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Report by Rona Macdonald.

It was a mad dash through Friday night rush hour traffic to make it to Pitlochry in time for this event, but well worth the hassle factor. Arriving in time to grab a quick fish supper, there was no need to enquire as to the whereabouts of the venue — it was obvious from the queue snaking out of the door and halfway down the street where the concert was to be held. Extra seats were being found and laid out for those who hadn’t bought tickets in ad- vance so that no-one went away disappointed, although this did mean rather a “West High- land” approach to the nominal start time of 7.30pm.

Ian Green came briefly to the stage to appeal for quiet and to explain that the event was be- ing recorded for a future CD [and the ‘live’ album will also include Anna Murray and Gra- ham Mulholland], before the MC for the night, Andy Hunter, introduced the first piper.

Fittingly it was Fin Moore who kicked off the evening with three short sets on a fine sound- ing set of Border pipes in A. After Horsburgh Castle and The Famous Baravan - a Fred Morrison tune - he was joined by Simon Bradley, the fiddler, whose contribution was slightly lost under the volume of the pipes, which was a shame. During Fin’s final set Frank MacConnell came on stage and did a few steps to some fab Cape Breton style strathspeys and reels and a huge cheer from the audience. A very accomplished, relaxed performance with faultless attention to rhythm.

Duncan MacGillivray, by contrast, seemed ill at ease in this setting - indeed he commented that this was a more nerve wracking experience than playing for the gold medal! Duncan was the first piper with Battlefield Band and a lone voice (chanter?) for many years on the folk piping scene and many have trodden in his footsteps since then, but he is rightly famed more for his Highland piping than for the Smallpipes he played at this event. Had we been at the Northern Meeting however, he would undoubtedly have won the Best Dressed Piper award for his 3 piece green tweed suit and checked shirt!

Hamish has a passion about acoustic events: all the pipers played without amplification - which of course is the way our music is best heard, but the lack of a PA system left much of the audience completely at a loss to make out any of Andy Hunter’s introductory comments, or to hear the muttered rantings of many of the pipers who were supposed to be announcing their tunes, but who could only have been addressing their comments to their own feet, which was rather disappointing.

No such difficulty with Malcolm Robertson, one of 4 local boys playing in this concert. His


chosen instrument was a set of boxwood Border pipes in A, and he really did them justice as he powered through some tunes from his St Lawrence O’Toole band days; The Man from Skye hornpipe along with a set of jigs; and his final set of strathspeys such as Deil in the Kitchen, and King George’s going into the King’s Reel, Glenlivet and a Scott Skinner tune, The Left Handed Fiddler. Malcolm demonstrated great technical ability in his use of natural notes and cross fingering, which at that speed, on Border pipes needs some skill (not that we are jealous or anything!).

Last on before the half time break was star of radio and local favourite, Gary West. Gary commented that it was almost 30 years to the day since he had had his first chanter lesson in that very hall - he must have started at a tender age indeed! Despite a few problems with tuning his pipes (apparently the tuning room was much cooler than the hall itself) Gary made his way through a pleasant set including Kilworth Hills, Clan Alba March and some border tunes such as Linkumdoddie, Bobbing John and Dixon’s Highland Laddie which were an ideal contrast to what had preceded. Had we been at the Northern Meeting (again) Gary would almost certainly have been shown the red light for the length of time he tuned, but the result was worth it for his final set, slow air Drumcorrie, Galician Jig, Scarce o Tat- ties and Langstrom’s Pony.

The event was sponsored by Edradour Distillery and during the interval the raffle prize of a bottle of their 12 year old malt was won by some undeserving soul (i.e., not me), the rest of us receiving a miniature with our ticket. This was very well received and most of these were consumed during the concert.

The second half commenced with undoubtedly the most popular piper, Gordon Duncan who came on to a huge cheer. Gordon was the only Highland piper in the line-up and characteris- tically he did not make any attempt to introduce any of his tunes, however we recognised lots of “big” tunes in his set and he finished off with a March (with variations), Strath- spey....and Jig. (Highland Wedding, Susan MacLeod and Alan Macpherson of Mosspark). We do not feel that Gordon was on form on this night - he had several noticeable lapses and his pipe made some uncharacteristic squawks.

One of our personal highlights of the evening was the “quiet man” Iain MacDonald who played a set of lignum vitae Smallpipes in the key of A. Initial lack of a bass drone was quickly sorted as Iain launched into a fluid set of 9/8 jigs including Lochaber Dance. He was joined by Malcolm Stitt on guitar, which was a fantastically subtle touch and gave a great lift to Iain’s faultless playing. We got a selection of old style reels and quicksteps and tunes of his own making all of which blended into a quickly established groove, the only pity being we couldn’t hear the names of any as they were announced.

Iain’s brother Allan was the next performer, with a change of pipe key to C Smallpipes. Allan gave us a set of tunes featuring Inverness Gathering, Macpherson’s Strathspey and a plethora of reels including Girls are fond of Gossiping (the title of which seemed to particu- larly amuse Allan) and Ann MacKechnie to warm up - although many pipers, we suspect, would be delighted to show off such dexterity as their piece de resistance! As many will be aware, Allan has a good singing voice and he sang a song of the ’45 about John Roy Stewart in Gaelic while accompanying himself on this very mellow set of pipes. His set concluded with audience participation in a nonsense song by Alex MacKenzie which was a fun item.


Iain MacInnes chose a set of pipes in D for his set and he played a number of well known tunes such as Murdo MacKenzie of Torridon by Bobby MacLeod, MacDonald of the Isles’ March to Harlaw, Because he was a Bonny Lad and the Lowland Dance. Sweet pipes, (our preferred key), Iain is always a well prepared performer and a great supporter of the LBPS. He made passing reference to the BBC Pipeline website which apparently receives more hits than any other BBC programme, a testament to his own sure handling of the production and presentation through the years and the strength of interest from pipers all over the world.

Before the concert concluded, Hamish stood up to make the customary vote of thanks and to explain the concept behind the concert. Although she couldn’t attend, the originator was in fact Mairi Campbell, whose song The Piper and the Maker was the inspiration for the event [see CS Vol 16 No.1].

Mairi sang this song at our own Burns Supper two years ago and it tells of the maker who constructs the bare bones of an instrument, and the player who puts the life and soul into it through the music. It’s a powerful song and the concept took life with these 8 great pipers showing just what a range and breadth of sound and feeling can be had from this one instru- ment.

All were playing pipes made by Hamish and Fin (except Gordon) and each one was differ- ent in character. Hamish is never one to shrink from a bit of self publicity, but he really needs no other advert than for an audience to hear his pipes in full flow on such an occasion as this. Andy Hunter suspects that future generations will mention the Moore name in the same breath as other famous pipe makers such as MacDougall, Henderson and Robertson. Time will tell.

We understand that Mairi’s song will be included on the CD to allow others to appreciate this aspect of the night.

The last player was Angus MacKenzie, of Cape Breton and South Uist descent who gave us a great foot stomping set on Border pipes to set us up for the journey home. Among them were Donald Mor nan Ceapaich, a Fergie MacDonald tune, Skylark’s Ascension and the Soup Dragon to name but a few. He was joined by fiddler Gabe McVarrish, but alas again the fiddle was overpowered by the pipe and could hardly be heard from the back.

All together this was a night which will live on in people’s memories for some time - even without the CD - as a great celebration of pipes and piping