On Tuesday 5th February we were honoured to be hosting Mike Grey’s “Back Door Launch” of his 6th collection of tunes, entitled Damned Suites (“coz that’s what they are!”). This is a limited edition collection in hard back, luxuriously designed by the creative force behind The National Piping Centre’s bi-monthly magazine, Piping Today, John Slavin, and consisting entirely of Mike’s compositions both in more conventional forms and time signatures, as well as Mike’s trademark and ground-breaking suites. Sitting alongside the pieces themselves are anecdotes and whimsies that make this a unique publication indeed.
As part of the night’s programme, a low-key competition was staged, open to all and sponsored by Mike, with the only criteria being that one of his tunes feature in the selection. Mystery judges were set around the room, a draw made and one of the best nights of piping we have had in a long time was set.
Newly crowned Master of Merchandise, Cameron Drummond, created a festive array of Mike’s books, EPS book launch t-shirts, Eagle Pipers’ ties, bagcovers and “verrrrrry snazzy cufflinks”.
Modeling all of this merchandise (almost all at once) and glowing in his gold waistcoat, our Hon P/M opened the evening with a variety of tunes starting with some of Mike’s tunes from The Immigrants’ Suite, The Labour and The Landing. He then went into The Border Ballad followed by 3 of Michael’s tunes Up To The Line, Linda’s Lilt and Blustering Home. Mike was persuaded to give some background to the tunes, and while we are still none the wiser as to why Linda was lilting, we discovered that one of the judges behind the story of the latter tune was present, and indeed he gave us the next tune.
Bob Worrall was one of the causes of the blustering on the occasion in question, and as a firm friend of many present was warmly welcomed back to Eagles. He gave a short and enchanting set of rare tunes, including The Unst Bridal March, John Thompson of Flagstaff by Robert Watt and The Campsie Hills. Piping’s “media darling” concluded his selection with a waltz of his own composition for John and Connie Wilson’s son and daughter-in-law, Ian and Kayleigh’s Waltz, and a polka.
On with the competition, and nine pipers put their names forward, stepping up to the plate admirably. Here follows some notes (slightly edited) from the scratchings of my pencil on the night:
Nils Michael kicked off to rapturous applause. Almost an entire MG set. Lower pitch, warm sound. 3/4-March Katie Grey’s Welcome From Scotland – MG’s niece. Reel-Asleep at the Wheel (“there is no story. I wrote it when I was 22.” Oh really !). Played with characteristic fire!
Brighde Chaimbeul. Musical airs, lovely light and lovely lilting wee strathspeys, controlled and flowing reel playing. Asleep at the Wheel. Impressive stuff.
Craig Sutherland, pre-pie competitor. Bold, confident playing on a first class bagpipe. In typical student fashion he had only found out about the competition a few days earlier hence he only managed to squeeze in one of MG tunes, Fleshmarket Close. He rounded off and excellent set with the Happy Onion Chopper by Andy Renwick.
Mr. Merchandise himself Cameron Drummond was up next. Forgetting he was not at the Gold meddle he was very gently prompted by the P/M to start his selection. (“Get ****ing on with it”) Undaunted he gave the usual slick, well presented. Malkie Bowes’ Consternation, jigs including The Bottler (nervous giggling about who The Bottler might be!)
Jenny Hazzard, former pupil of MG’s. Played an adventurous and challenging selection – entirely MG’s tunes. Liz Campbell’s Welcome to the World, [something about a Halifax waltz?!] [more waltzes], and the difficult hornpipe John Cairns Double. This tune was originally named Edna Chance but Michael was not for revealing why the name change or indeed who Edna is/was!
Donald McLeod, now that’s what I call a bagpipe! Combination of traditional and MG tunes. Nellie, Jock and J. named for J. Reid Maxwell’s grandparents who brought him up in Cardenden, Fife. Jane Grey Campbell Clark (MG’s sister). 10 parts of The Shaggy Grey Buck (pun intended???)
Joshua Townsley, 9/8 marches. Pipe sounding well. Very pleasant wee Air and Coppermill Studio.
Douglas Gardiner, presenting with military precision. Pretty wee 9/8s (“The longest set of 9/8s ever to be inflicted upon listeners at Eagles” – Hon P/M). Up To The Line, and The Fence Walker (Ken Eller).
Taking the stage at 11pm was Lachie Dick. He spent the last set of the evening funking (lucky there was no typo there) up the time signatures. No holds barred. Malkie Bowes’ Consternation.
The mystery judges deliberated and somehow came up with a result that was handed to the PM on fine parchment (see the photo)
1st Jenny Hazzard
2nd Cameron Drummond
3rd Lachie Dick
Commendation Brighde Chaimbeul
To close the evening Michael gave a few vote of thanks and apologised, in his own inimitable way, if the evening appeared to be self serving and somewhat indulgent. Of course book launches could be seen as that however we, The Eagle Pipers’ Society, were proud to host the event and be party to what turned out to be a celebration of one of the finest modern day composer’s music.
Off we went into the evening, cleverly taking the 1st prizewinner with us, who very kindly bought us a nightcap!
See you in two weeks time. Oh below is the afore mentioned master results document. Enough said.