A Piping Good Christmas!

Well I said I would post more here but than the Christmas holiday got the better of me. I had an excellent holiday and received a few bagpipe related gifts.

First, I received a couple of Dropkick Murphys shirts. Even though I'm not a huge fan of their music, it's hard to find clothing that features bagpipes, much less a skeleton playing the bagpipes!

These shirts also hold the distinction of being my only skeleton adorned clothing, skeletons aren't really my style either but I will make an exception when they're playing my favorite instrument.

I also got some Dropkick Murphys stickers to put on my bagpipe case. I plan on doing a future post on what I keep in my bagpipe case so you'll have to wait until than to see the stickers.

The only other directly bagpiping related item I received was the book, Bagpipe Brothers: The FDNY Band's True Story of Tragedy, Mourning, and Recovery by Kerry Sheridan. This book details the experiences of New York City's Emerald Society Bagpipe Band after 9/11. Now I just got the book so I've barely cracked its cover, but so far it's really interesting. When I'm done reading it I'll post a review here.

I do plan to use some of my Christmas money to buy myself some Ghillie Brogues, these are traditional band bagpiping shoes. Once I get the actual shoes I'll post a photo here, but here's a photo I found online that gives you a visual:

Since my band is not a competitive band, some of what we wear is uniform, and some is not. For example, our kilts, flashings (that bit of cloth you see hanging off the side of the socks), hose (socks), and Glengarry (hat) are all uniform. Our white dress shirts are basically uniform too.

But my belt buckle, kilt pin, sgian dubh (the knife that goes in the sock), sporran (bag that hangs about the waist), and a pin that I also have in my Glengarry are all specific to my husbands clan-remember I'm not Scottish so I have to steal from him.

Up until now everyone in my band has just worn black shoes, whatever kind and type we like. But we've decided to make the shoes uniform too. I've been putting off buying them because I want to get what I hope will be the more comfortable but unfortunately more expensive kind of Ghillie Brogues...I do have to march in them after all. But we have a performance coming up this at a local Burn's Dinner, and than of course St. Patrick's Day will be here before we know it. Plus it would be nice to get them broken in before parade season.

Anyone else get any good bagpiping related gifts??

Pipe on!


Bagpipe Tunes I'm Working On

It's been a while since I posted about the bagpipe tunes I've been working on. Since our band is in its off season, our pipemaster assigned us a bunch of new tunes. I start by learning them on my practice chanter. I try to get to the point where it's basically memorized and than I switch to playing it on my bagpipes.

The first tune I focused on is called Tenpenny Bit. This is a jig so it's a very lively tune. The only version I could find on youtube is a rock version of it but you get a sense of what it sounds like.

Lady Carmichael's Strathspey is the next tune I focused on. I couldn't find a version of this one on youtube, but a strathspey is a basically a 4/4 dance tune. Auld Lang Syne is another example of a strathspey. This tune has been pretty easy for me to learn.

I've just started to work on Lord Lovat's Lament. This is a march and I've learned plenty of marching tunes in the past so it seems like it'll be pretty easy to learn.

The one new tune that I've really struggled with is called Itchy Fingers. This tune has been crazy hard for me to learn. I am able to sight read most bagpipe tunes and at least play them slowly all the way through, not so much for this one. My fingers are really having to learn new moves. Other challenges with this tune are that it's a bit longer than I'm used too, and it's fast.

Well, wish me luck with these tunes and pipe on!


Bagpipe Trees!

I do apologize for my somewhat sporadic posts. Expect to see more frequent posts here, my super busy time of the year is done so now I can devote more time to this blog.

I found this really interesting article over on the It's about the African Blackwood that is used to construct the three stocks of a bagpipe. Apparently there is concern over unsustainable logging of the African Blackwood, particularly in Tanzania. It takes 70-100 years for the Blackwood to reach harvestable age. So there is a
conservation group that is working to provide local communities with incentives to protect and manage their forests. In addition, people are being encouraged to plant bagpipe trees. Moreover, pipers are encouraged to ensure that bagpipes they purchase come from eco-friendly sources.

Pretty interesting. I don't know where the wood from my bagpipe comes from but it is made out of African Blackwood. The African Blackwood is really tough wood, so it doesn't crack, and it is supposed to really affect the quality of sound made by the bagpipes.

It would be interesting to hear music made from a set of pipes that is not made out of African Blackwood. For example, the article mentions that before the African Blackwood was used, native bog trees of Scotland were used. I wonder what a bagpipe made out of bog tree wood would sound like??

Pipe on!


Dropkick Murphys Concert Review

I have blogged previously about the rock punk band Dropkick Murphys. Well, I finally got a chance to see them live.

I should preface my concert review by saying that my only interest in them was that they incorporated the bagpipes into their music. I'm not a fan of this particular kind of music. But I like to think of myself as an open minded individual; after all, I do play a decibel blasting instrument of war and run around in a kilt.

With this in mind, my initial impression of the concert was that it was LOUD! As most concerts are of course. I got there for both of the pre-show acts and I was very impressed by the first act, The Tossers. The Tossers are a Chicago based band that has been around since the early 1990's. They are an Irish punk rock band but the really unique thing that I enjoyed about them was that the started a lot of their songs by speaking the lyrics, so it had a really neat poetry vibe to it. I also loved their energy! I don't think I've ever seen someone play the accordion with so much enthusiasm. Here's a decent clip I found of them on youtube.

The Dropkick Murphys were about what I expected. I've listened to parts of many of their songs. Notice that I said parts, even when I'm listening to their music in the serenity of my home I have trouble making it for a full song.

They played a lot of very intense rock songs. And it was fun to see and hear how they used the bagpipes in their songs. It was amazing how distinctive the bagpipe sound really was. During the first half of their set they pretty much used the bagpipes in every song. It was also great fun watching the crowd, there was a lot of slam dancing and attempts at crowd surfing.

My overall review of them is that after a while, a lot of their songs really started to sound the same to me. They didn't really seem to have a very distinctive "voice" as a group. Writers often distinguish themselves by their writers "voice" and musicians are the same. To me, they just didn't stand out. Bearing in mind of course that I wasn't really a fan of this music in the first place, so I didn't really expect to come away from the concert converted to punk rock.

I much preferred The Tossers and will most certainly be acquiring some of their music in the future. They were energetic and their "voice" was really unique.

So am I glad I went? Yes, of course. I got to see the bagpipes incorporated in a very nontraditional way, and I found a new group!

Pipe on!!


Nice Matters Award

My blog recently celebrated its 3 month anniversary. I've had a lot of fun developing Piping Girl and generally making my way in the blogging world. Reading your comments and just checking my site statistics to see all the people that pass through is so rewarding. Thanks to each and every one of you!

Another reward was given to me by JJ over at the Nature Shows and Dreams blog. JJ has awarded my blog the Nice Matters Award. JJ's blog is a great blog featuring nature writing and nature photographs and he's been kind enough to leave several comments here at Piping Girl. Thanks so much for this honor JJ!

So now I'm supposed to pass this award on to other blogs and after a fair amount of deliberation I'd like to pass this along to these 3 blogs:
Another of my interests is creative writing blog and the Eavesdrop Writer Blog is the epitome of originality and creative writing. It's basically a record of eavesdropping of random conversations. The detail and general insight into the human condition are amazing!

