Instructor will be beaming with pride through ‘Highland Storm’

Kylie MacHattie
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Celtic Connection column

As the summer season rapidly approaches the College of Piping has been a whirlwind of activity. We’re preparing for the Highland Gathering and the opening of our 2014 production of “Highland Storm.” Between rehearsals, teaching and band practices, it’s going to be an extremely busy June.

Highland Storm: The Gael

Last year was the first time that James and I were in the show and this year we’re not the rookies. We have one new piper added to our roster, who is going to make his “Highland Storm” debut with the preview show on June 27.

At the college we focus not only on the competition aspect of playing but performance as well. Not all of our students want to compete, and we respect the decisions of those who don’t.

In my relatively short time at the college I have seen many of our students perform in “Highland Storm” but I had yet to see someone who had started to play the pipes from scratch and then make it to the stage. This year that has changed.

A very determined student of mine has made his dreams a reality. Calum has been playing for almost four years and he is the latest “Highland Storm” rookie. He has been showing up to practices more prepared than the stalwart pipers who have been in the show for years.

What very much impresses me about Calum is that not only has he made the leap to the stage but he has also taken on the role of being in two of our competition bands. Calum is the pipe major of our Grade 5 band and he is also a piper in our Grade 4 band. With the extra practices that we’ve been having because of our Scotland trip and the amount of fundraising we’ve had to do, Calum has taken on a huge amount of responsibility. He is also a very serious and competitive solo player. He has done all of this without a single word of complaint.

The significance of Calum being in the show didn’t resonate with me until our first “Highland Storm” rehearsal. He stood between James and me, and as we played the intricate tunes at accelerated tempos, not only did he keep up but he excelled. For the past couple of months he and I have been practising the tunes at his lessons. I knew he would be prepared, but it hadn’t hit me how hard he had worked until he stood between us and played like he had been on stage for years. To say I was proud would be an understatement.

With every job comes the ups and downs and watching the development of our players has been a very big high in my time at the college. I can’t wait for our preview night to share the stage with a student who not long ago was struggling with the octopus-like instrument we call the great highland bagpipes. I’ll be the piper on stage beaming with pride.    

Geographic location: Scotland

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  • jwinter
    June 05, 2014 - 11:48

    So great to hear about a young student achieving his goals! I remember years ago when the College stage was full of young students. The last few years the show's cast has been much smaller and looks like it's mainly instructors and mature students. Way to go to the young piper!