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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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 | No Comments

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.
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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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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.
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Online Piping Competitions

June 10, 2020 on 7:01 pm by Michael Grey | In Pipe Bands, Random Thoughts, Solo Piping, Tips | Comments Off on Online Piping Competitions

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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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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An old postcard and a wee January ephemerid

February 14, 2020 on 8:37 am by Michael Grey | In From Piping Today Mag | Comments Off on An old postcard and a wee January ephemerid

Beyond nostalgia, I imagine one reason for the popularity of old posters, crate labels, postcards, (and, yes) magazines is due to the ease in which these items can be shipped. Online sites everywhere are bursting with stock for sale; from old newspapers to matchbook covers to everything in between. You may know these things are known as ephemera to those most interested namely, collectors. And this stuff is collected. Ephemera. While it’s a Greek word meaning “lasting only one day” it has the ring of the name of old Uist aunties: Hughina, Fenella – and Ephemera. I imagine Auntie E, yet, with yellow nicotine fingers and purse full of linty mints – and absolutely no time for collecting old bits of paper.
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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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