Another thing I really love is anything connected with nature and the Autofocused photoblog contains wonderful photography of Scotland.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't also pass this on to another bagpiping blog. So I'd also like to pass this on to the Piper Pride blog. This is an educational and inspiring bagpipe blog.

Congratulations to these blogs, and pass the "Nice Matters Award" on by grabbing the image from the top.

Pipe on!!

Million Pound Record Deal

This is the off season in terms of my bagpiping. My band has no upcoming gigs and we are focusing on learning new tunes for our next season. It's hard to keep myself motivated both in practicing my new tunes and in regularly posting here!

At any rate, I ran across an interesting article by Adam Sherwin in the Times Online about the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are a cavalry regiment in the British army and the most senior of the Scottish regiments.

Their Pipes and Drums recently signed a 1 million pound record deal with Universal Music. This is the same record company that puts out music for Amy Whinehouse and 50 Cent so it's a big deal. And it shows that bagpipe music is a serious force to be reckoned with in the music world.

Their album will include traditional Scottish tunes as well as Mull of Kintyre by Paul McCartney and Sailing by Rod Stewart. So it sounds like it will be a diverse album with something for everyone.

This quote from their Pipe Major Derek Potter is great, “The pipes are an integral part of our regiment and we take huge pride in our music. We’ve even had to impose a curfew on pipes practice, as the rehearsals disturb the nonpipers among us.” It reminds me of the curfew I put on myself when I'm practicing as I tend to practice in the evenings.

Although I've pretty much paraphrased/summarized the article you can read it in full if you like.
Pipe on!


How Braveheart Should Have Ended

I have mentioned previously that I lived in Scotland for 3 months. The town that I lived in was Stirling. Stirling is just north of Edinburgh and Glasgow and pretty much sits right between them. It was about a 45 minute train ride to Edinburgh and Glasgow from Stirling. Head north of Stirling just a little bit and you hit Callander, Rob Roy country.

But Stirling was definitely William Wallace country. The battle of Stirling Bridge took place here as did the Battle of Bannockburn. That large rocket ship looking monument jutting into the skyline of Stirling is none other then the William Wallace Monument. Outside of the monument is a statue of William Wallace that looks suspiciously like Mel Gibson. Inside you can climb a series of winding stairs up to the top of the tower and take in the view of Stirling. Along the way you can check out Wallace's sword.

I ran across this entertaining video on youtube called How Braveheart Should Have Ended

"Sons of scotland, I am William Wallace...William Wallace is 7 ft tall -Aye, so I've heard, kills men by the hundreds, and if he were here he'd consume the English with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse."

I hope you enjoyed it, and Pipe on!


Bagpiping Blogs

One of the first things I did when I came up with the idea for this blog was to try to look for other bagpiping blogs. I wanted to make sure there was room out there in cyberspace for Piping Girl.

I searched using search engines and blog networks. I also set up a google blog alert that would e-mail me on a daily basis when blog posts mentioned the bagpipes. I found very few blogs entirely devoted to the bagpipes, but they are out there. So, in the interest of spreading the bagpiping love around, I thought I'd share (in no particular order), what I found:

First up is A Bagpiper’s Journal. It seems like he's played the pipes just a little bit longer then I have. This is a journal of that journey going all the way back to his chanter work. He's taken part in some competitions as well which makes for some interesting reading.

Next is So You Think You Can Pipe. This blog was started this past summer, around the same time as Piping Girl. So You Think You Can Pipe is written by Brian who just started on the chanter this past summer. It will be interesting to see how he does and when he graduates to the pipes.

There is also The Voice. This blog is written for a magazine called The Voice which represents The Eastern United States Pipe Band Association. This blog gets into a lot of good history, mechanical, and academic things relating to the bagpipes. But it's written for anyone to read and understand.

We also have Piper Pride. This blog is written by a professional and very experienced piper.

The Irish Piper’s Blog is written by Tony who is learning to play the Irish (Uilleann) pipes.

Now, don't go off and leave Piping Girl for these other blogs. But think of them as part of the greater virtual bagpiping experienced offered by the Internet. And if you know of any other good bagpiping blogs that I've overlooked, be sure to comment on them below.
Pipe on!


Bagpipes Rock in the New Millennium

When most people think of bagpipe music they envision a marching band playing traditional tunes like Amazing Grace and Scotland the Brave. But there are many nontraditional ways to incorporate bagpipes into modern music. Rock music in particular seems to have made good use of the bagpipes in their musical genre. Bagpipes are loud, rock music is loud=some very fine music.

The first band I'll mention here is Dropkick Murphys . This is a Boston based band that formed up in 1996. They've got a pretty big following because they tour all over the place. I'm actually going to get to see them before this year is done so I'm sure I'll be posting more on them in the future. One of their songs, I'm Shipping Up to Boston was featured in the movie The Departed. I'm not posting that one here though because the song doesn't feature bagpipes. James "Scruffy" Wallace plays the bagpipes. This song, entitled Tessie features the bagpipes:

Another interesting use of the bagpipes is seen here on Madonna's Re-invention Tour in 2004. Her show was split into five acts, each of which had a different theme and, guess what, one was a a tribal Scottish theme:

Another group that I recently found is Flatfoot 56. This is a Christian punk band from Chicago, Illinois that formed up in 2000. Josh Robieson plays the pipes here:

Finally, here's the band Needfire . This is a Texas based band and it has some world class musicians in it. I also like this band because they really integrate the pipes in with their music, you really have to listen for them:

I certainly haven't covered every band out there that uses the bagpipes. If you have a favorite band that uses the bagpipes please comment, I always like to listen to new bands.

Pipe on!


Finding my Bagpipes

I have written before about starting my bagpipe lessons on the practice chanter. After a year of playing I knew that bagpipes, kilts, and sporrans were in my life to stay.

A year of playing the chanter is quite normal. You never, ever want to just race out and buy a set of pipes after your first chanter lesson. Starting on the chanter helps you learn the notes and all of the embellishments like D throws, grips and doublings. Once you've got the notes down your on your way to learning tunes like Scots Wha Hae (my first tune!) and Amazing Grace (my second tune!).

Even though a year is a long time, I guarantee you that I needed every minute of it. Switching to the real thing requires more then just learning the notes and a few tunes, you also have to be really confident in your playing.
Once I was ready for the real thing, my pipe major borrowed a few sets of pipes from pipe stores he frequented (they wanted our business afterall), and we spent a night listening to him play each one. Although you might not think it, each set of bagpipe sounds different. Even bagpipes from the same maker can sound different.

The bagpipes that I chose really and truly seemed to pick me. The sound just hit me and I knew I had to have them. I know it seems strange to say, but they had a subtle mellow sound to them. The other pipes sounded big and bold, but my soon to be pipes sounded cleaner and sharper somehow. Or maybe I just had some strange existensial moment with my bagpipes, like I said, I think they chose me.

When myself and a few others were choosing our pipes, my pipe major was pushing for Kron bagpipes. Several other pipers in the band had them and liked them, and they were kind of hte next big brand when it comes to premier bagpipes. In fact, some people were able to get a really good deal on actual Kron bagpipes on e-bay. I was freaked out about buying something like this on e-bay. And, in general, most of the bagpipes that you see for sale on e-bay are pure crap. A while ago I found this great posting on youtube from this Scottish guy ranting about how so many people are being ripped off by sellers claiming to be selling real Scottish bagpipes on e-bay. This video is totally worth watching just for the Scottish brogue, but the video has real value if you are looking at bagpipes on e-bay:

And in this video he actually shows you a crap set of pipes he bought on e-bay just to prove his point:

This guy's so awesome!

