Our fourth member of the Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers (CLASP) to be profiled is Scott Long.
Where are you from and how did you get into piping?
Born and raised in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia but now living and working in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia for many years. My older sister was taking beginner piping lessons when we were kids, but she was not enjoying it much and eventually switched to snare drum. After seeing a local pipe band marching in a parade, I remember being completely blown away by the power of the sound and decided to give the pipes a try.
My first pipe band was the New Glasgow Ceilidh Pipe Band and I went on to play with the Clan Thompson Pipe Band (1989 North American Champions Grade 3), Halifax Police Association Pipes and Drums (Grade 1) and the Dartmouth and District Pipe Band.
I am currently a member of the 78th Highlanders Halifax Citadel Pipe Band (Grade 1). For employment, I am the Managing Director and Executive Producer of the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo.
How has the pandemic affected your piping personally?
The pandemic has been extremely difficult and tragic for many and I hope everyone can get through this safely. Personally, however, it has been an opportunity for me to focus on my solo playing. Something I have not done in almost 30 years. I have always played in pipe bands and with folk bands but have just recently got back to solo playing. I have kept up regular lessons with my teacher, Alex Gandy, throughout the pandemic and started entering the online contests. I have also just recently started learning piobaireachd after all these years of playing!
Do you have a set practice routine you could share with readers?
For me, I just try to play my pipes every day. It is not always possible due to work, family and other commitments but the more consecutive days I can get on the pipes the better the instrument and playing. Some days you are just worn out or feeling lazy, but when a I am feeling like this, I always think of what my teacher Alex told me about something Willie McCallum said to him that really resonates with me. “It is the 15 minutes on the days that you don’t want to practice that will win you the contests.” Also, you must have a teacher! If you do not have a teacher, you need to find one!
What’s your most memorable performance you’ve taken part in, either band or solo?
I am fortunate to have many memorable performances. I spent several years recording and touring internationally with Cape Breton fiddler Ashely MacIsaac and the Orlando, Florida based Celtic rock band Seven Nations. I spent over 200 days a year on the road for nearly 20 consecutive years. With Ashley’s band The Kitchen Devils, we toured with Sherly Crow, Crash Test Dummies, The Chieftains, Los Lobos, Melissa Ethridge and may others. We also shared many festival stages with artists like Sting, Blur, Elvis Costello, Johnny Cash and the Carter Cash Family, The Saw Doctors, The Pogues, Steve Earle and again many more.
My most memorable pipe band performance would have to be a fourth-place finish at the 2015 World Pipe Band Championships with my former band Dartmouth and District in Grade 3A. I was Pipe Major of the band for over 10 years up to the 2018 season.
What’s your most memorable performance you’ve heard – band or soloist?
The most memorable band performance I have heard was the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band when the band toured Nova Scotia in the mid-1980s. The band came to the Antigonish Highland Games and it was the first time I heard a Scottish Grade 1 band live. I remember it as being a loud and bold pipe chanter sound. Not to mention, it was around the time period of the release of their recordings Both Sides of the Tracks and Salutations. I was completely fascinated with those records at the time and literally wore out the cassettes from constant playing.
Who has been the biggest influence on your piping?
There have been many influences on my piping, both good and bad. But the biggest influences are the many players past and present of the traditional Scottish music of Nova Scotia and currently my teacher, Alex Gandy.
How do you relax and do you have other interests or hobbies?
I like to relax at my summer home on the Northumberland Strait in Braeshore (outside of Pictou), Nova Scotia. The main part of the house was built in the 1840s so as you can imagine it is a project that has become my new hobby.
Which pipers did you aspire to, if any?
Being a big fan of pipe bands and being a Pipe Major for many years, I always aspired to Richard Parkes. Of course, there are the living solo legends like Willie, Roddy, Bruce Gandy, Jack Lee and Iain Speirs and I always try to keep up with the young up-and-coming solo players as much as possible. Ultimately, I always aspired to Alastair Gillies as a solo player. Alastair spent some time in Nova Scotia over the years. It is a small piping community here so most of us had a chance to get to know him. He was a great guy and a monster musical player.
Do you recall the very first competition you competed in?
I vaguely remember my first solo contest. It was Grade 4 March at the Antigonish Indoor Games. I forget the exact year. Early 1980s. I played Donald MacLean’s Farwell to Oban. I got a third place prize, I think.
Glengarry’s March. This tune frightens me.
Thank you, Scott!