Maxim Emelyanychev. Photograph: Ryan Buchanan
Four-foot gobbets of orange fire belched into the Glasgow twilight. Walk south from Buchanan Street subway station, to St. George’s Tron Church, at St. George’s (now Nelson Mandela) Place. There, you will encounter a Blazing Bagpiper, firing occasional flames from three red hot drones. A tempo. No kidding.
I belong to Glasgow. For ten years, as a duty legal aid lawyer, I defended the ingenious, engaging miscreants of the city in Magistrate and Sheriff courts. I never could bring myself to think of clients as criminals. In Pao Alto, most would have been hailed as inventive geniuses, fronting IPOs, not picking up £50 fines with time to pay. Surely, I’d seen every stunt a Glasgow punter’s ingenuity has to offer? Was this bagpipe inferno a breach of the peace?
Nope. On this chilly, darkening, November evening, while citizens of the Dear Green Place scurried by, to one of the upscale watering holes that litter reborn Glasgow’s city centre, here was musical improvisation on a hitherto unprecedented scale.
A cheery highland air drifted across the street. The piper squeezed his bag. The drones transformed into blow torches, liberating pulsing flames, floating high and free for seconds before being spent, every time the lilting tune demanded a blaw. World weary passers by simply gave the bagpiper a wide berth. In New York, a fire truck would have sirened up the street and put him out.
“ ‘Scuse me, pal. Has youse got a licence for yon flamethrower thingy, by the way?” The self-styled Cam McAzie – The Badpiper, doesn’t do elf and safety. Normally officious enforcement goons let him be. He is, after all, just the most spectacular of Buchanan Street’s teeming population of metal-painted mime artists and demented grannies. Welcome home.
Now let me introduce you to Scotland’s latest musical pyrotechnician, Russian harpsichordist and conductor, Maxim Emelyanychev, 31, a student of Nizhny Novogorod Choral College, Balakirev State Music College and Moscow State. Conservatory, where he studied under Gennady Rozhdestvensky.