Our Aunt Ethel

July 17, 2016 on 2:46 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Pipe Bands, Solo Piping, Stories | No Comments

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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Piping Today: You’re the reason our kids are ugly

May 3, 2016 on 9:33 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Humour, Music, Solo Piping | Comments Off on Piping Today: You’re the reason our kids are ugly

The highland bagpipe can create some of the most rhythmically amazing music imaginable. A well-practised set of mitts can rattle off near endless streams of reels, jigs, strathspeys and hornpipes.

Highland dancers would be lost if not struck dead still without a piper’s tunes. The undulating groove inherent in any good-going reel has the power to move even the most rigid and uncompromising of feet. Dancing can reveal all the mystery that music conceals, wrote French poet, Charles Baudelaire. And on that, like drum and stick, wind and waves, bed and breakfast, music and dance are inextricably linked.
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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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Piping Fetishist

November 22, 2015 on 7:18 pm by Michael Grey | In Humour, Photographs, Solo Piping, Stories | Comments Off on Piping Fetishist

There’s an attention-grabber: bagpipe fetishist. Thinking here more drones than dominatrix. And fetishist in the context of “excessive attachment or regard”.
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Canntaireachd & The Prince’s Salute

October 4, 2015 on 3:06 pm by Michael Grey | In Music, Solo Piping, Video | Comments Off on Canntaireachd & The Prince’s Salute

I was given the opportunity yesterday to lead four sessions at the annual Fall Fusion workshop. A great event staged each year by the management of the Paris Port Dover Pipe Band (special call-out to Darlene Carreiro here). With well over 100 participants the day, if nothing else, was jam-packed with boundless enthusiasm. And, oh, to bottle “boundless enthusiasm”, a fortune would be made.
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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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Clachantrushal [say that three times fast]

September 13, 2015 on 6:56 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Random Thoughts, Solo Piping, Whinges | Comments Off on Clachantrushal [say that three times fast]

There are a couple of instances where people might talk and, so, where I find myself more riled up than other times: those that get me going more than almost any other: the first, the georgebushian “nucular”, for nuclear (as in war and bombs) and the second related to the pipe tune, “Pipe Major Manson’s Farewell to Clachantrushal” for “Major David Manson AT Clachantrushal”, the later being the accurate and right name for this bagpipe 2/4-timed march – played always and often in bagpipe circles.
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Piping Today Magazine – Grey’s Notes: “Piping: No Excuses”

March 17, 2015 on 3:36 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Pipe Bands, Solo Piping, Stories, Tips, Whinges | Comments Off on Piping Today Magazine – Grey’s Notes: “Piping: No Excuses”

My Dad always said that life moves forward at a pace in tandem with a person’s age. So when you’re 10, life seems to move along at a grindingly slow 10mph. At 10 a kid feels like it’ll take forever for summer holidays to come and even longer for the next happy birthday. By age 20, a healthy savings account is a nice idea for dull, boring people; but for most there’s nothing but countless, unplanned days of never-ending fun. Your forties come along and it’s all, whoa, something’s happening here: life is moving way past school zone speed. Bill made it to an Autobahn-friendly 86mph before he pulled over and stopped in the parking lot of the inevitable. And this is all to say, the obvious, you’ll know that’s my specialty; and that is, a person’s age goes a long way to inform how life is lived and, in turn, how life is understood.
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Cowal Games 1929

March 15, 2015 on 7:07 pm by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Pipe Bands, Solo Piping, Stories, Tips, Video | Comments Off on Cowal Games 1929

Say what you like, but I’ve always liked Cowal Games. Of those I recall, my memories are nothing but the happiest – or – at least – really good. OK. Not always, “really good”, but memorable. Yes. Memorable. Well, mostly memorable, but usually fun. Cowal, as much, if not more, than other contests, has given me some stuff to remember. I’ve socked it all away and stand today with a good few stories to regale the unsuspecting at the drop of a hat. Cowal Games: you rock.
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Rare Photo and Video: G S McLennan

October 29, 2014 on 6:02 pm by Michael Grey | In Delightful Data of the Day, Music, News, Photographs, Solo Piping, Stories, Video | 1 Comment

Back in June I wrote a little about the recently posted Pathé film footage of the great Highland dancer, Mary Aitken. Among many other good things, she was the namesake for a fine bagpipe tune, the jig “Mary Aitken”.
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