The guys in my band that bought e-bay pipes were very careful to ensure that they were buying actual Kron pipes. And, the price matched. A lot of the poor quality bagpipes advertised on e-bay are less then $200. A good set of pipes is going to cost you upwards of $1,000.

The pipes I bought are Kintail bagpipes.

Their site goes so far as tell you how they hand-craft each set of pipes. They have quite a nice history on their company as well. They are made in Glasgow and one of my dear wishes is to go back to Glasgow and visit where my bagpipes were born.

Pipe on!


Bagpiping Podcasts

This summer I started getting into podcasts. My work commute is a bit longer and I get tired of listening to the radio and my CD's. So my husband got me a car adaptor for my mp3 player and I started hunting for good bagpiping podcasts.

Like I said, I'm new to podcasts, but from what I can tell, there isn't a whole lot out there. Here's what I've found so far:

I found this one around the time of the World Pipe Band Championships. It's called Planet Pipe and features professional pipe bands, commentary, and interviews. A drawback is that their podcasts are relatively short and their archives aren't free. For under $10 a month however you can get access to their old shows. I haven't tried this yet but I probably will at some point.

One bagpiping podcast that I just started listening to is the Irish and Celtic Music Podcast. So far it seems like it has a pretty good variety of music but not a ton of commentary. It's music isn't just bagpipes either, there is folk music on here as well. But also music from more well known Celtic groups like Seven Nations and Gaelic Storm.

My favorite bagpipe podcast is Wetootwaag's Podcast of Bagpipe Power put out by Jeremy Kingsbury, a piper from Bemidji, Minnesota. Although he hasn't posted a new podcast since last spring, his old podcasts are still up so there's plenty for you to listen to. One of the reasons this is my favorite is because he spends an equal amount of time talking and playing the bagpipes. He samples different kinds of Scotch in his podcasts and he talks about re-enactments he attends as well as his studies in the Ojibwe language. In terms of the music, some of it is his own piping, and some of it is from artists on myspace or his friends. Oh, and, if you didn't believe that Eye of the Tiger or Bohemian Rhapsody could be played on pipes, he will prove you wrong! I've listened to every episode and am hoping that he posts a new podcast soon!

Although I am looking for good bagpiping podcasts, if anyone out there wants to promote their own podcast or a podcast they like to listen to, feel free to comment about them. I'd love to give it a listen.

In the meantime, pipe on!


Carrying the Bagpipes

When you see a bagpiper playing live, you might sometimes wonder about some of the finer details. Where did they get that kilt? What's that funny purse thing hanging around their waist? Is that a knife stuck in their sock?? And here's a question you probably never even thought to ask-how in the world did that piper get their bagpipes here in the first place?

There are all sorts of fancy carrying cases for bagpipes. There are cases that come as backpacks, with shoulder straps, and on wheels. There are hard shell cases made especially for airplane travel and monogrammed cases for the styling piper.

But let's face it, bagpipes and all the things that make me into Piping Girl, cost a fair amount of money. I went the quality route where I needed to, my pipes are quality, as is my uniform.

But I found that I could be cheap in the case I carried my bagpipes in. This is a lovely yellow tool box that I bought for about $15 at Menards. As you can see, my bagpipes fit into it very nicely. I could add some extra padding, but I don't really need to. The bagpipes are a pretty sturdy instrument, the stocks are made out of African Black Wood, and the only thing you really need to be careful with is the chanter (where you put your fingers), and of course the reeds.

It would be nice to have a shoulder strap as I have walked several blocks carrying my case a time or two, but for now it works.

Plus, the expression on a person's face when I pull a set of bagpipes out of a big yellow tool-box is absolutely priceless. I will probably continue to carry my pipes in my big yellow case purely for the "face" value.

Pipe on!


Samurai Jack and The Scotsman

I just found this video on youtube and had a good laugh over it:

No doubt many a person has wanted to do this to the bagpipes!

Pipe on!


Bagpiping Lullaby?!

If you've ever heard bagpipes played live, then you know that they are loud. To put this into some perspective, when I practice my bagpipes I wear ear-plugs, I'm just one piper, but that's how loud they are. I also read a study that came out of Britain where they said that a pipe band is as loud as a jet engine. It is a loud instrument!

How then can a lullaby that's meant to put sweet little babies to sleep, be played on the bagpipes? Yet there's a tune that I play on the bagpipes that is in fact a lullaby.

The tune is called Suo Gan. It's actually a Welsh lullaby that's traced back to the year 1800.

It was originally written in Welsh, so here's the English translation of the lyrics:

Sleep, my baby, on my bosom, Warm and cozy, it will prove,
Round thee mother's arms are folding, In her heart a mother's love.
There shall no one come to harm thee, Naught shall ever break thy rest;
Sleep, my darling babe, in quiet, Sleep on mother's gentle breast.
Sleep serenely, baby, slumber, Lovely baby, gently sleep;
Tell me wherefore art thou smiling, Smiling sweetly in thy sleep?
Do the angels smile in heaven When thy happy smile they see?
Dost thou on them smile while slum'bring On my bosom peacefully.

It is a somewhat famous tune. Steven Spielberg used it in his movie Empire of the Sun. It's played at both the beginning:

And then again at the end of the movie:

Apparently the heavy metal band Savatage played a version of this song called Heal My Soul on their 1991 album Streets: A Rock Album. I can't find a video version of this song, the best I can do is steer you to where you can hear a clip of the song. It sounds like it's basically the same melody, so here are Savatage's lyrics:

I've been waiting, long forgotten Shipwrecked on a distant shore
Am I drifting, no more wanted Floating outward evermore
All the dreams that I have harbored In the labyrinth of my soul
Gone forever Not discarded Only sleeping Till they're whole
In the graveyard of my heart now Sleep the years that I've long sold
For their markers is there nothing Only ghost I cannot hold
And Father hear me I am tired Shall I waken In thy home
And hold me closer I am trying Sweet Lord Jesus Heal my soul

Strangely enough, I cannot for the life of me find a version of it on bagpipes. Some day when I have better audio/visual equipment (right now all I've got is the video program on my cell phone and digital camera), I will have to record myself playing it on bagpipes. It's a very lovely tune and I really like how my band plays it. We play it as part of a two tune set right now. The first tune is really fast, and than we break into Suo Gan, this gorgeous slow tune. The contrast between the two is awesome. Every time I play the two songs together, and I break into the hauntingly slow Suo Gan, it hits me hard.

Enjoy the tune, find a softer version if you really want to play it for your baby, and pipe on!


Presenting Piping Girl

So how did I come to be the only girl in my pipe band, and, let's face it, one of only a few girl pipers in a predominantly male activity?

It started with just a general interest in Scotland. The brogue, the country and its history, and more importantly, the music. It moved on to a love of bagpipe music after going to some local Scottish festivals.

My love of Scotland and the bagpipes became a sealed deal after I had the opportunity to live and work in Scotland for three months when I was in college. There's absolutely nothing like actually living in another country and culture. It was an amazing experience-castles, the Royal Mile, bagpipers in the Streets, Robert Burns dinners-I came home immediately wanting to go right back. Unfortunately, I've never made it back but I have had one of my Scottish friends visit me on several occasions.

