When the programmers were designing Zoom they forgot to take into account the Great Highland Bagpipe. Whatever were they thinking? However, in a way, it is quite nice that a fine instrument like ours can still bring modern technology to its knees.
Some 33 people tuned in, or perhaps logged on, to listen to the musical maestro at work. He did not disappoint. Hands and pipe were in sparkling form but the main ingredient was the rich cocktail of music that he produced. Traditional tunes, new tunes, tunes of his own, time signatures that raised the eyebrow, tunes where the fingers need to be well oiled, waulking songs- We got the lot.
Mike did what he could at his end with his microphone levels and bespoke background drops- (that were all very effective) and at the end of the day we had great session on the big pipe amongst friends from all over the world.
There is no doubt that his own compositions will stand the test of time and they sit proudly amongst the best there is. He has written some all time classics that have been played by pipers and bands all over the world.
In Scotland we have a tendency to be rather reserved when dishing out praise. ‘Aye, no bad son’ ‘Aye, that was decent’ ‘Aye, that was a’ right ye ken’, when what we really mean is brilliant, fabulous, great.
To be clear Michael was and still is one of the best composers of our music that there has ever been.
On the night he gave his a wide selection of tunes that included a brisk Ceol Mor-The Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick.
Mike started with The Glasgow Police March Past composed by John MacDonald,South Uist, followed by two of his own compositions Katy Grey’s Welcome From Scotland and 5 Ardveenish, a tune made for Donald Patrick Nicholson and his home in Ardveenish, Isle of Barra. Donald and his son Duncan were present in the online audience. How neat is that?
Mike then went into his next set that included his own tune, Blustering Home, that is in the Society’s music book Page 33. (I hope we asked for his permission?)
He started his next set with another of his own tunes, The Old Days. This showed off his musical abilities to the full as the tune has no strict time signature. It probably comes under the term ‘Tempo Rubato’ (literally Italian for ‘”stolen time”) It is a musical term referring to expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the performer. Rubato is an expressive shaping of music that is a part of phrasing.
Up next the Ceol Mor. Squinting Patrick lends itself to being attacked and Mike put a positive spin on it without losing any of the musical value. Lovely to hear a tune outwith the restraints of competition where the player can do as he wishes.
Time for a background screen change and mouth music, waulking songs and reels were up next, including Michael’s arrangement of The Sinecure Policeman. Sinecure means someone who receives money for a job who does little or no work. A cushy number if you will. Written well before my time!
The picture shows the original setting of the tune but MG has given it a significant upgrade and it will have your fingers flashing.
Mike then finished up with three lovely Gaelic Airs ending with Aitearachd Ard. (The Surge of the Sea). A tune dear to him and one that he would like played at his funeral. An occasion that, we hope, is somewhat down the line.
So there you go. Quite the rich cocktail of music and our heartfelt thanks go out to him for the time and effort put into a performance that lasted the better part of an hour.
As Mike himself said ‘Zoom is hollow substitute but it is better than nothing’.
This was much better than that. In an era where we have all been facing significant challenges and where perhaps a tad of apathy has set in, Mike stepped up to the plate to entertain and cheer us up. He did that in spades.
Aye-no bad son.