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VARIOUS ARTISTS - "Second Grand Concert Of Piping"
Greentrax CDTRAX128

After only two years the Grand Concert Of Piping organised by the Lothian and Borders Piping Society has become one of the special piping events of the year. In order to establish the concert, the first lineup consisted of well known names - the Scottish piping community being notoriously conservative - and was a riproaring success. This allowed the society to broaden their horizons for the second concert, which featured a quartet from an Irish Pipe Band as well as pipers from Brittany, Cape Breton, Sardinia and Scotland. The result is an album with a much more European feel than the first CD.

The quartet from the St Laurence O'Toole PB from Dublin kick things off with some tight playing. Over the three sets, mainly hornpipes, jigs and reels, the quartet demonstrate why, as a full band they are in the top grade. Pipe Major Terry Tully (also a gifted solo player) keeps the quartet snugly together through some tricky material.

Next up is Breton legend Patrick Molard. Patrick, who seems to be at home on any kind of bagpipe, plays two sets on the smallpipes and one on the Biniou (an instrument which makes the Great Highland Bagpipe seem positively quiet). His first set consists of tunes composed by Breton piper Herri Leon who founded a College of Piping in Brittany before dying prematurely in 1962. The tunes Patrick plays on the biniou are traditional dances from the Lorient - Vannes region.

The Highland pipes are given some serious stick by Cape Breton piper John MacLean. John who has ancestral roots going back to Barra and the Uists plays in a typically Cape Breton style. The music is extremely rythmical a point emphasised by John being joined by a dancer on the first set.

The only Scot is this year's lineup is Malcolm Robertson (also one of the four players in the quartet). Malcolm proves a dab hand at the small pipes with three very tuneful sets. Whether playing jigs, hornpipes or slides Malcolm has a deceptively laid back style which is very easy to listen to.

The CD rounds off with the longest segment which is devoted to the Sardinian Launeddas players, Franco Melis and Orlando Mascia. Launeddas are played by putting the reed directly into the mouth and keeping the sound going using circular breathing. The sound produced is very southern European (no surprise there) and perhaps as acquired a taste as the Highland Bagpipe.

This is an extremely cosmopolitan album which should serve to introduce pipers to the music of their cousins (albeit in some cases very distant cousins). However, its very diversity is also a drawback. To my mind the mood switches too much. One minute it is Cape Breton reels, the next Irish Polkas then Sardinian dance tunes. As none of the sets stand out as exceptional it is difficult to see when I'll play this CD. If I'm in the mood for a particular type of playing I'll choose a CD with more of it than this one has to offer.

Chris MacKenzie
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