After I returned I started thinking about how I could create a piece of the country that I had grown to love in my own life. Of course playing the bagpipes was right up there on my list of ways to do that. But finding a teacher for this pretty unique instrument was not easy to do.

Finally, about three years ago now, I happened to be leafing through my town's community education catalog and it was like those epiphany moments you read about in books or see on movies. A class was offering six bagpipe lessons for $90.

I signed up and off I went to my first lesson. The lessons were held at a local church. About twenty people signed up for the course, only one other girl besides me. At our first lesson we were treated with a bagpipe performance and a general overview. Basically, the band was looking for a way to increase their numbers and if we stuck with it beyond the six lessons we'd paid for, they would continue to teach us for free. Yes, you read that right, FOR FREE. The $90 we paid for the class covered the cost of our practice chanter and an instruction book, so until we bought the actual bagpipes, there would be no other costs.

This was like a dream come true. Until I got my practice chanter that is, and tried playing it at our first lesson.

In the pictures at the top of the post you will see my practice chanter. The picture on the top shows my practice chanter broken down so you can see the reed inside of it. I had never played an instrument with a reed in it before and I couldn't get the blasted thing to make a single note!

The picture on the bottom is the chanter all put together and ready to play. It sits next to my tv chair so that I can play whenever the spirit moves me. But I make sure to pack it up with my bagpipes each week for practice, our Pipe Major gets angry when he wants us to have a chanter practice and we don't have our chanters-for obvious reasons. It has seven holes on the top of it and one hole on the bottom of it.

It isn't an exact replica of the chanter I play on the actual bagpipes, my bagpipe chanter's holes are a bit further apart. But I start out learning any new tune on the chanter, and after it's memorized, I typically move it on to the bagpipes.
And that's the origin of Piping Girl!

I have a question for anyone that wanders on to this blog that I'd like you to comment on:

Have you ever wanted to play the bagpipes? If you've been able to follow through and play the bagpipes now, what's your finding the bagpipes story?

If you haven't been able to follow through, what has stood in your way?

Pipe on!


Bagpipes Rock the 1970's

I've written about bagpipe bands that that rock, but I haven't written about specific rock bands that feature the bagpipes in their songs. It's actually pretty amazing to look at all of the rock bands over history that make use of the bagpipes.

Since there are a lot of bands, I'll have to do several blogs on them. I thought a good way to break them up would be cover them by decades. The earliest bands I could find were from the 1970's so that's where we're starting.

The first band is The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. Alex Harvey was a Scottish rocker and toured all over the place in the 1970's. This is their song Anthem performed in 1974. The bagpipes come in quite dramatically at the end so wait for it!

Next up is Sir Paul McCartney himself with his band Wings performing Mull of Kintyre in 1977.

Finally, the ultimate bagpipe Rock 'n Roll song, AC/DC's It's a Long Way to the Top in an incredibly awesome 1976 promo.

A couple of members from my band played this song along with the CD last Saint Patrick's Day, the crowd went insane!

Pipe on! Or maybe I should say rock on!


Last Parade

My parade last weekend went really well. The weather was absolutely perfect, sunhsine and aorund 65 so not too hot, not too cold, and no rain! We had 6 total pipers and 4 drummers, so not the greatest turnout, but 6 pipers and 4 drummers make a lot of noise so I don't think our audience missed out on anything.

Interesting comments from the parade watchers included one small boy who yelled "Those men are wearing skirts!" and some teenage girls who said they "liked guys in kilts".

The last little bit of the parade had a pretty steep slope, and wouldn't you know it we started a new set of tunes just as we turned up the corner to go up the hill. So we were playing up the whole hill! Needless to say I was wiped out by the time we got to the top, my lips were shot and I didn't have the breath I needed to blow. I made a valiant effort to play the last two sets but I was finished.

Our last parade of the season. And the conclusion of my first successful parade season:woo-hoo me!

I took some good pictures of my piping gear this past weekend so I plan on having a whole bunch of anatomy of a bagpipe/r in future posts.

Pipe on!


Playing the Practice Chanter

I'm just back from bagpipe practice, we're actually supposed to call it "rehearsal" because we "practice" at home. Or so our Pipe Major says. But this week I've barely gotten any practicing in, so it really was practice for me.

Fortunately, we just played on practice chanters tonight. Sometime, maybe this weekend if I remember, I'm going to take a bunch of pictures of all my bagpipe gear so you can see some of the things I talk about on here. Like the practice chanter. You're probably wondering what that is. It's basically the glorified recorder you played in elementary school, except it has a reed.

At any rate, we're winding down our parade season so at practice/rehearsal we got a bunch of new tunes to work on. Whenever we get new tunes we always start on the practice chanter. It would be next to impossible to just launch into a new tune on the bagpipes. It takes a lot of energy and focus to play the bagpipes and I can pipe along on the practice chanter while I'm watching tv.

So I start out on the practice chanter and just learn the tune, then I start trying to memorize the tune and slowly start working on it on the actual bagpipes. All of the tunes have to be memorized and it's far easier to memorize them right from the start when I'm still on the chanter. And it's important to memorize them correctly which is also easier to do on the chanter. I've memorized a couple of tunes wrong on the chanter and it's so hard to unlearn wrong notes.

One more parade to go and then I need to get down to the work of learning and memorizing new tunes.

Pipe on!


Scotland's National Anthem

In a previous post I talked about how Scotland doesn't have a national anthem. The reason they don't have one has to do of course with their history with England. For anything that they needed an anthem for, they actually used God Save the Queen. One of the verses in God Save the Queen has a line about crushing the Scots, granted they hardly ever sing that verse, but I can still how it still offends.

As they've become more independent from England they've been trying to come to some sort of consensus on a national anthem. At any rate, I thought it might be interesting to blog on the most popular tunes in the running and set up a little poll off to the side.

Flower of Scotland
The first and most popular song is called Flower of Scotland. This song was written in 1967 by the folk group The Corries. The song is about Robert the Bruce's victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. This is the same Robert the Bruce from Braveheart and the Battle of Bannockburn starts in the very last scene of the movie. This song was adopted by the Scottish Football Association (that's soccer in the U.S.) as their official pre-game anthem. One of the cons to this is that it's super hard to play on the Great Highland Bagpipes. Here are The Corries singing:

Higland Cathedral
The second song is called Highland Cathedral. This song was written in 1982 by German composers Ulrich Roever and Michael Korb. This song was written as a tribute to Scots fighting and serving overseas. It's often played as a hymn just before a battle. There are two sets of lyrics. I believe these are the original lyrics:

There is a land far from this distant shore
Where heather grows and Highland eagles soar
There is a land that will live ever more
Deep in my heart, my Bonnie Scotland
Though I serve so far away I still see your streams, cities and dreams
I can't wait until the day
When I'll come home once more
And so Lord keep me from the harm of war
Through all its dangers and the battle's roar
Keep me safe until I'm home once more
Home to my own in Bonnie Scotland

Another version is
Land of my fathers, we will always be
Faithful and loyal to our own country.
In times of danger, we will set you free.
Lead you to glory and to victory.
Hail, Caledonia, to our ancient land.
In this Highland Cathedral let us stand as men.
Joining together with one dream to share.
God bless the people of this land so fair.
Gone is the past, let us start anew.
Let this hope of peace, always remain.
Children of Scotia, be strong and true.
Then our children will smile again, again, again, again.
Rise, Caledonia, let your voices ring
In this Highland Cathedral of our God and King.
Whom, joy and liberty, to all, will bring.
Come; let your heart, with love and courage, sing

Here's a nice version played by The Royal Irish Regiment:

A Man's a Man for a 'That
The third song is called A Man's a Man for a 'That. This song was written by Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet.

