Concert Review from the 2017 Edinburgh, Scotland “Festival Fringe” – Arbikie Pipers

Arbikie Pipers In Concert: Game Of Drones


Arbikie Pipers Review In concert: Game of Drones

August 4, 2017 Friday Merchants Hall

This was a concert featuring a somewhat unique display of performance elements including bagpipes, conga drum, (that’s right conga drums), snare drum, bass drum and narrator.

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As the pipers, adorned in their kilts, walked out on to the stage, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect based upon the configuration of the instruments including two conga drums (segundo and quinto) from Cuba preset on the stage. After all, this performance was promoted as an evening featuring traditional Scottish bagpipe music and though it in fact did, I was surprised by and quite entertained by the blend of traditional Celtic works, pipe solos and narration by a woman who’s presence and role in the performance was refreshing even if she wasn’t one of the pipers (most collectives feature men only).

Frankly, I was more drawn to the music elements showcasing a really talented percussionist who easily navigated between snare and conga drums, though his negotiation of the congas was modest. As I listened I kept waiting for him to flesh out a distinctive Latin textured underpinning as he accompanied a solo on the Highland pipes – the national pipes of Ireland (after the concert I encouraged the drummer to explore the idea of ‘going’ Latin

In fairness, the narrator provided a smart and well researched job of providing a historical context of the each of the pieces rendered, particularly her citations on the original crafting of the anthem “Amazing Grace” which when offered on pipes remains a stirring and moving rendition. It’s well worth reading the story behind the apex of ‘why’ John Newton crafted the song and his subsequent role attached the abolitionist movement in the U.S. (it wasn’t just his ties to the slave trade, but his intimate engagement with the ‘enslaved cargo’ (African women) – nuance perhaps too sensitive for those in the audience.

The performance had a fun and yet stately mood – a bit of formality mixed in with a gig staged in a night club. The performance included a music of choral works adapted for pipes. One of the highlights of the performance was a one selection cameo appearance by Sandy Brechin, an phenomenal accordionist who was a bit of a character on stage – and the audience loved every minute of his performance.

One work that stood out was “Steam Train To Mali” introduced as being linked to colonialism. A printed program with introductions to the works would have been a nice addition. The program ended with pipes and the voice of 10 year old Anna Miller leading an impressive a cappella rendition of “Dawning of the Day”.

Aribike Pipers should be pleased by their effort and with a bit more polish to their presentation, centered on tighter segways, added printed program notes, and a few more solos, their performances will vastly improve. *** stars