We’re just back from Glasgow. The occasion was a do to celebrate the national musical instrument, a major fuss-up due to the presence of the Duke of Rothesay, as he prefers to be known hereabouts; and innumerable grandees concerned with Art and Culture. My personal feelings about the Great Pipes could be politely described as lukewarm, though the uillean pipes I find attractive. Anyway. We were all efficiently shuffled into seats at a number of round tables, in what had once been the nave of a church, a pleasant enough space some seventy feet long, fifty feet wide and high, to await the distinguished visitor. There was a little stage in what had once been the apse, and three young women put in an appearance with various Celtic musical instruments. It slowly became apparent that we were in not just for a couple of songs to set the mood, but for an actual concert; and the faces of the Great and the Good settled into a variety of expressions from intelligent interest to politely repressed horror. Some of the music which ensued was extremely attractive, but the Great Pipes themselves are not an instrument designed for use in a confined space, even a large one. One on its own was fine, three were all right, eight were frankly horrible. At some point in the proceedings, HRH was piped in, and then they all started again. The grand finale involved eleven pipes, a clarsach, a fiddle, an accordion, a bodhran, two uillean pipes, an electronic keyboard and Phil Cunningham (who’d been at one of the tables with the Archbishop of Glasgow and other wellwishers) who suddenly eventuated with a mandolin he seemed to have found somewhere, at which point the whole thing had gone on for an hour and a half. Royalty then withdrew, and we were finally in a position to discover who we were sitting next to, and even why. It is a very good thing that people care about Our National Culture. I am all for it. But all the same, I think that the next time an opportunity to love the pipes per se comes along, I’ll be doing it from a safe distance.
PS. The professor enjoyed it.