Gordon Duncan was a renegade. A trailblazer in his field, he created a new sound with the most traditional of instruments: the bagpipes. At a special concert held at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow Duncan, created quite a stir when he played his own brand of bagpipe tunes, notably performing AC/DC’s Thunderstruck. David Colvin, writer and performer of this tribute to the late, great piper, witnessed this performance and it changed everything he thought he knew about piping.
But this is Colvin’s story really, not Gordon Duncan’s. Colvin takes the audience on a mesmerising journey through his own relationship with the pipes; at times a love affair, at others a frustrating rocky road, but always with a determination to feel the Celtic traditions of this powerful instrument.
It is funny. Colvin plays the part of a number of characters, including his grumpy pipes teacher, inviting one audience member up to play the part of Colvin himself during his very first lesson. He has to explain the Fife dialect to the audience and charts his school pipe band’s progress from last place to World Champions. It is also touching. Bullied, at first for being the minister’s son and latterly for daring to like Gordon Duncan’s unique sound, it doesn’t stop his love for the music and when he plays at the end it is impossible not to be impressed.
To keep up a solo performance with musical interludes, mouth music, and a lyrical quality to the prose for over an hour is no mean feat and one which Colvin does with aplomb. Gordon Duncan was clearly a great influence on this young man and changed the direction of piping for many despite the protestations of some influential figures, one of whom declared: ‘If this is the future of bagpipes, I will be taking up the fiddle!’
But Gordon Duncan did change the future of bagpiping and this is a fitting tribute to the man Colvin affectionately calls, ‘the binman.’