Fired Up

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.
Bucksburn returned and here one could detect an increase in confidence as the band let themselves go with some excellent jig playing ending with an excellent presentation of “Mozart on the Rampage.” Sharing the musical talent in the band saw a special rendering of “Belfast Child” sung by Catherine Ellis, followed by a Mark Knopfler tune, “Irish Boy.” Two 6/8’s concluded Bucksburn’s fabulous contribution where Boghall joined the stage – great to hear the two bands playing together.
Boghall’s second half saw them continue to inspire and delight this now totally “fired-up” audience – strathspeys and reels, hornpipes and jigs all performed with technical excellence and wonderful musicianship.
Two items need special mention. Demonstrating the loyalty and passion of the members of Boghall, both for their band and their late former and special Pipe-Major Bob Martin, the members, from Bob’s time, played a fitting tribute of “Bob Martin” and “Leaving the Field.” This item said more than words ever could for this great and special man.
Boghall and drumming can never be separated. Gordon Brown simply pushes and achieves the same high standards that his father, Tom, left the band. The contribution of the drummers was simply outstanding. Firstly, joined by Bucksburn, you could see and feel the fun and excitement from the beginning of the item to the end. Then Boghall presented two excellent fanfares where the rhythmical and technical precision was outstanding. This was indeed a special tribute to the late Neil Cranston where a collection saw a cheque presented to Pipe-Major Ross Walker and Jamie Cranston for £300 for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation.
Thanks and congratulations go to both Bands and their guests for a most excellent evening. In particular pipe-majors Robert Stewart and Ross Walker and lead-drummers Scott Niven and Gordon Brown all deserve huge credit. They have set a challenge for the future. The playing by all and the dedication by Gus McAskill in driving this event from a dream to reality is exactly what the North East of Scotland needs more of. Thank you from what was a grateful and appreciative audience.