Piobaireachd Club – March 27, 2009

Piobaireachd Club
Meeting 27-03-09

A hospitable host and the ‘great music’ – what more can a person expect in this life? Alex Chisamore once again played the role of host to perfection. The meeting at the J.P. Fell Armoury in North Vancouver was a joy to attend.

Kyle Banta led off with MacKintosh’s Banner, followed by Annie He with Catherine’s Lament.

Alan Bevan played A Son’s Salute to his Parents. Jack Lee was up next  with Lament for the Bobs of Balmoral. Colin McWilliams closed the evening with The Earl of Seaforth’s  Salute.

The tunes played by Alan Bevan and Jack Lee were composed by the late Pipe Major Donald MacLeod, M.B.E. Alan and Jack are two of eight pipers invited to compete at this year’s invitational Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. There are three separate competitions at this event: MSR; hornpipe/jig; and, piobaireachd. At least one tune of each tune-type in the MSR, hornpipes/jigs and piobaireachd must have been composed by Donald MacLeod. A piobaireachd tune is assigned to each competitor by mail a few weeks after they receive their invitation. The piobaireachd to be played were all composed by Donald MacLeod during the 20th century. In other words, they are free of traditional and somewhat fixed styles of performance leaving competitors with the challenge of applying their own musical creativity to Donald MacLeod’s tunes.

Donald MacLeod was born in Stornoway in 1916 and died in 1982. Donald MacLeod became a superb piper, one of the best of many good pipers in the 20th century. He was in great demand as a teacher and was a frequent visitor to piping schools and events in Canada. His personality was open and gregarious, that of a man who fully enjoyed life. He became a piper in the Seaforth’s in 1937 and P/M by 1941. In the disastrous early days of WW II, he was taken prisoner with many of his 51st Highland Division comrades, escaped, and made his way back to Britain. In 1945 he piped his battalion across the Rhine, defying his commander’s orders not to do so. In 1978 he was awarded the Membership of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for outstanding service to piping.

Donald MacLeod was a composer of pipe music like no other in his lifetime, and few before. At least 27 piobaireachd and a rich stream of light music flowed from his creative brain. Listening to Alan Bevan and Jack Lee play Donald’s compositions highlighted the quality, glory and diversity of Donald MacLeod’s music. For myself, the opening line in the Lament for the Two Bobs of Balmoral will linger in my mind as the epitome of a Gaelic lament.

The complexity, challenge and beauty of A Son’s Salute to his Parents was for me a revelation of the profound nature of Donald MacLeod’s rare gift.

It is well that he lived and it is well that he left us this precious legacy.