The NHL and the LDS Church will help me ring in the New Year

I join interesting pipe bands.

Because I am a member of a band with close connections to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS or Mormon Church, to those of you unfamiliar with Utah culture), I will be ringing in the New Year tonight at the former Hotel Utah, now known as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. This is part of an evening of entertainment provided by the LDS church in downtown Salt Lake City.

Although I am not a church member, I reap the benefits of church association with this band. This past Veterans’ Day we played with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at a televised broadcast of its weekly show “Music and the Spoken Word”. The gig tonight takes place in the opulent surroundings of the former hotel’s palatial lobby. There is a huge atrium with a four-sided balcony. It’s going to be packed, and should be a great gig.

As fun as the action in Utah will be, it is eclipsed by the gig my old band, the Celtic Spirit Pipe Band of Buffalo, New York will be playing tomorrow. They have been asked to play the teams onto the ice at the NHL Winter Classic, an outdoor hockey game to be played in front of 70,000+ people at the Buffalo Bills’ stadium. The game is to be broadcast by NBC and will be watched by millions. The weather is forecast to be around freezing with 10-20 mph winds and perhaps some light snow. The band will have to march onto the ice wearing little chains over their shoes.

Good luck to you all in Buffalo – I wish I could hop a flight after the Utah gig and join you tomorrow!

Oh, and Happy New Year!

Cherede Darievea – the tune with no name

Lovers of piobaireachd should definitely check out BBC Radio Scotland’s Pipeline show this week.

The star of the show this week (10th November, 2007) is a beautiful performance of a tune that actually has no name. I suppose this is an artifact of oral transmission, but many tunes in the ancient piobaireachd canon have come down to us with no name. When this has happened the tunes are left designated as “Nameless”, although the first few canntaireachd vocables are usually attached to the designation. In the case of the tune played on Pipeline this week, the tune shows up in only one manuscript source – Colin Mor Campbell’s Nether Lorn canntaireachd – and is usually referred to by those vocables, “Cherede Darievea”.

Cherede Darievea is one of the very long tunes in the repertoire. Iain Speirs is the performer this week, the recording having been taken from the recent Glenfiddich Piping Championships. He keeps a good level of forward momentum in the tune, but even so he comes in at a little under 19 minutes.

With the nameless tunes one wonders what they might once have been called. Still, even deprived of a back story, Cherede Darievea has a lyrical and haunting melody and Iain Speirs’ performance and beautifully set-up bagpipe are a delight to listen to.

The show switches editions on Saturday evenings so you still have a couple of days to listen. The tune is not often played, so be sure not to miss this rare treat.

Oban – Home of the Argyllshire Gathering

The games season is in full swing in the Scottish Highlands, and that means lots of piping!

Two of the biggest competitions in the solo piping year happen at games a week apart: The Argyllshire Gathering, in Oban, took place last week, and The Northern Meeting, in Aviemore, is this Thursday and Friday.

Richard Hawke of New Zealand took the Gold Medal in Piobaireachd, a first for him. This signifies a graduation of sorts, for once a piper has won this medal, they will play only in the Senior Piobaireachd in the future. (That competition was won by the evergreen Gordon Walker, incidentally). For a limited time you can hear Richard’s winning performance of Rory MacLoude’s Lament, by listening to Radio Planet Pipe. You will also hear the second- and third-placed performances (both of Lachlan MacNeill Campbell of Kintarbert’s Fancy) played first by Niall Stewart, and then by Marion Horsburgh. Marion is also from New Zealand, so it was a good day for the Kiwis.

It is interesting to hear the same tune played on the same day, for the same judge, by two different people. Listening to them back to back can you tell the difference between the two?

Check out the full results on Andrew Berthoff’s Pipes|Drums, and look out for the results of the Northern Meeting soon.

May, the Merrie Month of Macfie

May 27th is Macfie Day, in recognition of that date in 1981, when the reorganized clan was formally recognized as an active clan once again, by The Lord Lyon King of Arms in Edinburgh.

I have celebrated the month by making two new Macfie contacts, both of them piping-related.

First up, Barry Johnson of Oregon. He began playing the bagpipes after attending the big 1993 Clan Macfie reunion gathering on Colonsay with his wife, a Cathey. Clearly, he never looked back and now he leads a small band called The Caledonians. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, check them out at a Highland Games near you. If you’re not close, then check out some of their performances on their MySpace site.

Barry encouraged me to persist in my efforts (mentioned in a previous post) to contact the Clan Macfie piper, Bob McFie. These efforts paid off during May – I finally made contact. Bob is a really interesting guy, and very well connected in the world of piping. He teaches at the College of Piping, in Glasgow and is also active in Europe (especially Germany) helping pipe bands over there. He tells me he has a big collection of Macfie-related music, some of which he wrote himself, and which he has promised to share with me once he get his computer working again! The tune he wrote for the 1993 Gathering is called The Homecoming, and it looks like I’ll be able to try playing it before too long.

Still, The Homecoming will have to take a back seat to The Lament for Captain MacDougall for now. 11 days until the Salt Lake Highland Games!

March Drive-by

It’s been a while since I wrote. A two-week visit from my parents (from England) has given us plenty to do. Now we’re getting back into our routines. Here is a drive-by of my piping March:

My old band performs with Rod Stewart

The Celtic Spirit Pipe Band, of Buffalo, NY got a cool gig at the beginning of the month. Apparently, when Rod Stewart comes to town, he likes to have a local pipe band open his concerts. This time it was my old band that got the nod. According to my ex-Pipe Major, Joe Baschnagel, it was a great evening. Playing in front of 20,000 people an a circular stage is not to be missed!

A few days later Celtic Spirit headlined another concert with a popular Buffalo Irish Step dance company, Rince Na Tiarna. In a curious confluence, I learned a couple of days ago that the concert was arranged and promoted by a former colleague of my wife. More evidence of the smalltown-ness of Buffalo, I suppose.

I finally attend a meeting of the Utah Piobaireachd Society

It took me three missed meetings, but I finally got there. A great evening of Ceol Mor, although I was puzzled it was attended only by members of my band. Turns out the other two bands locally have their practice on the UPS meeting night. I will have to see if we can change the night, so the others can be there.

I play a funeral in a very old cemetery

I got a call to play a funeral in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. It’s a beautiful location, with a lot of historically significant people buried there, including Brigham Young, who is kind of a popular guy around here.

On to April…

If it goes past your knees, it’s just a skirt

I watched Ace of Cakes last night on the Food Network. This is a great show, about a funky cake-making company, Charm City Cakes,with a cool owner, Duff Goldman.

Last night Duff was commissioned to make a Scottish-themed cake, so he chose a Highland Cow. The cake looked like a million dollars (probably was) and, to add to the atmosphere, Duff had a piper come to the bakery to play for the staff. (He hired Ian Coletti, of the City of Washington Pipe Band – Ian acquitted himself very well, and even offered a positive opinion on the cake!)

Then Duff kilted up for the remainder of the day and delivered the cake bekilt. I have to say, having watched the show, that the kilt Duff hired for the occasion was probably designed for a taller person. From the moment I started watching the show, I thought Duff would be a prime candidate for a Utilikilt. He sometimes wears a black chef jacket and a Utilikilt would look excellent with it.

If he does go for the Utilikilt, Duff should measure himself carefully. Remember, if it goes past your knees, it’s just a skirt