Reviewed by Jim Campbell
“Fired-up” was certainly an appropriate title as a packed Music Hall, containing an eager North East Scotland audience, waited in anticipation of the largest pipe band concert ever held in Aberdeen; the atmosphere was simply electric. Not only were the audience fired-up, so were the bands and, the more the evening progressed, the more evident that statement became. This was a return to my roots and I too was eager for Bucksburn (my old band), Boghall and my stepson Paul Ritchie to do well and they did not disappoint.
Bucksburn & District (Boxy) opened the first half and quickly demonstrated why they are very much one of the North East’s top pipe bands. Opening with “Kilworth Hills,” the band eased itself into the performance. Followed by a Breton air, a hornpipe written by former band member Martin Smith and two very traditional hornpipes that simply set the scene for what was to follow. A nicely executed MSR, followed by some exciting jig playing were well received with Boxy delighting their home crowd. Three 6/8 Marches followed and here the Boxy youth stepped, not only into the arena, but up to the mark clearly demonstrating a solid future for the band.
Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia now took the stage and demonstrated immediately and clearly why they are, without doubt, one of the world’s top bands both in musicianship and sound. Opening with a suite, “Call to the Gathering,” they simply won this audience over. An MSR – “Tom McAllister,” “Susan MacLeod” and “John Morrison, Assynt House” followed. I often wonder if this reel is Boghall’s signature tune, as they always perform it with such precision and musicality that leaves the receiver awestruck – and they did with this presentation. The excitement continued with a mixture of modern and traditional tunes, including a journey back in time with that epic “The Streaker.” Concluding the first half were three very traditional small 3/4’s that were really special in presentation.
The second half saw Paul Ritchie on Daeger pipe, Donald MacLeod on small pipe and Ben Gibbs on guitar. All the tunes, except one by Neil Selbie, were Ritchie’s compositions. Tunes included a great North East title “Fit Like Min” plus a tribute to Bucksburn’s President, “Gus McAskill” (Paul’s 47th Boys Brigade pipe-major and a pupil of yours truly). The audience appreciated and responded to these great tunes and excellent playing.
Congratulations go to Andrew Clark, only 14, who confidently demonstrated his skills and mature musicianship in a solo performance. Clark is one for the future I am sure, and the audience thought so as well.