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: http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=437362007
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 Scotsman.com 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: http://heritage.scotsman.com/news.cfm?id=1268762007

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: http://www.pipesdrums.com/Contents.aspx?M=News&AT=News&AID=13983

If you're interested in media coverage for the World Pipe Band Championships, check this web site out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/music/worlds07/ 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!


What's Under Your Kilt?

People holler this out to my band at parades and at one St. Patrick's Day venue a lady even lifted up the kilt of one of the guys in our band. People are obsessed! No one ever asks me of course, because I'm a girl, so I'm just wearing a very pleated skirt.

Here's some interesting information I found on kilts:

The first time kilts were documented in history is after 1575.

The kilt was mostly worn by those living in the Highlands of Scotland, apparently the lowlanders looked down on it because it was worn by the Highland barbarians.

In its original form it was very large, belted around the waist and fastened at the left shoulder, rather then just around the waist like today's kilts.

A lot of people think that the kilt doesn't really fit Scotland's cold and rainy climate, but there were a lot of advantages to the kilt. It offered freedom of movement, it could double as a blanket, and, because it was made of wool, it was water proof.

After Bonnie Prince Charlie's defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 both wearing the kilt and playing the bagpipes were outlawed.

The kilt that's around today is known as the "little kilt" because it just goes around the waist. It dates to the 1720's and was adopted by the British military which is a huge reason that they're still around today. A bit of interesting irony there I'd say!

So what is under the kilt? Ask if you dare, but be prepared for a possibly objectionable comeback, pipers have had ages to develop comebacks and there are some pretty raunchy ones out there!

Pipe on!

Good Eats

I found this neat blog called Girl Alive. It's about this American woman living in Scotland. Really well written and fun to read blog and lots of postings. One of the things she's doing is reviewing traditional Scottish food, which reminded me of some of the food I ate when I was living in Scotland. I really need to find my journals that I kept because I know I kept a detailed list of the all of the interesting food I ate when I was there. But here's a short list of a few things I remember:

Irn-Bru: I raved on and on about this in a previous post so I'll restrain myself here.

Haggis: I was there for Robert Burns' birthday (January 25) and got to attend a Burns dinner. It was pretty much a requirement to eat this and I cleaned my plate. I think they put enough spices into it to hide what it really was (the leftover intestines of a sheep) and it really was unexpectedly spicy. I don't think I'd eat it every day but it was fun to try. Interesting side note, I saw a Haggis Pizza on a menu somewhere in Scotland.

Cock-a-Leekie Soup-I had this at the Burns supper, basically a lentil soup.

Meat Pies-I ate these every day for lunch. I've also managed to find them at Scottish festivals here in the US. They're kind of like a pot pie but much, much better and with no vegetables. The crust is awesome and they're filled with sausages.

Jelly Babies-My favorite candy I found over there. If found these at one Scottish festival in the US but that was several years ago. A sugary gummy candy that still makes my mouth water thinking about it.

Great, I've made myself hungry.

Pipe on!


To March or Not to March

This is my first summer of marching in parades with my bagpipe band. We only do 1-2 parades a month plus a few other performances throughout the summer.

I've never played an instrument that required me to march before, and guess what, I can't really march. If the tune is a 4/4 it's obviously a lot easier, but even then I often have to do a bit of a hop and a skip to get back into step.

This is all compounded by the fact that I also have to focus on blowing and remembering memorized tunes. Plus I have to make sure I'm not going to run into the rank in front of me, that there's enough space between me and the guys on either side of me, ignore the shouts of "What's under the kilt!" from parade watchers, and dodge the occasional horse nugget or child making a mad dash into the street for candy.

I will confess that I have been cheating a bit on this by putting corks into my 3 drones, avoiding the additional challenge of marching and striking in.

I have a parade this weekend and a lot of guys in the band can't come so I think I'll have to go sans corks.

Wish me luck and pipe on!


Minnesota Bridge Collapse-Bagpipes and Tragedy

I've been watching the news coverage on the bridge collapse in Minnesota. Although they don't know the exact cause yet, and it doesn't sound like it's terrorism, the images of the smoking ruins still remind me of the images that came out on 9/11.

Did you know that 70 members of NYC Fire Department's bagpipe band played at 450 services in the year following 9/11? Wow. Sometimes they would play at a memorial service, and then later, remains would be recovered and they would play again at that same person's funeral service.

Kerry Sheridan followed the band in that year and wrote a book called Bagpipe Brothers that I will have to check out.

A guy in my band recently said that the song that the pipers often played was The Green Hills of Tyrol (aka. The Scottish Soldier) which is one of the first tunes I memorized on the bagpipes. It certainly gives that tune new meaning.

My thoughts and prayers to the families and people affected by the bridge collapse.
Pipe on.


Why Bagpipes at a Funeral?

Yes this funeral is still on my mind. I'm afraid in my last post I missed an obvious question, why are bagpipes so often played at funerals? The most requested tune after all is Amazing Grace, a traditional funeral song, and they really are associated with funerals.

Why bagpipes at a funeral?

Part of the answer might be that they are very mournful sounding.

But the only historical answer I could find relates to when the Irish first came to America. When they came they faced huge discrimination, signs reading NINA (No Irish Need Apply) were posted and it was very difficult for them to get jobs. They were forced to take the jobs that no one else wanted, jobs that were considered dirty and dangerous like police officers and firefighters. These dangerous jobs often resulted in deaths so at their funerals the Irish used their traditions, which included playing the bagpipes.

From there I guess it just spread. Interesting.

Pipe on!

A Piper's Funeral

Today I went to a funeral for someone in my bagpipe band. A couple of the guys from my band played their pipes. This is on my mind today, and when I was sitting at the funeral I was thinking about what kinds of funeral traditions the Scots have. Here's what I found.

From what I read, funerals in Scotland today are similar to funerals in America today. But I did find some interesting 19th century traditions.

At the moment of death the windows were flung open to help the soul out of the house. They were kept open for an instant and then closed so the soul couldn't come back in.

The mirrors were covered so the soul wouldn't be confused and would leave the house.

On the day of the funeral a 7 course meal was hosted by the family of the deceased. The men would feast in the barn and the women in the house. After the feast a ceremony was held to remember the deceased.

Everyone would file past the coffin, touching the deceased's brow to prevent being haunted by the deceased's spirit. The coffin was closed and 8 women would lift it up. The chairs the coffin was resting on would be turned over in case a ghost was sitting in one of them. The coffin left the house feet first so the spirit couldn't find its way home.

From the house, the rest of the funeral procession was on foot and the coffin was carried by men. Apparently sometimes the procession could get a little wild (due the feasting and drinking the night before), sometimes the coffin got lost and other times different processions would get into fights with each other.

On the way to the burial site 'cairns' had been built, these were basically piles of rocks that the funeral could be rested on.

Only men attended the actual burial. (Remember these are 19th century customs!)

Some interesting traditions, it sounds like in general, funerals in 19th century Scotland were filled with a lot of different emotions.

Pipe on!
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