Young bagpipers sound war
Rumblings of discontent among the bagpiping fraternity threaten to blow up into an ugly row over the direction of a new piping centre in Glasgow, as Stephen Naysmith discovered.
Bagpipe music in Scotland is at a
crossroads as a new teaching and visitor centre prepares to open its doors
next year. if the music doesn‘t radically
change now it will just stagnate. warn many young pipers.
The schism between the old guard and young turks of the piping world is focused on the £35 million Piping Centre in Glasgow which is scheduled to open in the spring. The centre will incorporate: a piping school. intended to be a Scottish centre ofexcellence and therefore of huge significance to pipers worldwide; accommodation for visiting players. and a public museum of bagpiping which it‘s hoped will become a significant tourist attraction. Public funders including the Glasgow Development Agency. Historic Scotland and the district council have all put money into the project.
However a dispute over who should run the new centre's teaching programme has threatened to turn into a power struggle between different factions in the piping world and has raised the absurd possibility of two rival centres. The original plan was for the existing piping college in Glasgow‘s ()tago Street to be incorporated in the new centre at Cowcaddens. but some trustees feel a change of direction is needed.
The college's co-founder Seamas MacNeill is in charge of teaching and edits the bagpiper's Bible. Piping 'I‘inir's. He is credited by many pipers as having single-handedly carried the college for decades. But some trustees believe that at 78 he is too old to run the new centre and suggest some kind of honorary role for MacNeill.
‘It looks as if Seantas is being frozen out.’ said one respected member of the
piping fraternity who asked not to be named. ‘lt has become a clash between the revisionists and the conservatives. As the new centre rumbles forward. some people are trying to kick the old guard off the top.‘
MaeNeill appears determined to stay in charge. ‘I am not wearing the suggestion that I should be an honorary president.‘ he said. ‘lt is a non-starter. If that happens we stay where we are.‘ MacNeill points out that the existing west end college is only one of two in the world. ‘People are saying this new project will be the centre ofthe bagpipe world. but we already have that here.‘ he added. MacNeill concedes that he might be prepared to consider some form of compromise which would prevent a full—scale piping war breaking out in Glasgow.
But Hamish Moore. who is at the forefront of experimental piping through his collaboration withjazz musicians. believes there are far more important issues confronting the piping
ning note for new
Rebel with applause: abagpiping biker breaks with tradition 3 wins or an Edinurgh street tau
world. and is calling for a complete re- evaluation of the whole artform. Moore is not convinced that the opening of a new centre will address his concerns. which are shared by many young pipers. ‘What people call traditional
‘What the contemporary pipers are doing is unleashing piping from the very strict conformity and discipline or the past and loosing the bonds of tradition. ’
piping has been hijacked by the army and competitive piping.‘ said Moore. who claims traditional piping has been destroyed by the army. ‘lt has been made into a highly stylised an form which is not music — it is mind- nurnbingly boring.
‘They are describing what [the new college] will teach as traditional. 1 think that is wrong — traditional playing is much older and very different. The
EDINBURGH TOURIST B( )ARD
is; nce tunes of the Strathspeys and reels have been made complex. and the notes are lost in a flurry of ornamentation. Scottish music is not nearly as melodic as Irish music. but is based on strong rhythm. in what they call “traditional” piping that rhythm is broken up and you are left with nothing.‘
Hugh Cheap. curator at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. has built up a large collection of bagpipes and piping memorabilia over the last twenty years. He welcomes the opening of the new centre. but believes there should be room for contemporary piping as well.
‘It is very exciting for Glasgow and for piping.‘ said Cheap. ‘What the contemporary pipers are doing is unleashing piping from the very strict conformity and discipline of the past and loosing the bonds of tradition. I wouldn‘t play the pipes off the back of a Harley-Davidson myself but most of the new practitioners are fantastic and if you don‘t experiment. you atrophy.‘
I Orchestrated plans Scottish Opera has been waiting to hear the outcome of a Scottish Arts Council review rumoured to contain recommendations that the company go part-time. This was dismissed as ‘speculation based on halfknowledge‘ by Scottish ()pera director Richard Jarman. who refused to comment on the review ahead of publication tomorrow (Friday). The review process began in May to look at ways of managing the frozen SAC subsidy available to Scotland’s full- tirne orchestras. The future of Scottish Opera's orchestra. which has been seen as vulnerable. is likely to become clearer after the review is published.
I Dear Prudential Glasgow's Tramway
picked up a cheque for £25.000 after being the only Scottish gallery space to be shortlisted for a Prudential Award for the Visual Arts. Recent exhibitions and performance art events that helped Tramway secure one of the five UK awards included Christine Borland's reconstructed human skull and Douglas Gordon‘s 24-hour version of Psycho. ‘At Tramway we aim to create an atmosphere more akin to a bar than a church.“ said Charles Esche. visual arts producer at Glasgow City Council. which runs the venue. ‘We want to provoke discussion and we demand active participation from our audience.‘
I Money grows on trees The ﬁrst phase of the massive Millennium forest project will go ahead after it was awarded over £5 million from the National Lottery fund. The Millennium
forest scheme. which aims to reintroduce Caledonia pine forests in Scotland. is backed by environmental groups and local authorities across the country.
I Display of anger Campaigners continued their protest outside Glasgow’s Mitchell Library against the city libraries' apparent policy on gay and lesbian publications this week. Campaigners are angry that the Mitchell does not put magazines such as the Pink Paper and Guy Smrlunr/ out on open display in the periodicals section. Readers have to request them from the social sciences desk. There is concern that the policy is the result of an inconsistent interpretation of Section 28. the legislation preventing councils ‘promoting‘ homosexuality. It is understood that magazines are not
openly displayed because ofsexually explicit personal ads. Head of libraries Andrew Miller was unavailable for comment.
I Street talkers Details have emerged of a recent secret conference organised by Edinburgh University to discuss implications of legalising prostitution. It was attended by senior church representatives. police officers and health promotion experts. The meeting was kept secret to encourage delegates to speak freely without having proposals attributed to them directly. The move comes shortly after a high profile court action against a licensed sauna by an Edinburgh woman who successfully overturned a sauna licence. She claimed it amounted to council- condoned prostitution.
The List 6- l9 Oct 1995 5