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Monthly Archives: June 2012

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The Worlds Returns to the Internet in 2012

Good news for those pipers and drummers out there who aren’t planning to go to Scotland this August: The RSPBA has announced that the BBC will once again stream live coverage of the World Pipe Band Championship on August 11. The stream has been immensely popular in the previous three years that it’s been streamed, and I expect it will remain so this year.

Start planning your Worlds parties now!

Special Piobaireachd Friday: Caber Feidh Gu Brath

Consider yourselves lucky, piobaireachd fans: this is your second tune this week, and it comes from an undisputed master of the genre: Roddy MacLeod. Roddy’s instructing this week at a piping school in Virginia, and in an informal recital on Tuesday evening played the Donald MacLeod tune Caber Feidh Gu Brath. You can always count on him to have a great bagpipe, and the playing was fantastic.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what bagpipes are supposed to sound like.

If you’d like to submit a tune to be featured on Piobaireachd Wednesday, please email me.

Special Piobaireachd Tuesday: Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon

I’m away at piping school this week, and able to record some really good stuff. Piobaireachd Wednesday will be replaced this week by Piobaireachd Tuesday and Piobaireachd Friday, so check back Friday morning for another tune.

The first bonus tune this week is Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon, played by Glenn Brown in an informal instructor’s recital on Monday evening. Glenn is an instructor at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow, though he’s originally from Ontario. As you can tell he’s a great player, and it was a very enjoyable tune to hear in person.

If you’d like to submit a tune to be featured on Piobaireachd Wednesday, please email me.

You Be The Judge

I’ve said before that I don’t have much inclination to ever be a piping judge. I really enjoy listening to pipe music, and I love to sit down and watch a contest, solo or band, all the way through. There are things that I like about every performer, and to have to compare them to each other and subjectively rank them severely takes the enjoyment out of the music for me.

That being said, it is fun to be an armchair judge and come up with my own rankings for a contest. Listening critically to performances is the best way to train your own ear, and when you turn that ear on yourself it can really improve your own playing.

For the past two months or so, Andrew Douglas and Vince Janoski have been doing a live weekly radio show called Dojo Universe (also available for download as a podcast), and the episodes from June 6 and June 13 were both “you be the judge” shows. They took recordings of bands from a contest and played the audio, then ran a poll and discussed the performances with their live audience. I also recommend going back to listen to the recordings again after the discussion.

I won’t spoil anything by naming the contests that were recorded, but the June 6 episode featured some entries from a recent grade 4 band contest, and June 13 was a recent grade 1 band contest. I recommend you check it out and try your own hand at judging.

Mark Your Calendars: USPF Championship June 16 in Newark, DE

A competition for the elite players of North America, the United States Piping Foundation Championship takes place next weekend. Details:

United States Piping Foundation Championship
June 16, 2012
Amy E. DuPont Music Hall (map)
University of Delaware
Newark, Delaware, U.S.A.

The competition is open to any North American professional or grade 1 piper, and the competitors include pipers from the eastern U.S. and Canada.

This year marks the first time I’ll be playing in the competition, and though I’m not expecting to be anywhere in the prize list I’m excited to be playing. I heard some great music when I went for the morning last year, but I was struck by the complete lack of audience. It was was really disappointing to see that the audience consisted almost entirely of other competitors. For such a high-profile event that’s been happening for over 20 years, I would have expected a larger crowd of knowledgeable spectators.

I feel this event doesn’t get the publicity that it should, so I’m doing my part to spread the word. If you’re able to attend, I encourage you do to so, even if it’s only to watch a few tunes. Both amateur and professional piobaireachd events start in the morning, with the MSR happening after lunch.

This year’s order of play and tune selections:

Amateur Piobaireachd, 9 a.m. start

Judges Peter Kent and Jim Stack

1. Nathan Wahlgren, Lament for the Viscount of Dundee
2. Kathleen Brown, MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart
3. Andrew Donlon, MacIntosh’s Lament
4. John McGrath, MacGregor’s Salute
5. Ross Davidson, Battle of the Pass of Crieff
6. Sean Regan, The King’s Taxes
7. Albert Defusco, Lament for Mary MacLeod
8. Sean Poyntz, MacLeod of Raasay’s Salute
9. Avens Ridgeway, A Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick
10. Mary Wallace, The Bicker
11. Kirk Brunson, Lament for Donald of Laggan

Amateur MSR, afternoon start

1. Mary Wallace: The Argyllshire Gathering, The Islay Ball, Dolina MacKay
2. Avens Ridgeway: David Ross, Tulloch Gorm, The Cockerel in the Creel
3. Nathan Wahlgren: Hugh Kennedy, Tulloch Castle, The Sheepwife
4. Kirk Brunson: The Pap of Glencoe, Susan MacLeod, The Blackberry Bush
5. Sean Poyntz: MacLean of Pennycross, Maggie Cameron, Cecily Ross
6. Albert Defusco: The 74th’s Farewell to Edinburgh, Caledonian Society of London, Bessie McIntyre
7. Andrew Donlond: Abercairney Highlanders, Inverary Castle, The Grey Bob
8. Kathleen Brown: Jeannie Carruthers, Caber Feidh, Thompson’s Dirk
9. Sean Regan: John MacFadyen of Melfort, Lady Louden, John Morrison of Assynt House
10. John McGrath: Duke of Roxeboro’s Farewell to the Blackmount Forest, Dora MacLeod, Broadford Bay
11. Ross Davidson: South Hall, The Ewe w’ the Crooked Horn, Lochiel’s Away to France

