SIMON BLACKSHAW
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I first started piping at the age of 10; and was taught by my father, Simon Snr who continues to give me guidance even to this day. I began competing in the Nunawading/Australia Highlanders Pipe Band. Locally, I have played in many bands in Australia consisting of the Pipe Band Club Sydney, Hawthorn City Pipe Band and the Moorabbin City Pipe Band where I became Pipe Major of in 2019.

 

Internationally, I joined the Dowco Triumph Street Pipe Band from Vancouver in 2010 and continued to compete with them in Canada, America and Scotland until 2013. It was a great experience and allowed me to travel and share my music even further. From 2014, I have been a quest member of the Canterbury Caledonian Society Pipe Band from Christchurch, New Zealand where I have competed with the band locally in New Zealand and in Scotland.

 

In the solo scene, I started off competing in the local Victorian Piping Association (VPA) at an early age. Throughout the years I succeeded in winning every solo Championship in every grade; a feat that has not been replicated to my knowledge. In 2013, I was chosen to represent Australia in the Macallan Solo Piping Competition at the Interceltique Festival in Lorient. Currently, my main focus is aimed at Pipe Bands and composing new music for Medley and Concert construction.

 

Currently, I am a full-time musician with the Victoria Police Pipe Band under the direction of Nat Russell. In this role, as a band we perform at graduations, ceremonies and community engagements within the state of Victoria. Outside of my full-time employment I am the Pipe Major of the Grade 2; Moorabbin City Pipe Band. Outside of Victoria, I have been playing with the Canterbury Caledonian Society Pipe Band from New Zealand at the Worlds as a guest member.

 

I started composing tunes after only a couple years of learning the instrument. It’s to no surprise that at an early stage I was immediately captivated and inspired by compositions from Mark Saul; Hellbound Train stands out as the suite that got the ball rolling…

Early on, my knowledge of correct and accurate music theory was limited. It wasn’t until I attended a music composition workshop which was conducted by Mark Saul when I gained a bit more understanding of why tunes sound the way they do. I then studied books from Neil Dickie, Michael Grey and even Donald Macleod to comprehend how and why tunes sound the way they do. Meaning; theory. From then, I was hooked on writing tunes and haven’t stopped since. 

 

As mentioned, Mark Saul has been a great influence on my composing career and there have been various stages in my music writing. Currently, I write for purpose and I work on quality, not quantity…. Or at least try to.

My musical influences come from everywhere, literally everywhere. I appreciate all music genres. I get inspired to write tunes when I travel. I always carry a small black book which has manuscript in it and whenever anything pops into my head, I usually write it down. Sometimes I get inspired to write a tune based on an event or even a name or subject. And other times I set out with a purpose to write a specific tune for medley or concert purposes and I usually write with the ensemble aspect in my head and how it can be affective.

 

My first tune that had ever been played by a Grade 1 band was in 2006 by the Australia Highlanders Pipe Band. I was 16 at the time and came up with the 3-part Hornpipe which was played as the Medley opener. It was named ‘www.nunapb.com’ after the band’s website. To this day, I still think it is a purposeful medley opener and a composition that I will always be proud of.

 

Dowco Triumph Street’s 2012 album ‘With Purpose’ featured many of my own compositions. From ¾’s, to Suites and Hornpipes. The opening track ‘Our Natives’ was inspired by Native American music which I went through a phase of listening to that style of music.. The Album concludes with the suite ‘All the King’s Men’. An emotive, harmony filled and rhythmically exciting Suite which is based around a 1-part theme that continues to appear throughout the piece.

 

My time in the Canterbury Caledonian Society Pipe Bane (Cale) has also given me the opportunity pass on my compositions. Over the years the band has played my tunes as Medley opening Hornpipes, Jigs and Reels. A couple to note is the Hornpipe ‘If Looks Could Kill’, the jigs ‘The Ducks of Deer Lake’ and ‘Counterblast’ and also the Reel ‘The Highlanders Hybrid Dance’.

 

Additionally, Dowco Triumph Street continued to play a number of my tunes. Their 2013 Medley included a Slow Air ‘Pipes of Peace’ which was inspired by the Pipes of Peace Concert held in Glasgow in 2012. The Medley finished with the Hornpipe/Reel ‘The Listel Hotel’ which is definitely one of my favourite tunes I’ve written. The band also featured a relatively new Slow Air ‘HMS Endeavour’ in 2017 which was also used as a reprise towards the end of the selection.

 

In 2012 I published a book named ‘Inspiration’ that features many of the tunes mentioned. The book is almost out of print but is still available. There are plans in the future to re-release ‘Inspiration’ and also release a new book; ‘Imagination’. Watch this space!

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