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!
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