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May 26, 2014

I recently got an email with this as a brief;

            “We’ll be celebrating the anniversary on April 10 but we’ve already kicked off the worldwide celebration. People from more than 25 countries, including bagpipers in Scotland, Bollywood movie actors in India, a firefighter in New York City, and members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, came together to create a first worldwide “it’s a small world” video.”

Well, that was an interesting project to be involved with!  I was asked to perform some pipes for Disney’s celebration of the song “It’s a Small World”.  They also asked me to think up a location that would suit the “Highland” brief that they had so I chose the Rest and Be Thankful in Argyll.  A part of Scotland which I pass almost weekly on the way home or back to Glasgow.

Originally the pipe part was in C Major! This worried be, but I quickly got looking at options for playing in C.  I knew that if I taped my C and F holes on my A Moore Chanter then I could get a C Major scale, but it would start half way up the chanter!  Luckily, the tune managed to fit on it like this so the next thing to think about was the drones.  My friends at Pipedreams Reeds sorted me out with a shorted tenor drone reed which made it tune lower and the Bass was able to tune low enough anyway and the result you can head in the attached podcast for this blog.

Do remember it wasn’t ideal conditions for playing pipes either on a wet, sleety hillside in February!  You can see the finished video here;

 

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May 22, 2014

Hello Sun! I’m writing this on a really nice day in Glasgow – although my idea of “nice” is quickly put into perspective after spending the day teaching Skype lessons from people in mainland Europe who were also having “nice” days in temperatures about 15 degrees higher than I was!  I’ll take some comfort in thinking that those sort of temperatures are never a good thing for the bagpipes!

screen-shot-2014-06-13-at-21-46-57It’s been a few months since my last blog and I’ve been involved in some great projects since then including another animation!  This time from Dreamworks where composer John Powell was tipped to get myself involved by Brave’s composer Patrick Doyle.  This film is a sequel to 2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon” and it’s a cracker of a film with an amazing, theme rich soundtrack.  The approach to the pipes in this film is different from Brave – they’re never used in a comic way and this time they are associated more with the darker or sadder moments in the film although there are still plenty of joyful pieces which use them including the film’s opening score “Dragon Racing”.  It’s a favourite of mine and I’ve got the signed score framed and on my bedroom wall!  Again, it was from the pool of players I play with in the Red Hot Chilli Pipers from that I chose a team to create a big, pipe band like sound on a return trip to Air Lyndhurst Studios in London.  I find it so thrilling to be involved in such a huge project and to be able to bring pipes to it – this being an especially difficult soundtrack to fit into as many of the themes were in keys that were far from pipe friendly.

In order for us to be able to play some of the parts we had to do a lot of taping of chanters to give us some extra scales and also having some help from technology if all else failed.  Here’s some short clips featuring some of the score including my favourite “Stoik’s Ship” which is used behind an absolutely beautiful, heartbreaking moment in the movie.

John Powell was great to play for and he was very excited to be able to use live pipes for this soundtrack.  He was interviewed in FSM (Film Score Monthly) Online in May 2014 and said some very nice things about us!

We recorded that at the beginning of April and I was only home for a couple of days before I returned to London for a gig – this time with the Campbells of Greepe where we performed a show at LSO St Lukes to a packed hall in an absolutely stunning venue.  Then it was only a few days off in between that tour and I was back on the road with the Tanahill Weavers for the second part of their Scottish tour taking in places like Dundee and Paisley – it was great to get playing that material again!

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Next up is the West End Festival and Glgha Music Festival with Mary Ann Kenedy which are going to be a lot of fun, then I’m back to the mainland to do a bit of piping for the X-Factor!

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November 26, 2013

It’s been 6 months since the last new post, and it has been a truly amazing 6 months!

August was, as usual, a crazy month with the World Pipe Band Championships and much more.  But, before that, I was off to Derry to take part in the Derry Feis with the Campbells of Greepe.  It’s the North West’s largest celebration of Irish musical culture celebrating Irish language, verse and drama, as well as the famous Irish Dancing competition and vocal choirs.  We had a couple of events there, including a very wet one out in the street, but both were great fun to take part in.  Oh, and their CD should be released this month!

 

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Unusually, for me, being in Derry meant that I missed quite a lot of the World Pipe Band Championships week and also Piping Live but I did manage to make it back on the Thursday for a wee play at the Street Cafe.  Also that week was the premiere of a show I had been involved with since May called “This is Ceilidh” at the Edinburgh festival which involved me having a pipe off with the all girl pipes and drum group “Skirls Aloud”.  Here’s a wee clip from the rest of the Ceilidh.

