Piping by numbers

Math and statistics have returned to my piping conversations. A couple of threads on the piping forums to which I post gave me some ideas to kick around.

The threads concerned predictions for the 2007 World Pipe Band Championships (which don’t happen until August) and the intentionally mis-stated news that David Beckham, the gazillionaire soccer star, had joined the LA Scots Pipe Band.

The confluence of these two discussions (which both now have dozens of posts) got me thinking. The posters seemed desperate to speculate about which band would place where in the summer, and also what Beckham’s move (to the LA Galaxy Major League Soccer team, actually) would do for soccer in the U.S.

So I proposed a Fantasy Pipe Band League.

I don’t know much about fantasy leagues, but I did find out from wikipedia that they can be adapted to amost any sport, if you can compile individual statistics on the team members. Here, I thought was an opportunity for armchair Pipe Majors everywhere. I’ll watch the thread and see where it leads.

Despite all this, don’t forget the sage words of Noam Chomsky:

“Organized sports promote irrational xenophobia and blind submission to authority”

184 years later…

Exciting news! Ross Anderson of Cambridge University, together with Roderick Cannon, has scanned a full copy of a heretofore unpublished Donald MacDonald manuscript. MacDonald published the first collection of piobaireachd in 1820 and was working on a second collection. This is the draft of that collection. Anderson and Cannon have generously made the manuscript public and here it is.

I have peeked at a few of the pages, but it is going to take a while to look at the whole thing. There are 282 pages! From what I have seen, though, the quality of the images is good and the notation is also very clear. It would not be difficult at all to play from this manuscript. Thank you, gentlemen!

Dirty Bo’ness

I lived in Scotland for 18 months in my early 20’s.

My undergraduate program at the University of Bath strongly recommended all students take an intern year, and they made it pretty easy to place students, since they had relationships with many companies and government labs in the UK. My department found me a place at BP Chemicals in Grangemouth and so, in the late spring of 1988, I packed all my worldly belongings into my micro-sized car and headed North.

I had arranged accomodation ahead of time: I was to live with the outgoing interns in their house in the town of Bo’ness. I arrived late in the afternoon, unpacked my stuff and headed down the hill into town to check out my new surroundings.

I was delighted to hear the sound of drumming as a neared the town center. A pipe band, I thought. Well, yes, but not the kind of pipes I was hoping for. Around the corner came an Orangemen’s march. I knew immediately what it was, having seen such marches on the news, usually accompanied by riots and petrol bombs. I nervously watched the march go by. Had I mistakenly moved to Ulster?

The presence of the Orange Order was later explained to me as I began to understand the complex religio-political life of central Scotland. I learned too that the expression “Dirty Bo’ness” referred not to the town town itself (an easy assumption to make), but to the soccer team. Intriguingly, in the age of electronic communication this dirtiness is now public for all to read.

This was all before I began piping. Had I been a piper at the time I probably would have made my way to the Bo’ness Pipe Band. But I didn’t have to worry about a shortage of music back then – there was plenty else to chose from. The Cocteau Twins were living in Grangemouth, I went to live shows in Edinburgh and Glasgow probably twice a week and were befriended by an Edinburgh band called AVO-8.

It was a wonderful time, and who knew that 18 years later I would be writing about a baby born in Bo’ness while I was living there. Callum Beaumont won the Silver Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering this year.

All Gaelic, All the Time

I made a discovery the other day. Someone on the Bob Dunsire Forums asked a question about a tune they had heard on a piping show called Crunluath. I responded (perhaps rather too smugly) that the piping show they were enquiring about does not exist, and perhaps they were thinking of something else.

Turns out, No, they were not.

The show in question is indeed called Crunluath and is on the BBC all-Gaelic radio station – Radio nan Gaidheal. I had searched for the show on the BBC Scotland side of the BBC website and got no results. I think it’s interesting that the Gaelic and English sides of the BBC are so separate, but I suppose it’s not particularly surprising. In addition (also not surprisingly, I guess) there is no English navigation option on the Radio nan Gaidheal website. Consequently, I had to rely on the generosity of a fellow forum member giving the correct sequence of links to find the actual show. Here are the instructions for those of you who are inclined to listen:

Go to the Gaelic website of the BBC. It’s called Alba

Click on the Radio nan Gaidheal link towards the top right of the page. It also says ÈIST BEÃ’. This will open a player window with the live Radio nan Gaidheal feed – least during the daytime in Scotland.

In the center column of the player window is a list of programmes with descriptions, some in English. About halfway down is the link to the show Crunluath, with the helpful English description “Pipe Music”.

If you would like to understand the presenter, go back to the main BBC Gaelic page and click the bottom right corner link. Here the BBC (and even a cartoon Dog) will help you learn Gaelic. While you’re at it, you might want to try Finnish, Navajo and Basque also.

Wetootwaag’s Wild World

Interesting and consistently-maintained piping blogs seem to be hard to find, but here’s a cool one:

Wetootwaag’s Podcast of Bagpipe Power:When It’s about Bagpipes and Scotch, everyone wins

Actually, this is a podcast – Wetootwaag has a blog too, with possibly the strangest name ever.

In any case, Wetootwaag appears to be Jeremy Kingsbury from Bemidji, MN. Among his interests, he lists bagpipes, single malt scotch and the Ojibwe language. I can’t tell if he is Ojibwe or just a speaker, but either way his blend of interests certainly interested me. I listened to his latest podast, which includes a smallpipes version of Eye of the Tiger, and read his blog which features a scary story about the perils of over-imbibing. It’s all good stuff.

So, Wetootwaag, welcome to my Blogroll, where, appropriately, you join a pirate from Sault Ste. Marie who plays the theme from Star Wars on pipes. Perhaps you guys could meet at Grand Portage and play movie tunes across the border.

I am Old

Last night I went to a performance of How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying) at a nearby high school, Bingham High. Considering the age of the cast and crew, it was amazingly good.

In the lobby I bumped into one of my fellow band members in the Wasatch and District Pipeband. Turns out he is a student at Bingham High. I guess I knew he was still in school, but it’s still a shock to encounter someone I think of as a piping peer in a high school. What’s going on? I’m young too, right? Nope. I’m more than twice his age.

This morning I listened to this week’s edition of the BBC Radio Scotland show Pipeline. The featured guest this week was Callum Beaumont from Bo’ness. He is 17 (seventeen) and won the Silver Medal at Oban this year. He’s the same age as the highschoolers I was watching last night, and who are in my band.

I’m not going to beat myself up over this, but they are young and I am old.

Pipe the Captain Aboard!

I’ve been meaning to write about this website for a while now, but I didn’t want to just toss out a casual mention.

The website is called The Captain’s Corner, and it is produced by Ken Eller (also known as The Captain), who played for many years with the 78th Fraser Highlanders, something of a local band for me when I lived in Buffalo, New York. According to the introduction on Ken’s (sorry, the Captain’s) site, he is “now retired from active competition”, and has “expanded my involvement in instruction. It is my intent to be of service not only to students who participate in my workshops but also help the long distance piper needing special assistance.”

Well, I see several resources that would be very useful at The Captain’s Corner, not least the online tuition. But for now, I have been content to avail myself of the huge number of quality performances Ken has generously made available for download. One of the advantages to Ken being so well connected, is that he has been able to record some of the World’s top players (who are clearly also his friends). Thus we are able to hear performances from pipers like Angus MacColl and Jim McGillivray on his site.

Ken does not just focus on the established pipers, though. It is obvious that he wants to help young pipers and he features perfomances by those pipers also.

Thank you, Captain – I enjoy your site, and I hope it (and your teaching) flourishes.