This is old Scots again, here are the lyrics:

Is there for honest poverty
That hings his head, an a' that?
The coward slave, we pass him by -
We dare be poor for a that!
For a' that, an a' that!
Our toils obscure, an a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The man's the gowd for a' that.
What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hodden grey, an a' that?
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine -
A man's a man for a' that.
For a' that, an a' that,
Their tinsel show, an a' that,
The honest man, tho e'er sae poor,
Is king o men for a' that.
Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an stares, an a' that?
Tho hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a cuif for a' that.
For a' that, an a' that,
His ribband, star, an a' that,
The man o independent mind,
He looks an laughs at a' that.
A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an a' that!
But an honest man's aboon his might -
Guid faith, he mauna fa' that!
For a' that, an a' that,
Their dignities, an a' that,
The pith o sense an pride o worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.
Then let us pray that come it may
(As come it will for a' that),
That Sense and Worth o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree an a' that.
For a' that, an a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That man to man, the world, o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that.

I like this version sung by Celtic Grooves:

Scotland the Brave
The fourth song in the running is Scotland the Brave. This song appeared around the turn of the 20th century and the lyrics were written by Scottish journalist Cliff Hanley around the 1950's.

Here are the lyrics:

Hark when the night is falling
Hear! hear the pipes are calling,
Loudly and proudly calling,
Down thro' the glen.
There where the hills are sleeping,
Now feel the blood a-leaping,
High as the spirits of the old Highland men.

Towering in gallant fame,
Scotland my mountain hame,
High may your proud standards gloriously wave,
Land of my high endeavour,
Land of the shining river,
Land of my heart for ever,
Scotland the brave.
High in the misty Highlands,
Out by the purple islands,
Brave are the hearts that beat
Beneath Scottish skies.
Wild are the winds to meet you,
Staunch are the friends that greet you,
Kind as the love that shines from fair maidens' eyes.

Far off in sunlit places,
Sad are the Scottish faces,
Yearning to feel the kiss
Of sweet Scottish rain.
Where tropic skies are beaming,
Love sets the heart a-dreaming,
Longing and dreaming for the homeland again.

I'm very amused by this version of it. Be prepared, it's called doggy dancing and in this video it's done to Scotland the Brave. I saw some of this interesting sport last winter:

Scots Wha Hae!
The last song in the running is Scots Wha Hae! I blogged about that recently so I won't repeat any of that here.

So there you have it. Of all of these songs, I only know how to play Scotland the Brave and Scots Wha Hae on the pipes and my vote would go to Scots Wha Hae.

After you've had a listen go and vote in the poll.

Pipe on!


I Want My Bagpiper!

Let's get one thing straight, I do NOT regularly watch the WE show Bridezillas. But every once in a while it's on and I get sucked in! If you've never watched the it, it's a reality show that follows crazy irrational women who are about to get married. I'm sure it's all staged, at least I hope it is because all of these women are so mean and selfish it's scary to think that they really might be out in the real world.

I got sucked into watching it the other day and this episode providentially came on, it is honestly hilarious!

Pipe on!


Piping Reflections

My first parade season with my band is just about done. I have one more parade coming up in early September and then we don't have another gig until St. Patrick's Day. My first time playing in public with the band was actually on St. Patrick's Day, so that will be my one year anniversary of playing with the actual band.

I'm still very self-conscious of how I sound when I'm playing all by myself. When I'm with the band all my wrong notes and uneven blowing is masked by the pipers around me. But by myself, it's a different story. Since my ultimate goal is to solo at weddings and funerals I hope that the more I play the with band the more confident I'll get. Even when I practice at home I'm self-conscious. Even though the bagpipes are an outdoor instrument, I practice them inside. I don't want to bug the neighbors and I'm not sure how I sound to other people.

I will however play outside at my parent's cabin. It's fairly isolated with just a few other cabins, including a rental cabin, that are directly around it.

This weekend I was visiting their cabin and of course I brought my bagpipes. We had driven down into the town briefly and saw this group of four somewhat elderly people sitting all in a line on the steps of the rental cabin. We were in town for about a half hour and when we drove back they were in the exact same place. My Mom and I thought I should get out my pipes and play for them, maybe lure them off of their front step.

So I got my pipes set up and played through about every tune I knew-no response from the rental cabin. I started walking up the road closer to their cabin and decided to pull out the big guns and play Amazing Grace. So I ripped through the tune and sure enough, when I was done playing I could hear them clapping and whistling.

When I was done I realized that while I was conscious of them being there, I was playing for them and I knew that I was doing a pretty decent job.

I guess I'm more confident then I thought.

Pipe on!


Scots Wha Hae!

I thought it might be interesting to once in a while blog about a tune that I play on the bagpipes. Pretty much all anyone thinks of when they think of bagpipe tunes are Amazing Grace and Danny Boy. But there are tons of other tunes with really great stories behind them.

When I was living in Scotland the song that I heard the most was called Scots Wha Hae! I came to think of it as their national anthem because they played it so much. Interestingly enough, Scotland doesn't have its own national anthem. The top song is Flower of Scotland but also in the running are Highland Cathedral, A Man's a Man for a 'That, Scotland the Brave, and of course Scots Wha Hae!. Sometimes this tune is called Bruce's Address at Bannockburn.

The lyrics were written by Scotland's favorite son, Robert Burns in 1793. He's America's favorite son at New Year's Eve as he also wrote the lyrics to the song Auld Lang Syne.

The lyrics are supposed to represent a speech given by Robert the Bruce to his Scottish army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. And yes, that's Robert the Bruce from the movie Braveheart and the Battle of Bannockburn is the battle at the very end of the movie. They won the battle and it set them on the road to English recognition of their Independence.

Burns wrote in old Scots, so when you first look at the lyrics they're hard to decipher. Here are the lyrics as he wrote them:

Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae your gory bed,
Or tae Victorie!
'Now's the day, and now's the hour:
See the front o' battle lour,
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and Slaverie!
'Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!
'Wha, for Scotland's king and law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or Freeman fa',
Let him on wi' me!
'By Oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!
'Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow! -
Let us do or dee!'

Here's a nice translation:
Scots, Who Have.
Scots, who have with Wallace bled,
Scots, who Bruce has often led,
Welcome to your gory bed
Or to victory!
Now is the day, and now is the hour:
See the front of battle lour (impending),
See approach proud Edward's power -Chains and slavery!
Who will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward's grave?
Who so base as be a slave?
-Let him turn, and flea!
Who for Scotland's King and Law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand or freeman fall,
Let him follow me!
By oppression's woes and pains,
By your sons in servile chains,
We will drain our dearest veins
But they shall be free!
Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty is in every blow!
Let us do or die!