On the 6th November, we finally launched Breathe – the new album by the Red Hot Chilli Pipers which I coproduced and performed on then it was off for a 3 week tour of Austria and some of the surrounding countries with Joy Dunlop.  I was then back to London to put together and perform music for the unveiling of a new sculpture for the Famous Grouse Whisky company.  An unlikely group of musicians signifying classical, rock, jazz and folk got together and performed the Beatles’ song “Come together” as well as pieces from our individual genres, it was surreal – but worked well, I think.

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Onto the Winter and I’m off on a tour with a band who I have listened and loved since I got into Traditional Music – the Tannahill Weavers.  I was thrilled to join them on this short tour of the Netherlands before hopefully joining them for more music in 2014.  As ever, some of the gigs were caught on camera so here are some clips that I have been sent.  As usual, including some very unflattering angles!

On returning from the Netherlands I was thrilled to be revisiting the score from Brave as part of Patrick Doyle’s 60th Birthday celebration alongside Emma Thompson, Derek Jacobi on stage and countless other celebs in the audience.  It was also great to be once again playing with the thrill of an Orchestra, this time the London Symphony Orchestra.

A couple of reviews have been sent to me.

            Being a bit of a Pixar lover as well (who isn’t, really?), I really enjoyed the “Brave: Suite,” which featured a selection of snippits from the film score. Featuring Lorne MacDougall and Callum Stewart (on the bagpipes and uilleann pipes, respectively), the music took me back to the movie itself. It was quite fun to listen to – and to be honest, I’m growing more fond of the bagpipes the more I hear them.

The Sound of London

            Further standout moments came with a lengthy and very colourful suite from Pixar’s Brave, with glorious piping from Lorne MacDougall and Calum Stewart (Bagpipes and Uilleann Pipes respectively).

Michael Beek

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Then things calmed down into December, where I have been spending a lot of time on my New Voices commission at Celtic Connections – there’s a lot of work still to be done but I’m really looking forward to it all coming together.  It takes place at the Mitchel Theatre in Glasgow at 1pm on 26th January.

Today’s première of Collisions sees him playing six different varieties of bagpipe, accompanied by guitars, strings, bass, percussion and vocals, exploring and reconfiguring his instrument’s diverse stylistic guises from Gaelic song to gothic rock, solo competition to contemporary folk.

I’ve got some very special guests also!

So, Happy New Year to everyone – hope 2014 is a good one for you all and I hope to be playing for you at some point through out it!

 

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July 24, 2013
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VASTRA: WHERE’S STRAX GOT TO?

JENNY: THE USUAL. IT’S HIS WEEKEND OFF.

VASTRA: I WISH HE’D NEVER DISCOVERED THAT PLACE…


996810-10151569764705892-387705780-nSpeaking of Victorian Glasgow, I am very glad he did as it gave Doctor Who composer Murray Gold the excuse to take me to London to perform at the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who Prom.  I’ve been making Murray aware of my existance as a Doctor Who loving bagpiper for many years now, hoping this unlikely opportunity may arise.  To my joy, after a short spell of logistic and admin organizing, it did.

The piece was short, but essentially a 6/8 battle march version of the 11th Doctor’s theme forming part of a suite of music from the most recent TV episode “The Name of the Doctor”.  The scene involved Strax, the Sontaran, having a bar fight in a Glasgow pub in 1893.

Written in Am, the guys wanted the look of Highland Pipes so I used my A Chanter from Hamish Moore and some new accessories from MG Reeds and McCallum Bagpipes to extend the drones.

67895-10151570050275892-600736082-nAfter the first run through I had a chat with Ben Foster, conductor and orchestrator, who surprised me when he told me there some Scottish blood in him and loved the pipes – he was also a big fan of “Oor Wullie”!  A semi-joke of a comment at the organising stage from orchestrator to composer had been what sparked the whole idea of having live pipes in the show!

All in all, I only performed the piece four times between rehearsals and gigs but what an experience it was to be hanging about backstage with the Doctor Who cast and crew from all 50 years of the show, I met a lot of great people from the show and it’s house band, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the London Philharmonic Choir.  One of the Choir members made the moment even more surreal when he produced his “Sight Readable Ceol Mor” Book from his bag – a book of classic bagpipe scores!

1017703-10151583447020892-167235887-nThe picture above shows Jenna Coleman (Clara), Matt Smith (The Doctor), Carol Anne Ford (Susan), Ben Foster (Conductor, Orchestrator), Peter Davison (The Fifth Doctor), Neeve McIntosh (Vastra), Dan Starkey (Strax), Kerri Ingram (Queen of Years), Elin Manahan Thomas, Allan Clayton, Nick Briggs (Voice of the Daleks, Cybermen, Judoon, etc), me and Murray Gold (Composer)

I can’t thank these guys enough for this opportunity – unlikely though it was!

The show went out live on BBC Radio 3 and will be broadcast on BBC One this Autumn.  In the meantime, here’s a video of the piece from the audience. :)

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