingstone. He, in turn, was taught this tune by John MacFadyen (1926-1979).
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John MacDonald on the Radio at 84

June 29, 2021 on 3:58 pm by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Solo Piping, Stories | Comments Off on John MacDonald on the Radio at 84

Anyone who has visited the excellent G S McLennan website will have seen a smashing photograph of John MacDonald of Inverness. I include it here for easy reference (well, for those click-averse). This version is colourized and “enhanced” – and I’m not entirely sure its better than the original.
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Imagining Three Greats: Animating Ross, McLennan & MacDonald

March 6, 2021 on 1:30 pm by Michael Grey | In Audio File, Photographs, Solo Piping, Video | Comments Off on Imagining Three Greats: Animating Ross, McLennan & MacDonald

There’s a famous photo generally available online and everywhere (I suppose that’s redundant) of three of the most famous pipers of the twentieth century – if not all time. The photo is a post-WWI study of Pipe Major William “Willie” Ross, George S McLennan and John MacDonald (Inverness). You’ll likely know, MacDonald almost always gets an “Inverness” plugged on to his name due to the popularity, to this day, of the combination of given and surnames. Though, truth be told, he isn’t the only John MacDonald to ever call Inverness his home. But to pipers everywhere, when the name appears with the marker “(Inverness)” we know precisely the man mentioned: one of the greatest exponents of piobaireachd, one who left a great musical legacy thanks to a hugely impactful lifelong teaching effort.
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