Monday, August 31, 2015

Rather Along the Same Lines

Some friends from my band, who were in Scotland for the week of Piping Live! and who saw this year's 'Worlds in person, surprised me with a smashin' new CD they picked up over there: The Fred Morrison Trio: Live at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. (And an autographed copy, no less, God bless 'em! I was pretty excited about that. Indeed, I am still excited about that.)

You can go over to Bandcamp and hear why this would be an exciting thing. Of course, to me, two things stood out: 1.) it's Fred Morrison; 2.) I now have my very own recording of "Kansas City Hornpipe." But this was the reaction before I even listened to the CD. Even if you are not a fiddler who has been coveting "Kansas City Hornpipe" for a year and more, there is a rather immeasurable lot to like about this album. In no particular order:

  • The variety. The collection never gets wrapped around one flavour--an impressive feat when you consider that there is only one lead instrumentalist. But there are border pipe tracks a-plenty, set off among whistle tracks, and my crown jewel above on the uillean pipes, of course.
  • The musicality. It is Fred Morrison after all--and live at that! A contagious delight in the tunes looses very little, I think, in this case, by being encased in the (metaphorical) amber of a recording. The music itself is alive, the musician just happens to be whirled along with enjoying the fun, and the listener is just as compelled.
  • The musicianship. That man can play the pipes, to say nothing of the whistle. And the backing musicians (especially a guitarist at the speed of Track 10) might not be entirely human. 
  • The tunes. Everyone is bound to have different favourites here, and I would hate to distract too much from others' potential choices by rambling on about my own subjective likes. But did I mention "Kansas City Hornpipe" was part of the album? Of course, being a pushover when it comes to slow airs, I was particularly struck by "Passing Places," as well. If the album never stagnates in its sound, it never does in style either. You can have the firecrackers of an insane "Sleepy Maggie," the bleak, wistful phrasing of "Passing Places" and the very. . .well, downtown, swing of "Downtown," all under one roof.
  • I meantersay, it's just a grand album all-round.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Late Notice

UPDATE: Saturday's competition is being streamed by the BBC. I knew that. . .

 Whatever else I do, or mostly don't do, around this blog, I always feel that I should say something about the World Pipe Band Championships broadcasts. Well, I missed giving any heads-ups for today's qualifier round, but you can catch the finalists on Saturday, beginning with the MSR at 02:30 PST and the Medley at 07:15PST on LiveStream. It should be a great contest, if this morning's quality was anything to go by.

And here are samples of the aforesaid quality (the Livestream people very kindly put each set up separately as soon as it is finished being broadcast): "You have fingers like a Canadian piper" should be an international compliment among musicians. (And oh, that air!): The tone here makes me feel the same way that watching the ocean makes me feel. It makes me plain happy to be alive to see and hear something so grand. "Rather beyond my likes and dislikes," as Sam Gamgee said of elves. It's just that good. I am off to work shortly and haven't had any luck in tracking down the video of St. Laurence O' Toole's medley, but if you have a moment, go find it and watch it. It's magnificent.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015


There is little excuse for missing posts the entire Christmas season, only to appear on Epiphany with a link to an article about. . .bees. Perhaps I can shoehorn them in to the liturgical side of things by pointing out that they are a lovely shade of gold, and it is, after all, a day associated with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But I do believe that's stretching it. The real reason I'm putting it up is because the pictures are recent, they are excellent, and the one downside of winter around here is that one doesn't usually see such things in the depths of it. So here, have some carpenter bees. (And a very blessed Epiphany to you!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

For Remembrance Day

I wanted to put up this video a good deal sooner, some months back when I first ran across it, but it seemed a song this splendid in the combination of lyric, tune, and arrangement should be saved for a special occasion.

For Veteran's Day

It seemed a good day to put up some music, but inspiration for a tune manifestly proper to the day has rather eluded me. So my thank you to any member of the Armed Forces who might happen to be stopping by this page will have to stand very plain, though it is no less heartily meant.

This video is not plain and while it may not be Veteran's Day music in the strictest sense, it is some splendid bluegrass from the US Navy's Country Current.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Second Public Service Announcement

For all you West-Coasters who were feeling deprived because you only get to stay up late (or get up early) for Easter Vigil, Midnight Mass, and the 'Worlds, dry your eyes, and put on a pot of coffee. They're streaming the Glenfiddich Piping Championship this Saturday (at 3 AM, Pacific). There should be piobaireachd enough for the most insatiable--or at least nearly so, I am hoping.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Quite the Opposite of Seasickness

Yesterday's schedule had a very large gap between the morning lessons and the afternoon ones, so I had a grand time trying out a couple of new tunes on my own. I have a very heavy practice mute that I like to use on my fiddle if I'm going to be doing anything terribly repetitious (or wobbly of intonation) within earshot of innocent bystanders--yesterday I had the leisure to discover that if I used the mute and turned up the studio speakers I could play along with the mp3 of my choice and still hear the details of the recording. So, yes, I tried through Bruce MacGregor's recording of "Sitting in the Stern of a Boat" several times. I love the second part of the tune--there is such a deal of wistful sweetness in the high B's, even if they're scarcely lingered on (because they're scarcely lingered on, I should say). And the understated accompaniment in this particular rendition is the ideal complement--it makes the tune richer without distracting in the least from the fiddle part.