Saturday, October 18, 2008

... Longevity

How many of you will be around at age 90? ... and even if you are, will you be able to entertain yourself with the occasional tune?...have the same energy as a man half your age?.... well, congratulations to Ken Thornton of Creemore, Ontario. He began the pipes at the age of 84 and fulfilled a life long ambition to join the RCMP by parading with them in Ottawa shortly afterwards. We, at the Ontario School of Piping had the privilege of assisting Ken along his journey and now watch with great pride as he celebrates his 90th b-day this weekend. As far as pipers go, Ken is a middle aged youngster... and watch for him celebrating his 100th, only a decade away.

Ken Thornton is living proof that age is only a figment of the imagination. Pipers are living longer and sustaining a high level of competence well into their senior years. The Grade 1 scene used to be for the younger set only. In my time, players looked to retirement from the big grade often in their 40's. But now, musical life doen't seem to begin until much later. Hell, I recall John Weatherstone, the Silver Fox, on the field with the Red Hackle...well into his 60's. Even today there are Grade 1 pipe majors in that age bracket and maturity doesn't seem to arrive till at least the early 50's - check out the PM's of the top bands in the world! there is hope for me yet....just might have to mount a comeback...thanks for the inspiration, Ken Thornton. In your honor, I think this evening I will hoist a few Creemore's.

Monday, October 13, 2008

... on the Melodic Line... Boghall to play 8 tenors in 2009...

Rumor has it that Boghall and Bathgate are planning to play 8 tenors in their 2009 corps ( - Bass Sections Forum - September 30,2008). TyFry must be on cloud nine with the potential for all those new mallet sales! I wonder if TyFry blue will replace TyFry pink... But I digress, there was no better response in the forum than that of Peter Hendrickson, formerly of AlCal and now with SFU.

"Just like in all other genres of music... everyone plays the melody... all at the same time, right?

Once I played this jazz gig, and it was with a piano player. So, I was like, "how many notes does a piano have?" I brought 88 tom toms to the show and I was able to play everything HE played. It was awesome... and he even told me so afterward! He said, "FINALLY, someone to play with that makes MY role less significant!"

I was just trying to use all the skills I learned in music school. What they taught me was to, and I quote, "always play the melody! Rule number one... always play the melody." If you're playing in a group that has a melodic instrument (instrument designed to play melodies), and you are playing a "rhythm section" instrument, like uh, the drums, you must always tune the drums in a way that you can play all the notes that the melodic instrument is playing already. This way you can play EXACTLY THE SAME!!!

The last gig I played where I just kept good time, provided energy and forward momentum, didn't get in the way of the melody and provided a solid foundation, making the rest of the band sound awesome... I got fired!! Man, I couldn't believe it. It was with Quincy Jones, if I remember correctly. A man I respected for years and always wanted to play with. Anyway, he pulled me aside after the gig and said "son, if you EVER pull that kinda crap again you will NEVER work in this town." He continued with "YOU ARE A DRUMMER!! Haven't I taught you ANYTHING?!?! You must ALWAYS play the melody... you must always play the melody."

Now, after years of study, I have finally realized that THE most important element in music is the melody. So, if it is the most important element, I ask you this... WHY... are we not ALL playing it?

Thank you very much,

Peter Hendrickson
(reprinted with kind permission of the author)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Boot Hill

I was walking the other day down the High Street near Glasgow Green and decided to take a leisurely stroll of discovery through Boot Hill, the local graveyard. In front of my eyes was the Pipe Band Grade 1 section - tombstone after tombstone... a virtual family history of the Grade 1 scene over my 50 years of hangin' around. On my left was the Guelph Pipe Band, interred next to the MacNish Distillery... further down the path was the Clan MacFarlane nestled in beside Bob Hardie's Muirheads and Sons - right in front of the City of Victoria and Hal Senyk's Triumph Street. There was the Red Hackle and DUT, Renfrew and the BCal Airways, Black Bottle and Invergordan Distillery with Toronto and District and the City of Toronto in the newly landscaped Ontario area... and a fresh tombstone yet, but a freshly painted sign...the Windsor Police. Sad reminders all of past greatness...and what's this on my right? ... a freshly dug hole ... must be a funeral coming by soon.... curiously, I exited back to the High Street and took a window seat in The Diggers, the local watering hole. Sure enough, it was not long before a drummer-less cortege meandered through the front gates and down to the open grave... The Clan Gregor Society! I said a wee prayer as my eyes welled with sadness...another has passed on.


and I sipped my first pint of the day.

Chapter 3 -  Brasil Caledonia The new generation of players that was under training was still not ready when the band started to compete...