The tune he wrote it to is Hey Tuttie Tatie which is the tune that was supposedly played to Bruce's army at the actual battle. I couldn't find a video clip of a bagpipe band playing this tune but I found a great fiddle group. Scots Wha Hae is the third tune and they sing the lyrics too so you can see how they fit in with the music.

Pipe on!


Jazzy Bagpipes

You don't typically think of bagpipes as jazz instruments. But the beauty of musical instruments is that they are hardly ever what you think and sometimes the best music comes from turning traditional sounds right on their head. I dearly love the sound of the Red Hot Chilli Pipersand as part of my piping journey I am exploring how bagpipes are used in all types of music.

Here's a little bit of what I found on the intersection of bagpipes and jazz.

Pied Piper of Jazz
Rufus Harley, Philadelphia jazz musician. Self proclaimed only bagpipe jazz musician. He put out a couple of albums back in the 1960's including the appropriately named Scotch and Soul. A fun fact is that he once gave Muhammed Ali bagpipe lessons.
Here's a link to a nice video biography on him (the embedding link is disabled):

Gunhild Carling
This Swedish jazz musician plays a bunch of different instruments. In fact, she's known for playing three trumpets at the same time! I found this awesome video of her. She does a bit of talking and I have no idea what she's saying but her playing is awesome!

She is not playing the Great Highland Bagpipes, it's either border pipes or small pipes. I'd like to invest in a set of border or small pipes at some point in time so it's neat to see what people can do with them.

Pipe on jazz musicians!


Attack of the Killer Bagpipes

I am a huge bibliophile and sometimes I like to go to search engines like Amazon and Barnes and Noble and type in random words to see what they come up with. I put the word 'bagpipes' (I know, shocking) in there recently and noticed that there is an interesting assortment of children's books that focus on the good old bagpipes.

I don't own any of these books, I haven't read any of them either, so I have no idea what their content is like, but they sound like they'd be crazy fun to read.

Max Power and the Bagpipes by Suse Moore and Andy Elkerton. Max and his sheepdog Haggis deal with a power outage when the circus comes to town. This book seems to also be centered around some environmental conservation themes. Personally I think it'd be cooler if the kid's name was Haggis. Then Haggis could play the bagpipes...hee hee.

Noddy and the Magic Bagpipes by Enid Blyton. The title alone makes this one a winner. Noddy is a young boy (who looks like he belongs at the North Pole) who is taking bagpipe lessons but he doesn't practice...and guess what? His bagpipes are magical and start running around town causing mass chaos. Who will stop them?? I think a nice adult spin on this book would be staged around an attack of magical killer bagpipes.

Sandy Chisholm's Chanter Lessons by Scott Williams.
Set in Nova Scotia, Canada in the 1950's, Sandy is a young boy who learns to play the bagpipes. He starts on the chanter of course, and I would hope that by the end of the book he's on to the pipes. Sounds like a nice juvenile historical fiction book.

And then there's a whole slew of mystery books.

The classic is the Nancy Drew: The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes by Carolyn Keene. I've never read a Nancy Drew book, but I might have to give this one a try. Nancy troops all over Scotland, culminating in a kilt clad Nancy climbing Ben Nevis and playing the bagpipes. Sounds like a good one.

Mystery of the Waterloo Bagpipes by Donald B. Willis. This is a newer book, published in 2001. But it's set in 1957 in Ohio at their Scottish Highlands Games. A set of bagpipes played at the Battle of Waterloo is a focal point of the games, the priceless pipes are stolen and five pipers take on the case.

Mystery of the Missing Bagpipes by Kathy Lynn Emerson. This one's set in Maine. A set of valuable bagpipes is (wait for it) missing! A young kid is the suspect so he teams up with another kid and the duo work the case. Happy reading and pipe on!


Kilts Used as Protest Tools

Anyone wearing a kilt stands out in a crowd. Even though it's really just a special skirt to me, I've still had people stop me in the street and compliment my kilt and want to know more about it. So far I've blogged about what’s under the kilt and kilts being banned in schools and Poland but I ran across an intereting article in USA Today describing how kilts are being used as a protest tool by air traffic controlloers

Check out part of the article, it's from June:

Male air traffic controllers don dresses in protest
CLEVELAND (AP) — Air traffic controllers locked in a staffing dispute with the government are upset about a dress code and have shown their displeasure in high-flying fashion, with some men protesting by wearing women's clothing.

The Federal Aviation Administration's dress code, instituted in September, bars jogging outfits, halter tops, shorts and jeans. Approved clothing items include dress slacks, casual shirts with collars and sweaters. Midnight-shift workers are exempt...

But a few times in the past year, male controllers have worn dresses or kilts to work, according to the controllers' union, the 15,000-member National Air Traffic Controllers Association. The point was to illustrate the silliness of the dress code because nothing bars male controllers from wearing dresses, union spokesman Doug Church said.

The dress code is typical of professional environments, said FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

At the FAA's Cleveland Air Route Control Center in Oberlin, one controller was disciplined because he wore an orange shirt that a supervisor said "looked like a highway traffic cone," and another was told his aquamarine pants were "not gender appropriate" for a man, Church said...

In their larger negotiations, the controllers are upset about changes in schedules, no mandatory breaks every two hours, and pay issues, including a pay cut for new hires, Church said...

I don't know much about the whole air traffic controller issue. I don't think their biggest issue is their dress code, they're just using that to draw attention to the other things they want.

In my personal opinion, give them what they want! They have such an incredibly stressful and important job and it alarms me to think that air traffic controllers are being distracted by breaks and pay issues while directing the plane I might be flying in around the sky.

I'm quite glad to see that the kilt is once again being put to good use as a protest tool.

Pipe on!


Pipes in Strange Places

I've played my bagpipes in a church, my house, parades, eating establishments, bars, and that's about it. A friend of mine who goes out of town on business practices his bagpipes in graveyards, quiet and peaceful, but I think I'd freak myself out trying that.

Check out this video of a guy who carried his bagpipes up the Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. This is an 8.5 mile trek with a 4,800 foot elevation gain and he still managed to play some fine tunes:

This second video comes with a warning: speedo. You have to see it to believe it.

Pipe on!

Kilts Banned

The first time that kilts were banned was back in 1745 when the English were trying to clamp down on the rebellious Scots.

Wearing a kilt always draws a lot of attention.

I ran across some interesting articles on more recent kilt bans.

In 2005 a boy in Missouri wanted to wear a kilt to a formal dance. His school said it didn't fit the dress code and allegedly said that he looked like a "clown".

This article is interesting in that it gives some other examples of kilts and schools:

Other schools around the country also have wrestled with the issue. A principal in Victoria, Texas, ordered two boys into "more appropriate" attire when they wore kilts to school in 1992, saying: "I know kilts. Those weren't kilts and the boys aren't Scots."

In 1993, a student in Fayette County, Ga., was not allowed to enter his prom at McIntosh High School because he showed up in a kilt and refused to change clothes.

And while they weren't trying to dress in kilts, a few boys were allowed to wear skirts to class at Franklin Community High School in Indiana in 1997, when a superintendent said different people express themselves in different ways.

Here's the article:

This Missouri case got a lot of attention. An internet petition was started and a radio station flew him to Scotland to trace his Scottish roots. In 2006 the school apologized to the boy and said he could wear his kilt to future dances.

In 2005 Cambridge University in England came under fire when they banned kilts and other military dress at their graduation ceremonies.

