I once thought it would be a funny idea to assemble, during the Worlds, all the beardy, speccy blokes in Grade 1 pipe bands for a photo. Me, Andrew Bova, Ross Miller, Callum Watson, Johnny Simpson, Scott Wallace, Gus Sicard, Emmett Conway, that guy with the big red number that plays with SFU (apologies; we’ve never met but I have admired your beard from afar) and a whole host of others. You know, a real ‘Who’s Who’of beardy, speccy blokes that play in top-level pipe bands.
I never managed to put it together but it’s still on my bucket list of daft things to do… come to think of it, such a photo would have looked great in the Piping Times’ Hirsute Hall of Infamy column.
Today, I am delighted to talk to you about the latest work from Ross Miller, the prince of beardy, speccy pipers: The Roke Collection. First though, if you haven’t listened to Ross’ album, The Roke’ pause now and get it into your ears. It’s a pleasant record with enough to satisfy any hardcore, trad. piper as well as the competitive piping pedants amongst you.
Ross is a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, a two times winner of the World Pipe Band Championships (with Inveraray & District), a US Silver Medal winner and a contender for the Silver Medals at Oban and Inverness. By day, Ross teaches in Ayrshire, Scotland and by night is involved heavily in the trad./ ceilidh scene around Glasgow.
The Roke Collection reminds me of books written about classic albums. As a teen, I was super into The Clash and bought every piece of writing available on Strummer, Jones, Simonon, Tory Crimes and the others. There’s a great book called Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg about the making of the band’s superb Combat Rock album and the history of the band to that point. The Roke Collection fits into the same oeuvre. Sort of. Filled with pictures, stories and anecdotes from Ross’ career, the collection is set out to take us track by track through the album. Each ‘track’ starts with some background on the tunes and then a really well presented series of scores.
The tunes I’ve been enjoying mucking about with are, Accidental Belterism – I admit I was sold on the name first – P/M Robert Rennie H.L.I. – which is not a composition of Ross’ but of William MacDonald, Benbecula’s – Rona Miller and The Roke, the Row and The Wee Pickle Tow. There’s certainly plenty to keep the hands busy among the selection of music.
Ross is to be applauded for a very mature mixture of technical and musical variety. The buffet of pieces available should be varied enough to satisfy the repertoire needs of any piper looking to expand their horizons.
All in all, Ross Miller’s The Roke Collection is a thoroughly enjoyable read, collecting great traditional and contemporary music together. His enthusiasm, understanding and most importantly unique personality is present all the way through. As someone who has known Ross for a number of years, I feel he has done an excellent job presenting himself artistically and professionally within the pages of this collection.
Support a young piper producing vastly enjoyable material. Support beardy, speccy pipers. Buy this book now.