It was perhaps fitting in the lead up to the Royal Wedding that tonight had a definite feminine touch. The Honorary Pipe Major was, however, oddly absent. Rumours say he has been hand picked to play outside Westminster Abbey and his neighbours in West Edinburgh have even heard the strains of Highland Cathedral drifting from the P/M’s bedroom. Palace aides have denied this.
The Honorary Secretary, Iain Speirs, took charge and introduced young Skye piper, Brighde Chaimbeul. The multi-instrumentalist Brighde is a now a pupil at St Mary’s Music School and played some very demanding tunes on a perfectly tuned set of McCallums. Her performance culminated in a beautifully played MSR of the Lonach Gathering, Caledonian Canal and Traditional. Brighde is 12 and has been playing for only three years. She showed great maturity. A credit to her own dedication and her tutors.
Douglas Gardiner took the floor next. Douglas is 39 and has been playing for 32 years. His display was a fine example to Brighde of how not to spend her next 27 piping years. Both are competing at the Highlands & Islands Festival in Oban on Saturday although, thankfully for Douglas, in different age groups.
Some in the audience commented that the next piper, Consultant Radiologist, Dr Fergus Perks, has strong similarities to how Prince William may look in years to come. If the HRH can play pipes as well as Fergus, he will make a fine King.
Fergus has hidden his piping skills under a bushel for too long and we are now enjoying his more frequent appearances. He was playing his new purchase of a wonderful sounding set of aluminium mounted Tim Gellaitry pipes (see Match Report 1st March 2011). His selection opened with the swinging 6/8 march, McPherson’s Salute to Banffshire, written by P/M Bill Hepburn and named after James McPherson CBE, the former Lord Lieutenant of Banffshire and Fergus’s uncle.
Post Pie Piper was Jenny Hazzard who treated us to some of the tunes she played so well in the Scots Guards Club Knock Out last weekend. In keeping with the mood she gave us The Highland Wedding and Bonnie [Princess] Anne. She also played Captain Duncan MacGregor – the only four parted strathspey known to have been written by the fabled John MacColl. The original manuscript of the tune hangs on the wall in Jenny and Colin’s house under the name James Gordon. Perhaps James changed his name and joined the army. Jenny finished in a flourish with the exceptionally catchy Doubled Over Happy – Michael Grey’s tribute to John Cairns’ 1999 twin Gold Medal triumph.
In a week that saw the sad passing of New Zealander Lewis Turrell, the first non-Scottish winner of a Gold Medal, it was fitting that tonight’s piobaireachd was played by fellow Kiwi Tracey Williams. Tracey settled her pipe with an MSR of Arthur Bignold, The Piper’s Bonnet and The Rejected [Royal] Suitor before delivering The End of the Great Bridge. Tracey’s phrasing was outstanding and an example to all. Her 1915 Henderson drones and cane reeds produced an extraordinarily smooth, rich and harmonic sound that never shifted a millimetre from start to finish. To achieve this does not happen by chance as many, many pipers can testify.
It is perhaps a few years before we ever become The Royal Eagle Pipers’ Society; however, we wish the happy couple all the best – whoever pipes at the wedding.