Atherton chanter in the MacPherson’s

I was sittin’ on the john at work perusing eBay on my iPhone when I ran across a buy it now for an african blackwood Atherton chanter. So I bought it, duh! This chanter came from Doug MacRae, at least, going by the eBay name. At the price point, I figured it wasn’t pristine and having a look at it, it has been undercut on just about every hole, C and up. Who did that, I have no idea. But, who cares? It plays GREAT! And it was easy to tune; of course the undercut modifications helped. Otherwise, I can see the top hand being rather flat. Couple no undercutting with the relatively narrow reed seat (compared to a Kyo, if that tells you something) and I can imagine it could be hard to get a reed in far enough to bring the top hand up sharp enough, so the undercutting was probably a necessity more than anything. None of the holes have been enlarged though. It came in right at 480 Hz for me. Same pitch as my band blackwood Colin Kyo chanter. Colin Kyo’s actually tune a wee bit higher (well, some of them), so I’ve got tape on my CK low A and the reed pulled out a little to get it down to 480 Hz. Below you’ll find a picture of the Atherton right next to said Colin Kyo. You’ll notice the hole spacing is effectively identical. Atherton on top, CK on bottom.

Onto the recording, I’ve got my D. MacPherson blackwood bagpipes with boxwood ferrules and ringcaps with Kinnaird tenor drone reeds and a Rocket bass drone reed accompanied by an Atherton chanter with a Husk reed. Tunes are Hector the Hero (James Scott Skinner) and the Rock (Jimmy Mitchell). I finally met Jimmy last weekend and got to chat a bit. Jimmy used to play with the Hamilton Pipe Band in Houston, TX and this series of tunes is one of the tracks on their album, First and Ten. Jimmy’s nickname apparently was “the Rock” and this was the first tune he wrote. I also got to hear the St. Thomas Alumni Pipe Band last weekend which has a lot of players from the old Hamilton band, so this set is for Jimmy, Hamilton, and St. Thomas Alumni! When I played with the Lyon College pipe band under Willie Muirhead, we also opened our second place medley at the World’s in 2001 in grade 3B with the Rock.

Hector the Hero (James Scott Skinner) & the Rock (Jimmy Mitchell)

I’ve also uploaded a video on youtube if you prefer video with your audio (exact same performance though):

Hector the Hero and the Rock

4 thoughts on “Atherton chanter in the MacPherson’s

  1. Cheerios…nah…rather it be Frosted Flakes pal! So what’s all of this …your a closet piper now? Gee and I thought I was the only one chased into the closet when I grabbed my pipes for a blow. I’m glad I’m not alone and besides there is a lot a room inside here…ha! Now for a serious comment…the chanter sounds just fine to me and it seems to not just blend but also it takes the drones to the next level. This tune is one of my favorite ones . W#hen I hear it being played real slow it brings back memories of my brother in law who passed away at the age of 42…what a drummer he was. Such a talen taken away so young. Randy..if you lend an ear Patrick is playing your favorite tune enjoy bro!
    Sounds real sweet and the playing is right there with it. Thanks Patrick for sharing.

    Fish ( up here in the coldness of NY State)

  2. Hey Mike, I hope you’re weathering (pun intended) the ambient atmospheric conditions up there in NY okay! It is quite a good chanter. I must admit I’m not sold on the drone reeds I have in the MacPherson’s right now. The sound is solid, but the tone isn’t the spectacular brilliance I’m looking for, so I’m keeping an eye out for what brand of drone reed go better in them. With the Gellaitry’s sitting right there and some Jeffer’s coming in any day now, I can’t see these MacPherson’s getting a whole lot of play time until I get comparable drone tone. I actually switched back to the Colin Kyo while playing tonight (same reed) and it was just a tad more harmonically rich than this Atherton, but not by much. That is to say, so far, this Atherton is a keeper, and this is coming from someone who has bought just about every other chanter on the market and then sold them, except of course for Colin Kyo. One other thing I forgot to mention is the Atherton is a litter thicker around the neck compared to the CK, you can see that in the picture.

    Since it’s winter(ish) nowadays…

    Frosted Cheerios,
    Patrick

  3. Nice blend Patrick. The drones sound nice too. Bass seems very tame to me and steady.
    I have to say, the chanter does seem to be pulling some harmonics off the drones. i lik e it a lot.
    I’d love to hear that chanter against the Jeffers you have coming. very, very curious…

    Flakes indeed,
    David NY

  4. Hey David,
    Yeah, that Rocket bass I got from Jim Sloan off Dunsire is the perfect match for the bass drone. I’m blaming myself, not the pipes, for my partial dissatisfaction of the drone tone. Not to say there isn’t pretty good harmonic overlap between the two, chanter and drones, and no doubt it sounds good. I too, am VERY interested in playing it against the Jeffers drones. I’ve got a new set of Selbie’s coming in as well, so I’ve gotta try that too!

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