CLASP profile: David Mackenzie

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Today, we feature another member of CLASP. David Mackenzie is next for shaving, as the late Pipe Major Robert Kilgour, would have put it.

Where are you from and how did you get into piping?
I am from Invergordon in the north of Scotland. My father was a piper in the Invergordon Distillery band with Donald Shaw Ramsay and John Burgess so from an early age I wanted to learn. I did try learning when in Primary 5. John D. was the instructor in fact. However, I struggled with understanding the music notation so fell away.  Then, at the age of 13, I took it up again with an ex-army piper from The Black Watch called Bob Hill.

How has the pandemic affected your piping personally?
The pandemic has affected my piping in a lot of ways as I have not been able to have face-to-face lessons with my current tutor, Logan Tannock, and as much as we try and conduct our lessons over videoconference software, it is difficult to hear the correct sound of the pipes over this media. Also, as part of the Army Reserve I play with the Royal Corps of Signals Pipes and Drums and we have not been able to meet up for a practice now since February 2020 although we have held online practices. 

When you travel is there something you particularly miss when away?
When I’m away abroad I always miss the Scottish countryside and the mountains. I think this is where a lot of my passion for piping comes from. 

What’s your most memorable performance you’ve taken part in, either band or solo?
I have two memorable performances, one solo and the other while serving with the 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Highlanders. The solo one would be doing Lone Piper at the the opening performance of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 2012. The latter being competing at the Inverkeithing Highland Games when we played up a grade to Grade 1 and split Shotts & Dykehead and Dysart & Dundonald.       

What’s your most memorable performance you’ve heard – band or soloist?
Alasdair Gillies winning the Former Winners’ MSR at Inverness in the mid-1980s. What a performance! The standing ovation shook the building. 

Who has been the biggest influence on your piping?  
The biggest influence in my piping has to be one of two people who took the time to teach me as a teenager. Gordon Meldrum and Jimmy Jackson both managed to take my piping further and make me ready for joining the army as a piper.     

Was piping something you wanted to do from an early age?
Yes it was, although I also wanted to be a drummer, too. My father luckily put that behind me. 

Which pipers did you aspire to, if any?
I don’t think there has been one standout person. However, I had Iain Morrison as a Pipe Major at the age of 16 and I also played alongside Alasdair Gillies, Stuart Sampson and Niall Matheson to name a few excellent pipers. I always looked to make my father proud of me, so I think he would be at the top of my list

Do you recall the very first competition in which you competed?
My very first competition was a solo competition in Thurso, an Under 15 competition, where I got third in the March … Not sure where I have gone wrong now!

Favourite piece of ceòl mòr?
I have a few piobaireachds I like to play at the moment, however my favourite at this time is The MacLeod’s Salute. I enjoy playing this as I get carried away in the tune as I play it. 

• Thank you, David!

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