June 14, 2016
Summer Sessions

Once again the Summer has totally caught up with me and it seems so surreal to think that Celtic Connections was already half a year ago!  That’s where I’ll start this blog looking back to the “Just for Gordon” Concert that took place at that very festival.  It was an enormous thrill to be invited by the Musical Directors Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton to take part in the show with the Tannahill Weavers.  They came up with the great idea that we do one set on our own (including Gordon’s most well known tune “Andy Renwick’s Ferret”) and also invite two of the finest Argyllshire pipers ever – Stuart Liddell and Angus McColl – to join us for a set taken straight from Gordon’s “Just for Seaumus” album.  Add Bouzouki player Ross Kennedy who did the original recording and then the backing band towards the end and it made for a thrilling experience.  I also got the chance to take part in another couple of sets later on in the evening too!  Here’s one of the videos of our set from the concert.

I’ve been enjoying teaching recently in Oban – I was lucky enough to do part of Feis Lathurna and also weekly tuition at Oban High School’s Trad Group – I started doing that in January and just finished the term off with a concert last week – it was amazing!  The standard in Oban is very high and on par with anywhere else in the country I think!

The Tannahill Weavers have been really busy too with whom I’ve been playing with – there have been three tours in the first half of this year; two UK ones and a US tour all of which were great – in fact, here’s a wee clip of one of the gigs here!  The last one we did was a UK tour and we started it off with a wee bit of promo on STV’s “Live at Five” show – here’s a clip of one of the tune sets.

In March I got to revisit the soundtrack to “Brave” with the RSNO being conducted by the legendary Richard Kaufman.

I’ve also been involved in a lot of recording in the Spring.  It’s hard to believe it’s been 4 years since I worked on the soundtrack to “Brave” with Patrick Doyle but it was great to get a call from his people again to record Highland Pipes and Border Pipes on the new remake of the classic film “Whisky Galore”.  We had a fun session in London recording all the cues and even got a tune named after me!  I recorded it along with other trad options for that particular scene so it’ll be interesting to see if it makes the final cut!  I also got a message from Ben Foster, who conducted me at the Doctor Who at the Proms Concert in 2013, to record some pipes for the new series of the cult children’s TV show “Thunderbirds” which he and his brother, Nick, compose the music for – another great honour!  More recently, last week, I was in the studio recording on 3 tracks for Susan Boyle’s new album – there’s some fairly experimental stuff on it, so I’m really interested to hear how it turns out!

Anyway – back to practice – I’ve an upcoming gig at the Gigha Music Festival at the end of June followed by some solo piping stuff and a performance with “Sketch” – until next time, here’s a terrible picture of the glorious view from my window right now in Carradale, Argyll!

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January 5, 2016
2015 Highlights

Time to catch up on this increadibly neglected blog!  I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I posted anything on here, anyway – Happy New Year, it’s 2016 and also time for a new web site for me!

Looking back at the Diary, there has been a lot happening in 2015 – it finished off there with a quick trip to Barra with the Ceol An Aire Ceilidh Band which was a lot of fun, despite the weather, and then my regular gig at the Ardenasaig Hotel on Loch Awe.  Earlier on in December I was thrilled to be nominated in the Scots Trad Music Awards for my podcast/internet radio show “PlanetPipe”… we didn’t win but the nominee who I voted for did so I guess that’s still kinda winning!

November was a busy tour with the Tannahill Weavers for our usual European section.  This time it was the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany with a quick trip to Austria and Belgium.  The weather stayed favourable and the tunes were good.  Speaking of the Tannahill Weavers, that’s what pretty much block booked out the whole of September and December with the exception of a wee performance for Sky Arts at the Edinburgh International Television Festival early in September.

Aside from touring, in August we had a special gig with the Tannahill Weavers celebrating 40 years of them having the Highland Pipes in the band… they were one of the first to do so back in the 70s and without them I think the Scottish Folk scene would be a very different place for pipers.  We invited some of the previous pipers to come and join in as well as some friends of the band like Gordy Duncan Jnr and Ross Kennedy… here’s a photo and expect a full video of some of the performances to appear online sometime soon.

July saw the usual trip to Gigha for a Gigha Music Festival Fundraiser as well as a recording session for Singer Jessica Victoria for her new album “Songs of the Summer Realm” which will be taking “listeners into the world of King Arthur, showing him to us as a true model of the Servant Leader–a leader who has much to teach us in the twenty-first century” – can’t wait to hear the end result from this.

Early on in June it was the BBC at the Quay Festival where I got to put a band together to do a set for “Take the Floor”… All new material in prep for the new album that was getting road tested – here’s a set from it below.


Spring was also filled up mostly with a Tannies tour of the US and England as well as a trip to Germany to play a festival the band played at 40 years ago with Dougie MacLean in the band.  Dougie was also performing this year, so we put together a half hour set with him playing some old favourites with the band which was very cool!

Back to January and the year started with Celtic Connections… a very busy time! This is where we premiered a concert put together by Mary Ann Kennedy for An Lochran called “Slainte Mhath” – later on in the year we recorded it, and it’s just gone out on BBC Alba at the very end of 2015 so to bring us full circle, here is a clip from it below.

Slainte Mhath! BBC ALBA from Bees Nees Media on Vimeo.

Speak soon! :-)

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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
Toothless, Touring and Tannies

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!


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
So long 2013, Hello 2014

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!



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.



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

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
“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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