This past spring a 13 year old boy in Florida wanted to wear a kilt to his middle school's prom. The school warned him not to wear it but he did anyway. They wouldn't let him into the dance until someone brought him a pair of dress pants. Their rationale was that his kilt didn't fit the dress code. Here's the original article so you can see him dressed in all his kilted glory.

Poland is apparently considering banning kilts due to lewd and drunken behavior by vacationing kilt wearers:
Pants will be banned next no doubt.

Pretty interesting.

I set some polls up on the right sidebar, leave your vote and drop me some comments on this post. And hey, if anyone knows how to put a poll right into this blog, drop me a line, I can't quite figure out how to do it.

Should kilts be banned at school dances? Should Poland ban kilts? Should schools be allowed to ban the wearing of kilts in their dress codes?? Tell me what you think.

Pipe on!


The One With Joey's New Brain

I loved the television show Friends. In fact, when I was in living in Scotland I remember some of the kids I worked with asking me if I had been to Central Perk. And, since they were a season or so behind they asked me for show updates.

There is an excellent episode of Friends featuring (you knew this was coming), the bagpipes. The episode is in the seventh season and is called "The One with Joey's New Brain" because this is the episode where Joey finds out that his coma stricken soap opera character is going to get a brain transplant.

So how do the bagpipes figure into all of this? Well, since this is towards the end of the shows run, Chandler and Monica are planning their wedding. Ross decides that since Chandler is Scottish, he should play the bagpipes at their wedding. And he doesn't want to play any old song, he wants to play "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang.

Reality obviously has to be suspended here, you can't just decide to suddenly play the bagpipes and magically it happens. I stayed on the practice chanter (basically a glorified recorder) for a year before I even got my bagpipes and from everything I've read, this is pretty typical...or at least that's what I tell myself.

At any rate, it's a tv show episode, and it's pretty funny.

Here's the actual clip.

Here's a bloopers clip that I found, it's pretty funny.

Bagpipes don't make it into too many mainstream tv shows so I'm happy to celebrate a bit when one does.
Enjoy, and pipe on!


Stardust Movie Review

I saw the movie Stardust on Friday. I didn't know a lot about it but it had a good cast, Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Sienna Miller, and Peter O'Toole. The story is based off of a Neil Gamon novella and sounded interesting. I did have reservations though, I like some fantasy based movies but there are a lot that have disappointed me. So off I went with a somewhat open mind tainted by a hint of skepticism.

I was pleasantly surprised and definitely give it two thumbs up. The cast came through and the story was great! It's your basic boy thinks he's in love with girl and goes off on a journey to prove his love. Along the way he encounters pirates, witches, prince's, ghosts, and a fallen star. And of course, like any good coming of age story he learns a lot about himself and what's important in life along the way.

I read that the director's original pitch for that movie was The Princess Bride meets Pirates of the Caribbean and that's an accurate and succinct description of the movie.

And because you have no reason to trust my movie reviews since this is the first one I've done on this blog, I like Rotten Tomatoes movie reviews for a second opinion.
The official movie site is also useful to check out.

When I got home I kept thinking about the movie (the trademark of a very good movie) and I found myself remembering how beautiful the cinematography was. So I looked up where it was shot and found out that, lo and behold, a great deal of it was filmed in the Scottish Highlands and on the Isle of Skye which is an island off of the west coast of Scotland.

Here's the movie trailer, you can see some of the wonderful scenery in the last bit of the preview:

So, if you want to watch a well casted, well crafted, and well told story set against the backdrop of beautiful Scotland, off to this movie with you!

Has anyone else seen it? I'd love to hear other opinions.

Pipe on!

World Pipe Band Championship Discrepancy??

Hmmm...there seems to be some discrepancy over the third and fourth place spots at the World Pipe Band Championships yesterday. Just about every single source I checked puts the House of Edgar Shotts & Dykehead band of Scotland in third place and the 78th Fraser Highlanders of Canada in fourth place. Pipes/Drums online, BBC online, and the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association itself all report the first three spots to be the same as last year.

But, I subscribe to google news alerts and one of the stories coming from the is reporting that House of Edgar Shotts and Dykehead placed fourth and the 78th Fraser Highlanders third. This is a big deal because it would mean that a Scottish based band didn't make it into the top three. Here's the link:

I suspect that this error is based off of what I said yesterday, that there was some discrepancy in some of the results when they were first posted online.

I'll keep an eye on this.
Pipe on.


World Pipe Band Championships Results

No surprises from today's
World Pipe Band Championships:

1st Field Marshal Montgomery (Northern Ireland)
2nd Simon Fraser University (Canada)
3rd House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead (Scotland)

The top three placed exactly as last year.

The 78th Fraser Highlanders (Canada) placed 4th. They were the first non-Scottish band to win back in 1987.

The Strathclyde Police (Scotland) placed 5th. They were my picks for number one, I was hoping for the upset, oh well.

The LA Scots, I think the only US band in the group placed 11th (out of 14 bands).

I haven't been able to find a whole lot on the Internet in terms of other information about the day's events. I listened to some of the commentary on BBC Scotland and there should be some video posted tomorrow night on BBC. The only interesting thing I did run across was that initially the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association posted incorrect results on its site.

Pipe on Field Marshal Montgomery, congratulations on a job well done!


World Pipe Band Championships 2007 Preview

The World Pipe Band Championships starts tomorrow! This is like the Super Bowl or World Series for competitive bagpipe bands. It's a one day event and takes place in Glasgow, Scotland. Tomorrow morning bands will compete in a qualifying round. The top bands will then move on to compete in a second round in the afternoon and then a winner is declared.

There are 8 different levels of competitive bands that compete, Grade One being the top level.

This competition started in 1930 and the Grade One title stayed in Scotland until 1987 when the Canadian 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band won it.

This year there will be 8,000 pipers and drummers (we can't forget them!) from 250 bands and 17 different countries. Let's have a look at the Grade One competition this year:

78th Highlanders Halifax Citadel – Canada
Australia Highlanders – Australia
Clan Gregor Society
St Laurence O’Toole – Eire
Robert Wiseman Dairies Vale of Atholl
Tayside Police
Dysart and Dundonald
Scottish Power
Strathclyde Police
The House of Edgar Shotts and Dykehead
Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia
Lothian and Borders Police
Bleary and District
Field Marshal Montgomery
Alberta Caledonia Pipe Band – Canada
Ballindery Bridge Pipe Band
Manawatu Scottish Society Pipe Band – New Zealand
Scottish Lion – 78th Fraser Highlanders – Canada
Simon Fraser University – Canada
Los Angeles Scots – USA
Windsor Police – Canada

Bearing in mind that I really am a relative newbie in terms of looking at competitive piping, here are the bands too watch for at tomorrow's competition.

There are basically the "big three" in the world of bagpiping. These three bands have consistently fallen in the top three at the World Pipe Band Championship. Since 1998 each of these bands has placed somewhere in the top three, talk about domination!

The Big Three bands are:

Field Marshal Montgomery band from Northern Ireland. They won the European Championship earlier this year and they won the World's for the fifth time last year.

Simon Fraser University Pipe Band from Canada. They placed second at the World's last year and have won the World's four times, the last time being in 2001. They are one of only three bands outside of the UK to have won at the Worlds.

