After 19 days straight Mediterranean style weather did it all have to come to a shuddering halt on the night of an Eagles meeting? Thunder and lightening big time, but truth to tell we needed it. To get rid of the stifling air and refresh the lungs the rain was much needed. The ‘golf course’ was also grateful.
Predictably the slow trickle of people, who were brave enough to come out and play, arrived a bit late. Trouble with the trains! As if our rail transport is not use to operating in such conditions!
By the time the P/M had finished his opening spot there were quite a few in the audience including the Hon President who was in the last day of his 54th year. The birthday card and now traditional cake was presented and to celebrate he decided to have a tune on Jenny’s pipe. However after a few tuning phrases and a 6/8 he declared the pipe was a bit too strong for him. The P/M cocked an eyebrow and ordered the birthday boy a saucer of milk from the bar. With more than a touch of chagrin he took to the floor for a second time and did slightly better before his lips gave way. This was all of course Jenny’s fault. (See footnote *)
Tracey made the journey, avoiding the lightning on the M8, and was in excellent fettle. She introduced herself to Chris Grieve, misheard his name and someone said ‘Christopher Reeve, as in Superman?’ No Grieve. He remained Superman for the rest of the night and somehow it might stick. A few minutes ‘High Tower’ (Andrew Gray) walked in and we had a wee chat about nicknames and movies. Is it not strange that some people are known all their lives by their nicknames and sometimes we forget their real names? There are more than a few in the piping world…………
The post pie piper was Liz Cherry from Pittsburg. Liz got straight into her stride and once the pipe had settled down gave us the ground and a couple of variations of Lady McDonald.
The final player of the night was another Pittsburgonian/ Pittsburger/ Pittsburgite-whatever- Nick Hudson. Both Liz and Nick are members of the Pipes and Drums of Carnegie Mellon University.
Bagpiping has been an integral part of the campus life at Carnegie Mellon University since 1939. The Kiltie Band was started by Lewis W. Davidson and each year students who were interested in learning to play the bagpipes could enroll.
In 1985, James H. McIntosh MBE, a world-renowned piper, assumed the position as director of the pipe band. During his tenure, it was proposed that Carnegie Mellon institutionalize bagpipes as a legitimate major in its Conservatory of Music. Mr. Elden Gatwood, artist-lecturer of oboe, approached the department head, Marilyn Taft Thomas, with a proposal that bagpipes be formalized as a major and hire Mr. James McIntosh to teach it
Mr. Gatwood, a bagpiping student of Mr. McIntosh, spoke of his extraordinary gifts as a teacher and his international reputation as a bagpipe performer.
“The entire tradition of the campus has been celebratory bagpiping. It makes sense for us to acknowledge bagpipes as a legitimate musical instrument. While there are bagpipe teachers around the world, what Carnegie Mellon offers is a program of study where a person can get a complete grounding in music as well as specific instruction on the instrument” (Thomas, M.T. 1991).
The faculty supported the idea with enthusiasm and the proposal was accepted. Prior to this program, no opportunities existed anywhere in the world for the serious student to study bagpiping at a bachelor’s degree level.
Director Andrew Carlisle leads the Carnegie Mellon Pipes and Drums, which is made up entirely of current university students and alumni. Carlisle is also the professor in charge of the bagpipe major in the School of Music.
The band performs frequently at official university events and has also made a welcomed return to the competition platform where it has won Highland Games at the South Maryland Celtic Festival and at the Colonial Highland Gathering at Fair Hill, MD. In 2012 the band was invited to perform as the Guest Band at the New Hampshire Highland Games held at the Loon Mountain Ski Resort where the band performed to over 25,000 spectators and also at the world famous “Celtic Classic” festival in Bethlehem, PA where crowds of over 200,000 lined the streets.
Nick is a former pupil of Jimmy McIntosh and is over here picking up a few tips at the College of Piping. He played some lovely light music to settle his pipe down before giving us a robust rendition of MacDougall’s Gathering.
In the 1700’s and into the mid-1800s MacDougalls maintained a Piping School called The Piper’s Croft near Oban. It is possible that MacDougall’s Gathering was composed by a MacDougall of that period. However, there is uncertainty about which MacDougall and, also, uncertainty about the tune’s name – a question being, was it originally called a Salute as has been suggested?
Given the history of the Clan, it is possible that the tune goes back much further in time, possibly 200 or 300 years earlier. It seems the tune was nameless and that it was resurrected and named by someone, maybe one of the fine MacDougall piper⁄composers of the Piper’s Croft would have been a likely candidate for that task.
With the opening notes, one can imagine oneself on a castle turret calling the Clan to the Chieftain. Face south and sound a quick call on the pipe, then west, then north, then east and then launch into the ground of the tune. That opening statement certainly speaks the language of a true Gathering when given a particular emphasis.
No matter the history Nick gave us a splendid performance and did the tune justice.
And that was that.
The Scottish championship’s are at Dumbarton this Saturday so good luck to everyone. Hope the weather holds up !!
See you all in 2 weeks time.
Hon Pipe Major.
* Some 48 hours after the event I received an email from the Hon President claiming that he had discovered a large hole in Jenny’s bag, hence his predicament on Tuesday. I can smell it. Can you?