To confer importance: John Ban MacKenzie

December 31, 2020 on 2:01 pm by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Random Thoughts, Stories | No Comments

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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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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Scott Garden’s new book of music: Duality 2

May 26, 2020 on 12:20 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Shout Outs! | Comments Off on Scott Garden’s new book of music: Duality 2

I decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t review anything I didn’t like. In fact, any “review” I committed to would be more of a “shout out”, words of support and one way to help get a project more attention. The piping world is a small one and negativity in reviewing a project is, as some say, juice that is just not worth the squeeze.
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To Summon a Dancing Skeleton

August 9, 2019 on 11:36 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Stories | Comments Off on To Summon a Dancing Skeleton

I’ve always liked history. The study of things connected with the past, especially when people are in the mix is a pause-worthy pursuit. In history we’re presented a never-ending book and with every moment that passes a new piece is added to the story. Everyone makes their own stories; some big and some small. Because the stories help us understand the context of lives lived, most are interesting – to one degree or another.

With so many stories unfolding, we know history doesn’t happen in a straight line. History comes to be by a crazy and complex meshwork of countless interconnected occurrences and perspectives. And these: all happening at once – everywhere. We learn from it – and we repeat it.
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Tunes from John Wilson (1906 – 1979)

May 29, 2019 on 4:51 pm by Michael Grey | In Audio File, Solo Piping, Stories, Video | Comments Off on Tunes from John Wilson (1906 – 1979)

There aren’t a lot of easily available recordings of great players of the past – especially the long past. Here are a few samples from the great John Wilson. I no longer assume people know of him, or, for that matter, almost any of the greats of the not-so-distant-past.

John Wilson was born in Edinburgh. He came from a piping family, his Uncle John, for instance, was “The Baldooser” (how’s that for a nickname). You can find the jig named “The Baldooser” in Willie Ross’s first book. John Wilson took to the pipes very young and, even then, was a good player. His life changed forever when as a kid in Edinburgh he was playing on the beach with a detonator (as one did) and blew off big parts of his left hand. He always noted in the story’s telling that this happened the day before the Great War’s Armistice in 1918; the irony appealed to him, I’m sure.
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Reservoirs for the heart

May 7, 2019 on 10:47 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Solo Piping, Stories | Comments Off on Reservoirs for the heart

It was a bleak, frosty, light-starved January day in Edinburgh about twenty years ago that it found me. The kind of day where the only cure for quaffing a little too long – and often – from things in Glasgow connected to things Celtic called for a long walk in cold. Oddly, it’s that special kind of lugubrious, frigid grey that is the Old Town in winter, that can be the most curative.
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Ronnie Rollo: Folk Artist

February 13, 2019 on 8:05 pm by Michael Grey | In Photographs, Random Thoughts, Stories | Comments Off on Ronnie Rollo: Folk Artist

In a recent mid-winter clear-out of my house I found myself with a little extra wall-space. I also found a few things I’d forgotten. Anyone who knows me knows that walls were made for one thing: to hang stuff. When I was younger I used to move a lot. And here’s a Top Tip for the itinerant: I found that the fastest way to make a place feel like home is to nail to the wall a favourite photo, picture or poster (even before all boxes are unpacked). I say “nail”, I mean hang, as in hung. A well-hung picture makes any strange new place instantly more familiar.
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A little tartan colour and a bonnie balmoral

October 16, 2018 on 5:32 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag | Comments Off on A little tartan colour and a bonnie balmoral

It would be hard to argue that the Scots have not punched above their weight in leaving a bold mark on the world. Given the relative size of the country it’s inspiring to think of the remarkable contributions Scotland has given humanity. Golf, whisky and bagpipes aside, con- sider the telephone, TV, the threshing machine, Adam Smith, Ishbel MacAskill, Robert Burns and chicken tikka masala. Historian Arthur Herman underscored the Scottish impact in publishing his popular book, How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It (2001).
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Prepare for an emergency landing!

August 24, 2018 on 5:05 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Stories | Comments Off on Prepare for an emergency landing!

NO matter how often I cross the Atlantic, I always pause to marvel at the awesome speediness of aviation. Even without supersonic Concorde engineering, the Atlantic can still be crossed in single-digit hours on a 10-a-penny Airbus or Boeing.
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What is Traditional Music? [hint: It’s big. It’s bouncy. And it’s spectacular.]

March 13, 2018 on 5:31 pm by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag, Music, Random Thoughts | Comments Off on What is Traditional Music? [hint: It’s big. It’s bouncy. And it’s spectacular.]

I think it was this past January when it came to me. It was one of those crisp, cloudless and cold sunny days, a kind of winter’s day so familiar to those of us who live in my part of the world. The sky was screaming an indescribable deep blue. And why? Why blue? A short simple question – surely the archetypal young child’s question, one asked just as a glimmer of awareness of the world beyond the back garden begins to show itself. Blue sky? Something to do with refracting light, I thought. Why blue? And this blue? Um, the temperature. Yes, it is the cold temperature and the universal prism…
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