The House of Edgar Shotts and Dykehead Pipe Band, also known as Shotts and Dykehead. They placed third at the Worlds last year and won the Worlds fifteen times. The last time they won was in 2005. This band is also the oldest band, it was formed in 1910. They also placed third at the European Championships.

While these bands are considered to be the Big Three, I would also say that Strathclyde Police of Glasgow is a band to watch for. They are the world's most successful competitive band, having won the World Championships twenty times. The last time they won was in 1991, but they did place second at the European Championships this year. Pipes/Drums commissioned a panel of world experts for their picks, and guess what, they picked the Strathclyde Police band to win it all! They picked Field Marshal Montgomery for second, and Simon Fraser for third. You can read more about their findings here:

If you're interested in media coverage for the World Pipe Band Championships, check this web site out: If you don't have access to BBC television your best bet is to listen to the Pipeline on the BBC Radio Player online. It looks like you can listen to it live or just catch it on their site, they'll keep the feed up for 7 days. You can also use this site to access Radio Scotland which will have highlights from the competition on Sunday. This site will also have video clip highlights on Sunday.

Oh yes, and the picks from this rookie?? I'm going to agree with Pipes/Drums and go for the upset:
1. Strathclyde Police
2. Field Marshal Montgomery
3. Simon Fraser

While you're waiting for tomorrow, check out Field Marshal Montgomery after their win last year, you can literally feel their excitement at winning come through in their music!!

Pipe on!

Wanted: People Who've Been to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo continues in full force. Some videos from this year's performances have been loaded on to youtube so I thought I'd post a few here. I am green with envy just watching these!

This first video is short but check out Edinburgh Castle off to the right:

The second video is a bit longer but listen to those pipes!

I've never really given much thought to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo before, but writing this blog really makes me pay attention to what is going on in the grand wide world of bagpiping.

I wish I could find a blog by someone who has been to this. If anyone out there in cyberland has been to this, drop me a line, I'd love to hear about their experiences. One thing I was wondering about (and their web site doesn't help me here) is how the program works each day of the tattoo. It looks like it lasts the whole month of August, so do the same bands perform every day? I also wonder how they choose the bands that perform as it seems to be quite an assortment of pipe bands.
At any rate, enjoy the videos and pipe on!!


Irn-Bru Two!

A little while back I blogged about Irn-Bru this awesome pop made in Scotland but unfortunately not available here in the US. I just wanted to write a quick update to let you know that I posted a couple of their commercials with the original post. Irn-Bru has the craziest advertising campaign that I've ever seen. There are tons of others on youbue. At any rate, check out my original Irn-Bru blog and have a look at the videos.
Pipe on!


Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The premier bagpipe event is taking place right now, The 58th Edinburgh Military Tattoo This is basically a huge show put on by military bands. It runs from August 3-25 and it always sells out.

Taking a look at their program here are some of the highlights:

Massed pipes and drums from Scotland, Australia, and Oman.
A marching corps from a girl's high school in Taipei, Thailand.
A fife and drum ensemble from New England here in the states.
Highland dancers from Scotland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.
The Imps Motorcycle Display Team (sounds interesting!).
A band from Russia.
At the end a huge 1,000+ performer finale.

Some other interesting things I found out...

The word "tattoo" dates to the 1600's. Apparently at night the drummers were sent into town to encourage the inn keepers to turn off the taps and get the soldiers back to their barracks for the night.

The first Edinburgh Military Tattoo was in 1950.

217,000 see the Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The US equivalent of this event is the Virginia International Tattoowhich takes place in April (the Imps Motorcycle Display Team is booked here as well).

Basically, this event sounds awesome. And if you don't like the music, it takes place at the same time as Edinburgh's Fringe Festival, a huge performing arts festival.

Attending the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is definitely on my life list of things to do before I die.

Pipe on!


Bagpipes Go to the Movies

One of the permanent links on my blog takes you to the Bagpipes Go to the Movies website but I've never really blogged about it. To someone like me it's really a phenomenal site, and even if you're not a bagpipe fanatic like me it really is a novel site and worth checking out.

They have a nice user friendly alphabetical listing of the movies and also detail where in the movie the bagpipes are featured. They don't just limit themselves to movies, there are a few commercials and tv shows mentioned as well.

It's pretty amazing how many movies have bagpipes playing both on and off screen, and they really do cross all movie genres.

Some of my favorite movies that are included in their database are:

Backdraft-funeral scene with pipers

Bedknobs and Broomsticks-I need to watch this movie again, I don't remember this scene very well, but apparently phantom pipers fight off a German invasion.

Braveheart-awesome soundtrack!

Dead Poet's Society-A piper is featured at the start of the movie and in a couple of other spots in the movie. One scene features a man playing the practice chanter which is what all bagpipers start out on and looks like a recorder but with a reed. According to the website this is the only commercial movie that features the practice chanter.

Far and Away-another awesome soundtrack!

Ferris Bueller's Day Off-Pipers are featured in the parade scene.

The Fugitive-Another parade scene.

Gallipoli-An awesome early Mel Gibson movie, about the WWI battle of the same name.

Her Majesty Mrs. Brown-A really unique movie about the relationship between Queen Victoria (played by Judi Dench) and her servant John Brown (played by awesome Scottish actor/comedian Billy Connolly).
Highlander-I liked the first one the best and the tv series.

Iron Will-I'll have to re-watch this one, I guess there's a pipe band at the start of the dog sled race.

Lawrence of Arabia-short scene with pipers.

Out of Africa-Apparently a piper plays the wedding march on the pipes, I'll have to check this one out again too.

A River Runs Through It-I dearly love this movie, there's a piper in the picnic scene.

Rob Roy-A definite R rated movie but awesome fight scenes.

Titanic-Another good soundtrack.

Willow-And yet another good soundtrack, and an awesome movie starring Val Kilmer.

There are many other movies mentioned, check them out for yourself. Some weekend I'll have a bagpipe movie marathon, coming to a blog near you!

Have fun and pipe on!


Piping Possible

Well I did it. I lasted the whole parade with my drones open and whaling away-yay me! It was definitely a challenge and I had the corks tucked into my pocket just in case, but I didn't need them, I wasn't even tempted.

Every parade is interesting and different, which is a great part of the fun. It's ineat to see all of the different floats and people who participate in the parade.

As we were getting our gear out one of the bass drums rolled down a short steep hill and nearly hit a van, a drum roll-tee hee.

After we tuned up we had a nice conversation with some guys on some old school bicycles, the kind with a huge front wheel and little back wheel. He talked to us for about a half hour about his bicycle, he's logged 11,000 miles on the thing! And I thought we were somewhat obsessive fanataical about the bagpipes!

The parade itself went well. It was a little muggy but I think my pumping adrenaline nullifed the heat. This parade was the best for me in terms of marching, by that I mean I was in step the majority of the time. And I played every single tune. At all the other parades I've had to take a break and just not play one or two the tunes.

After the parade was done the other floats must've had tons of leftover candy and thought to themselves, Look there's a bagpipe band, their decibel bending noise has bugged us the whole parade! Let's throw bubble-gum, suckers and smarties at them! They only have one free arm afterall so they won't be able to catch it and then they'll have to squat down in their kilts!

Then when we were walking back up the parade route to our cars another float pelted us with freezies, who in the world throws out freezies at a parade? I had to shield myself with my bagpipes!

But all in all it was a fun parade experience.

Pipe on!
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