Piper adds Madonna’s material skirl
When Lorne Cousin received a voicemail from Madonna on his home phone asking him to call her, the Edinburgh lawyer thought his friends were playing a practical joke.
So the 31-year-old got the surprise of his life when the very same global megastar answered the return call and invited him to play his bagpipes on stage with her during the artist’s five month Reinvention world tour.
For months Mr Cousin was ordered to remain quiet about the exciting proposal – even suffering a scare when news reports mistakenly said another Scottish piper had been chosen to play on the tour.
However, following reassurances from Madonna that she wanted the 6ft 1in lawyer to star in her shows until October, Mr Cousin has now taken leave from his job with Edinburgh law firm Turcan Connell to appear on stage with the world famous singer.
One of Scotland’s top pipers, Mr Cousin, from Campbeltown, Kintyre, was spotted by Madonna when he played at Stella McCartney‘s wedding on Bute last year. His father Alastair, who is a vet, became a friend of the McCartney family after years tending to their animals.
Speaking from New York last night, Mr Cousin, who lives in Broughton, Edinburgh, said he was having “great fun” after completing 14 dates and said it was the “best thing” he had ever done.
Another of Scotland’s top pipers – Callum Spud’ Fraser, from Aviemore – was reportedly upset last month when he learned he had failed to make Madonna’s performer line-up after being approached earlier in the year.
Some media reports had named him as the piper that Madonna wanted, which in turn had caused Mr Cousin to be alarmed.
“I feel very sorry for him (Callum Fraser) because I know how he feels, as I was worried when I saw him in the newspapers and on TV as Madonna’s piper when I thought I was doing it. I phoned Madonna’s agent straight away and was reassured that it was a red herring and that they still did want me,” said Mr Cousin.
“When Madonna first called me I said I would have to think about it as I had a job, so her agents approached other pipers while I was deciding what to do. That’s where the mix-up happened.
“I will contact him to say no hard feelings’ because I genuinely feel sorry for him.”
Piper Calum ‘Spud’ Fraser
After spending ten days rehearsing in the US in March, Mr Cousin flew out in May for the first gig at the Forum in Los Angeles. He plays a four-minute piece of Scottish music, which he composed especially for the 90-minute concerts. The tune links two songs near the end of the concerts, which have a Scottish theme.
He then returns and dances while pretending to play the pipes.
Mr Cousin also responded to a Scottish tabloid article which was critical of his dancing, and called into question the authenticity of his Highland attire.
He said: “I was pretty upset when I read I was “jumping around the stage like a peat-bog fairy“.
“Madonna added the dancing bit, and at first I was worried about it and said I couldn’t dance. I agree I wouldn’t be able to play while dancing – that is just the fun bit at the end after I play a few songs earlier. Also, comments about the length of my kilt were annoying. It was artistic licence on Madonna’s behalf because she likes longer kilts, and I don’t think it is an affront to Scottish culture.
“The American crowds have been loving the Scottish element to the shows, and are now coming to the concerts wearing kilts.”
Mr Cousin is playing 32 dates in the US and Canada and 15 shows in Europe in front of over 750,000 fans during the tour.
He added: “It is so exciting when you’re waiting to go on and you can hear 20,000 people screaming. It certainly beats rural conveyancing.
“They go crazy when I come on, and luckily I haven’t made a mistake yet. Although the rehearsals are tiring, I am loving it and think it is the best thing I have done. It is also great living in five-star hotels all the time and when we go nightclubbing they phone ahead and we get to jump the queue. Madonna is great to work with. She is strict but in a good way, as she pays great attention to detail.”
Mr Cousin started practising every night from the age of seven using his grandfather’s bagpipes, and has played in dozens of competitions.
Douglas Connell, joint senior partner at Turcan Connell, said: “An opportunity of this magnitude does not present itself every day and we are absolutely delighted to support Lorne in this venture. I am sure he will prove to be a very worthy ambassador for both Turcan Connell and Scotland.”
Article by Angie Brown, The Scotsman