Sunday Dojo Talk: Request for Feedback

March 23, 2021 on 7:30 am by Michael Grey | In News | Comments Off on Sunday Dojo Talk: Request for Feedback

Andrew Douglas, the driving force elevating Piper’s Dojo, the online teaching phenomenon that supports learning at every level of experience, recently asked me to lead a Dojo session.
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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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Bill Livingstone on Lament for Mary MacLeod and Ceol Mor (generally)

February 24, 2021 on 10:56 am by Michael Grey | In Solo Piping, Stories, Video | Comments Off on Bill Livingstone on Lament for Mary MacLeod and Ceol Mor (generally)

I’ve known Bill Livingstone since I first met him as a young feller attending The Seaway School of Piping in 1981 where Bill was an instructor. The school was held each July centred in and around Ban Righ Hall of Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. Colin MacLellan directed the school and his, dad, Captain John MacLellan, the school’s principal instructor. I recall this because, in part, the video presented here has Bill talking a little about his time there and a pithy – yet monumentally important – piobaireachd lesson Captain MacLellan offered Bill related to piobaireachd interpretation. You’ll have to watch the video to glean that secret (33’15”) and the many others mentioned connected to interpreting the big music of the Great Highland Bagpipe.
Continue reading Bill Livingstone on Lament for Mary MacLeod and Ceol Mor (generally)…

A Banff Huff

January 31, 2021 on 5:21 pm by Michael Grey | In Humour, Pipe Bands, Pipe Tune Score | Comments Off on A Banff Huff

It doesn’t matter if its parliament, a corporate board room, a church group or a pipe band, there’s at least one thing people have in common when they gather (oh, to gather): the huff. Huff is a funny sort of word. One syllable. It’s like one of those words that sounds like what it is – onomatopoeia. So huff, a mood of sulking anger, resentment.
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To confer importance: John Ban MacKenzie

December 31, 2020 on 2:01 pm by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Random Thoughts, Stories | Comments Off on To confer importance: John Ban MacKenzie

Thanks to technology we’re all photographers. The mobile phone-cum-camera is everywhere. The late writer, Susan Sontag, famously wrote of the subject in her book On Photography (1977). I’ve talked about some of her ideas before but her cleverness stands repeating. She wrote that to photograph is to confer importance. I suppose importance is relative to the photographer and the person that observes the photographed subject. Your pic of your take-away boxed lunch of chicken tikka, pilau rice and Gulab Jamun is likely to mean much more to you than me. But, still, to be fair, a tasty lunch of colourful Indian treats has, for a time, an importance of sorts to any photographer and so there’s a ring – or, maybe, tinkle – of truth to Sontag’s words.
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Advice from G S McLennan: “There are those who can …

November 30, 2020 on 2:05 pm by Michael Grey | In Solo Piping, Technique, Tips | Comments Off on Advice from G S McLennan: “There are those who can …

George Stewart McLennan was not just a great player and composer; he was an important contributor to the evolution of the music of the Great Highland Bagpipe. In his approach to technique (meaning embellishments and associated phrasing) he was on the vanguard of the music’s transition from the 19th to 20th centuries.
Continue reading Advice from G S McLennan: “There are those who can ……

Lachlan MacNeill Campbell of Kintarbert

October 31, 2020 on 5:03 am by Michael Grey | In Random Thoughts, Solo Piping | Comments Off on Lachlan MacNeill Campbell of Kintarbert

You’ll know today was the annual Glenfiddich Piping Championships. I tuned in to the pandemic version and took in the contest online. It was while Connor Sinclair was in mid-tune that the thought struck me: the piece he’s playing is not really all that old. Sure, it’s a good stretch older than the performer but as a tune written around 1837 its still shy of 200 years old. There’s even wine and beer around that have been known to be drinkable after 200 years. Lachlan MacNeill Campbell of Kintarbert’s Fancy is a much-liked favourite in the repertoires of many piobaireachd players: purely melodic, it hits the mark as a tune to be savoured – and played.
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An ardent epitaph

September 24, 2020 on 7:57 am by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Stories, Tips | Comments Off on An ardent epitaph

I was recently part of a very small group of people who were lucky to have a private expert tour of a few choice corners of Bruce County, Ontario. Bruce County is Ontario’s largest county and – as the name might suggest – magnetic for many of the settlers of The Clearances – and even later. With verdant, rich arable land (well, after newcomers found their way to fell the massive trees, haul the stumps and clear the stones) the county is full of echoes of Scots and Irish immigration. Continue reading An ardent epitaph…

The 2021 pipe band season: possible solutions

August 31, 2020 on 6:13 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Pipe Bands, Solo Piping, Tips | Comments Off on The 2021 pipe band season: possible solutions

Not too long ago Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr Teresa Tam offered up a sobering – if not depressing – update to Canadians:

“We’re planning, as a public health community, that we’re going to have to manage this pandemic certainly over the next year, but certainly it may be planning for the longer term on the next two to three years during which the vaccine may play a role. But we don’t know yet.”

It seems that – as much as we’d hope – there may not be a swift magic way out of the fog of our pandemic-lived lives.

I’ve been thinking for a while about competition possibilities for pipe bands (and soloists, too). Pre-recorded online activity is ok, maybe, for a brief locked-down moment in time but it does nothing to slake the thirst of the competition-loving piper and drummer. To create an event – a real event, a happening of importance and one where a paying audience is interested – any competitive online presentation must be live (or, at least, a recorded “one-off-only” performance; more on this later)
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Barra & The Queen: bagpipes squealed her welcome

July 31, 2020 on 6:26 pm by Michael Grey | In News | Comments Off on Barra & The Queen: bagpipes squealed her welcome

Duncan Nicholson recently passed along a (digital) stack of seriously interesting family photographs – all going back over a century of his family’s life on the Isle of Barra. You’ll maybe know that Duncan has deep family roots on the island – thanks to both sides of his family. His dad, the well-kent piping machine, Donald Patrick, lives there today at Ardveenish – happily playing and teaching scads of young people the music of the Great Pipe. Duncan’s sister and her family, too, call the island home. I know it’s a great place to be – especially when the pipes are never too far away.

And if you’re in the orbit of the Nicholsons, well, the pipes are never too far away.
Continue reading Barra & The Queen: bagpipes squealed her welcome…

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