The Society continues to flourish, although, as with Piobaireachd itself, things can move slowly. And isn’t that one of Piobaireachd’s attractions in todays frenetic world? The long lingering notes, the slow pulsing rythm, the blend of chanter and drone – who needs mindfulness?
But things do happen, and a new venture for us this year is a Piobaireachd concert in St Cecilia’s Hall, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This, the oldest concert hall in Scotland, built in 1763, is a perfect venue – put the date in the diary – Sunday 12th August.
St Cecilia’s Hall
Callum Beumont, Glenn Brown, Ian K MacDonald and Jamie Forrester will play a seamless selection of tunes. Tuning will take place outwith the concert hall, and there will be a full illustrated programme. It might be the necessary calm before the storm that is Piping Live and the Worlds.
The annual conference is now in its 45th year, and on 24/25 March in Birnam Hotel there is a busy programme. All are welcome, PS members or not.
Distinguished scholars Professor Hugh Cheape MBE and Dr Decker Forrest will combine forces to give a presentation rather mysteriously called Descent and Evolution in Ceol Mor. That may involve researching past influences, whilst John Mulhearn, an instructor in the National Piping Centre, looks to be futuristic with his talk entitled Beyond the Performer Audience through Progressive Programming. John’s work in establishing The Big Music Society where piobaireachd is combined with other instruments whilst maintaining its musical integrity has been well received.
Piobaireachd, for good or ill, is played mainly in competition. Glenn Brown, President of the Competing Pipers Association will talk on aspects of that, assisted by some of today’s successful younger competitors. We look forward also to the performance from students taking the degree course in traditional music at the Royal Conservetoire of Scotland. The content of the session is awaited, the ball is in their court. Will there be a piobaireachd theme, or will they give us the rattling reels and fusion music so popular at the moment?
The Piobaireachd Society continues to offer a bursary for piobaireachd study each summer at the College of Piping. Last year three students took part under the expert guidance of John Wilson. Robert Allan was one, and we are pleased that he has agreed to play a tune for us after lunch on Saturday.
A welcome latecomer to the programme is John Shone. His last presentation, on the teaching of Donald MacPherson, was a highlight two years ago, especially as Gwen MacPherson and her two daughters were able to attend. John has had other teachers such as J B Robertson and Bob Nicol, and he will host a question and answer session about them and their teaching styles, with illustrations from tape recordings.
The dinner followed by tunes is a convivial affair, when young and old can bite the bullet and have a tune in front of the most benign of audiences. On Sunday morning some of this year’s set tunes will be illustrated – examples will be from the gold and senior lists, which are both full of challenging pieces. Scores of these will be projected for the benefit of the audience, and, who knows, maybe the players too.
The website continues to be popular, and is a rich source of all things Piobaireachd. A trawl through the conference proceedings alone shows an astonishing array of topics and illustrious names. And a dip into the Ardvasar seminars brings alive the controversies and characters of the 1970s and 1980s. The recordings archive continues to expand. Patrick Molard’s contribution of Campbell Canntaireachd tunes and settings adds welcome new knowledge and good listening, and there are new recordings of some of the 2018 set tunes.
It is difficult to think that it is two years since Roderick Cannon died. His daughter Sarah now feels ready to put the finishing touches to his book on the Canntaireachd of John MacCrimmon, usually known as the Gesto book. This will be well worth the wait. The best things take time.