With the Duncan Johnstone Contest at the National Piping Centre fast approaching, tonight was populated by pipers attempting to convince themselves they can actually still walk and play at the same time after a long winter procrastinating over new tunes.
First up was Lachie Dick who will be playing in his first Duncan Johnstone. Lachie has fallen under the guidance of Barry Donaldson at City of Edinburgh Pipe Band and Tom Speirs for piobaireachd tuition since arriving in Edinburgh last year. Two finer mentors would be hard to find. Lachie’s tunes included a very musical set of 3/4s; 13th Frederick Street, McGregor of Rora and Balmoral. He finished with a competition MSR of Clan MacColl, Ewe with the Crookit Horn and John Morrison of Assynt House.
Torphicen & Bathgate stalwart and RCS piping student, Andrew Gray, followed with P/M Angus MacDonald and Farewell to Barra – the latter written by the aforementioned outstanding piper and composer, Duncan Johnstone.
For those Cal-Mac ferry spotters amongst you Duncan also wrote Farewell to Nigg and Farewell to Arran. Andrew also gave us the ground of Salute to Donald and finished with a set including Go to Berwick Johnny – a lowland pipe tune more often heard on the small pipes but sounding as good tonight on the Highland.
Everyone favourite’s Best Man,
Dr Rob Gray, entertained us before the pie break. By all accounts Rob spoke admirably at his most recent wedding but was remaining tight-lipped over his stag duties. He kicked off with the melodic Bathgate Highland Games and Battle of the Somme before quickening the pace and stride with Donald McLean’s Farewell to Oban and Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band. He followed with a superb set of tunes including the Old Knife Grinder’s Spring Song and a new tune apparently called The Mankini Piper – a lively little twister.
Post Pie Piper was Jenny Hazzard. Having won the Silver Medal in 1999, Jenny obviously doesn’t have to worry about the Duncan Johnstone
contest. Jenny was playing the new AyrFire chanter from Ayrshire Bagpipes and Colin MacLellan. The eagle eyed will have spotted Colin playing it at our last meeting. It is indeed a fine and true chanter with superb clarity. This one is plastic as well – perhaps lending it more crispness and projection? Jenny’s tunes included the MSR Highland Wedding, Inveraray Castle and Charlie’s Welcome and finished with a set including the multiple time signature Na Goisidich reel by Allan MacDonald. Tricky to tap a foot to let alone play.
Our final piper was Douglas Gardiner who has been enjoying a short period of enforced retirement during which he claims to have been improving his golf and piping. After a set of 4/4s and 6/8s, Douglas gave us the piobaireachd, Macleod’s Short Tune. This was written about the feud between the MacLeods and MacDonalds in the 1500s and was perhaps originally known as A Taunt on MacLeod. Whilst it was a pleasing enough
performance it would appear the delights of Carol Voderman and daytime TV have been getting the better of Douglas.
Diary dates to look out for:
Duncan Johnstone Contest: National Piping Centre: Saturday 17th March
Scots Guards Knock Out Semi-Final: Sunday 18th March.