Professional Piobaireachd, 8:30 a.m. start

Judges Reay MacKay and Colin MacLellan

1. James Bell, The End of the Great Bridge
2. Brian Meagher, Lament for Donald of Laggan
3. Dan Lyden, Fair Honey
4. Ben McClamrock, The Bicker
5. Duncan Bell, The Big Spree
6. Nick Hudson, Lament for the Viscount of Dundee
7. Liz Cherry, Salute to Donald
8. Alex Gandy, Catherine’s Lament
9. Elliot Smith, The Fingerlock
10. John Bottomley, The Blue Ribbon
11. Derek Midgely, I Got a Kiss of the King’s Hand
12. Andrew Carlise, Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay
13. Palmer Shonk, Tullach Ard

Professional MSR, afternoon start

1. Alex Gandy: MacLean of Pennycross, Arniston Castle, Neil Angus MacDonald
2. Nick Hudson: Abercairney Highlanders, Tulloch Castle, Mrs. MacPherson of Inveran
3. John Bottomley: Colin Thompson, Inverary Castle, Pretty Marion
4. James Bell: Portland Castle, Blair Drummond, The Smith of Chilliehassie
5. Elliot Smith: Pipe Major Willie McLean, Susan MacLeod, The Cockerel in the Creel
6. Dan Lyden: The 74th’s Farewell to Edinburgh, Caledonian Society of London, Lt. Col. D.J.S. Murray
7. Brian Meagher: The Braes of Castle Grant, Islay Ball, Alick C. MacGregor
8. Liz Cherry: Jeannie Carruthers, Cabar Feish, The Man from Glengarry
9. Andrew Carlisle: Kantara to El Arish, Inverary Castle, Bessie McIntyre
10. Duncan Bell: The Crags of Stirling, The Piper’s Bonnet, John Garroway
11. Derek Midgley: John MacDonald’s Welcome to South Uist, MacBeth’s Strathspey, John Morrison of Assynt House
12. Palmer Shonk: The 93rd at Modder River, The Bob of Fettercairn, The Sound of Sleat
13. Ben McClamrock: John MacFadyen of Melfort, Tulloch Gorm, Broadford Bay

Piobaireachd Wednesday: The MacGregor’s Salute

Our tune this week once again comes from The Captain’s Corner, and was recorded at the 2010 George Sherriff Memorial Competition in Hamilton, Ontario. The winning piobaireachd was The MacGregor’s Salute, played by Andrew Laird.

If you’d like to submit a tune to be featured on Piobaireachd Wednesday, please email me.

DIY Project: Bagpipe Lamp

Here’s a pretty easy do-it-yourself project that can bring a little bagpipe flavor to your living room. This project was inspired by my first journey to Winter Storm in Kansas City, MO in January 2009. I noticed that the judges’ tables were adorned with bagpipe chanter lamps (visible on the right of this photo). I thought that was a pretty neat idea, and although it’s taken me a few years, I now find myself in need of a few table lamps and have decided to tackle on the project.

There were four phases of this project: the base, the pipe, the lamp, and assembly. Check the gallery at the bottom of the page for photos throughout the project.

Phase 1: The Base

In the woodcraft section at the local craft store I found a selection of basswood plaques, and chose the 8″ x 10″ for this project. It’s plain wood to start, so I picked up some sandpaper and stain as well.

I started by drilling a hole in the center of the base for the cord; it started as 3/8″ and was later enlarged to 3/4″. I also used a chisel to carve a groove in the underside of the base for the lamp cord. (Yes, I recognize that a router would have been the right tool for this job, but I don’t have one of those.)

Once drilled and carved, it was a matter of sanding and staining the base. One coat of stain and two coats of polyurethane finish did the trick, just following the directions on the can.

Phase 1 cost: $23 total ($7 wood base, $12 wood stain and finish, $4 sandpaper)
Phase 1 time: 90 minutes plus drying time.

Phase 2: The Pipe

To do something different I decided to use a tenor drone instead of a chanter, and set about trying to find one. A friend  has as a box of miscellaneous bagpipe parts that he’s collected over the years. As he said, “They have flaws, cracks, and gouges, but they are fine for furniture.” He set me up with a tenor drone top and bottom that look halfway decent but don’t sound like much.

Prepping the drone was pretty basic. I stripped the yellow hemp off the tuning joint and replaced it with black hemp, then held it in place with some wood glue. I had to trim about 1/4″ off the bottom of the reed seat so it wouldn’t protrude from the back of the base, and I cut a notch so I didn’t crimp the cord.

Phase 2 cost: free (because I have good friends)
Phase 2 time: 30 minutes

Phase 3: The Lamp

Many big box and home improvement stores sell lamp kits, and I opted for the kit designed to convert glass bottles into lamps. It comes with a variety of rubber fittings, and the smallest of these was just about right for the top of the tenor drone, just like a drone cork.

Phase 3 cost: $15 ($7 lamp kit, $8 lamp shade)
Phase 3 time: 1o minutes

Phase 4: Assembly

This is simply a matter of threading the lamp cord through the base, the drone, the socket base, and securing it to the socket with the attached screws. I held all the connections in place with a bit of wood glue, and after it dried I had myself a bagpipe accent for my apartment.

Phase 4 cost: $0
Phase 4 time: 10 minutes

Total project cost: $38. Not bad for a unique conversation piece.

If you undertake a project like this, I’d love to hear about it.