Piping Girl's Christmas Picks

I've been watching the snow gently falling all day. Actually, the wind just picked up and it doesn't look so gentle right now. But it still puts me in mind of Christmas. So, from my snowy neck of the woods to yours, Merry Christmas!

Even though it's probably too late for you to get any of these gifts for the piper on your list, I thought it would still be fun to tell you about the piping picks that made my Christmas list.

First is a really neat t-shirt that you can buy from the official site of the Proclaimers. Although I don't think that they ever incorporate bagpipes into any of their music, The Proclaimers are my favorite Scottish band. The t-shirt has Edinburgh Castle on it, and also features the St. Andrews flag:

Next up is a bagpipe tune book called Irish Tunes Old and New by acclaimed Pipe Major Terry Tully. The tune in this book that I'm particularly interested in is called "Pumpkin's Fancy":

I just think it's an awesome tune!

A couple of other tune books I wouldn't mind having are Santa's Favourite Piping Tunes:

and Privy Piping.

Both books would just be fun to have when I feel like messing around and having fun with tunes that people might recognize.

There's not really any other gear I need for either my bagpipe or my uniform. I've got a nice bagpipe case and my band just picked up the tab for nice new vests for us. The only other bagpiping thing that I would REALLY like to get is a set of smallpipes. I'm still in the very early exploratory and saving up of money stage, so I don't know what kind I would buy...or if I would go with a bellows powered set...anyone out there want to talk up their smallpipes?

At any rate, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all!

Pipe on!


Scotland Post Olympics Update

The Beijing Olympics are over...I love the Olympics so much I am in mourning. Sad, sad, Piping Girl. So very sad.

BUT I was so pleased to see how prominent Scotland ended up being at the Beijing Olympics. And I don't mean just the athletes.

Opening Ceremony-What's That Sound??
I was watching the Opening Ceremony marathon and started when, as the first of the European athlete's marched in, the bagpipes struck in and began playing Scotland the Brave. About every 15-20 minutes they'd come in again and play a bunch of tunes. The silly American commentators never said a word about them, and there was no footage of them either, so I thought, maybe this was where China decided to save a dime and it was a recording.

But later, I was excited to find out that it was an actual bagpipe band. And an amateur band at that! And those stupid commentators went on and on about all sorts of random facts, you'd think they would've commented on the awesome musicians playing their hearts out on the biggest stage in the world. At the very least, they could have given them a little camera love.

It turns out it was the Mains of Fintry Pipe Band from Dundee, Scotland.

It turns out the Chinese were looking for music that represented Europe and they decided on the bagpipes! They heard the Mains of Fintry Band in France and were impressed enough to invite them to play at the opening ceremony. Apparently, at first they thought it was a joke, so they didn't reply to the invitation at first. But when they accepted, they were sworn to secrecy for the past year. What a secret!!

I found this story to be particularly inspirational because I play in a very amateur band. It's good to see these kinds of bands get their chance to shine in the sun too. Granted, the Olympics were very close to World Bagpipe Championships, so perhaps a higher graded band would've turned down an invitation, but I have yet to read anywhere that the Chinese extended an invitation to a higher grade band. Good on you Mains of Fintry!!

Scottish Athlete's Find Success!!
So, the athlete's that I featured in my previous post fared really well at the Olympics. I did watch some of the cycling events, and Chris Hoy found great success. He won a gold medal in the Sprint, Team Sprint, and the Keirin events. In fact, he was so successful that he was honored by the British contingent at the Closing Ceremony where he carried the flag for the most successful British team in 100 years.

Lee McConnell also did well. In the 400m she made it to the semifinals where she ultimately placed 19th in the semifinal round.

Other Scots who fared well were:

David Florence: earned a silver in the Slalom Canoe event.

Katherine Granger: earned a silver in Rowing Quadruple Skull.

One of the best Olympic-Scotland stories I've run across is about a guy named Andrew Aitkens who was practicing his bagpipes outside an (unbeknownst to him) secure area in Beijing. He was practicing up for a charity walk along the Great Wall. A small crowd gathered around him and than all of a sudden a bunch of police cars pulled up. The poor guy almost got arrested because the Chinese thought his bagpipes were a weapon! Thankfully a bystander stepped in and explained that it was a musical instrument, and (at least in this moment in time) not an instrument of war. I guess they don't have too many bagpipe players in China!

Pipe on!


Scotland in the 2008 Beijing Olympics

I dearly love the Olympics, I should've put an olympic countdown clock up on this blog now that I think about it. So I thought it would be interesting to do a little digging into the history of Scotland's Olympic athletes and look at their prospects for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

The Summer Olympics started in 1896 but the first Scottish medals didn't come until 1900 when they won silver and bronze of course. (Golf is no longer an Olympic sport today by the way.) Their first gold came in a big way in 1908 when 5 Scots brought home the gold in steeplechase, 400m, coxless fours (a rowing event), water polo, and 12 metre class (sailing). And home wasn't far away as the 1908 Olympics were in London.

Since than, there's been a Scot who has medaled in just about every Olympics. The only one's they didn't medal in were 1932 and 1936. There were even some Scots on the 1920 tug of war team that brought home the gold...obviously no longer an Olympic sport, but it brought a smile to my face :)

There are many notable Scottish Olympic athletes. Track star Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame of course. Shirley Robertson picked up 2 gold medals for sailing in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, the only Scotswoman to have ever won 2 gold medals. And Rodney Pattison is the most decorated Scottish Olympian, winning 2 golds and 1 silver medal between 1968-1972.

Scotland has always competed as part of Great Britain's Olympic team. But it seems there was some effort by Scotland to bring their own seperate Olympic team to the 2008 summer games. They do have their own parliament after all but they are still not entirely independent from England. It seems that the issue was brought up because Scotland's Football (aka. soccer) Association didn't want to participate in a British soccer team for the Olympics.

Former British Olympic Association chairman Sir Craig Reedie had this to say about the whole situation, "The International Olympic Committee charter says that to take part in an Olympic Games you must have a national Olympic committee. You only get a national Olympic committee when it's granted to you by the IOC. When Scotland is an independent nation, I am 99.999% sure the IOC will grant them an NOC, but not before then. Until then, no Scottish athlete is disadvantaged by the current situation."

The official website for Great Britain's 2008 Summer Olympic team is a bit confusing. You can search their athlete's by country, but the results include both country of birth and country of residence. So while they list 25 athlete's as being from Scotland only 18 were actually born in Scotland. Two were born in other countries but basically grew up in Scotland. Mostly men (there are only 5 women) Scotland is represented in swimming, canoe, rowing, shooting, cycling, steeplechase, track, tennis, kayak, triatholon, and field hockey. Their dominant sport is swimming where they have 5 athlete's competing.

Scottish athlete's to watch for seem to be Chris Hoy, 9 time world champion in cycling and Lee McConnell who runs the 400m has also picked up a lot of press.

I'll mostly be cheering on Team USA but the beauty of the Olympics is the international stage and being able to cheer on international players so if I recognize a Scot I'll definitely give them a shout out.

Pipe on!


Carillon Piping

I'm afraid I haven't done quite as much bagpiping this summer as I'd like. Certainly not as much as I did last summer. Various things just kept getting in my way. Remember that my band isn't a competitive band, we're a hobby band, so we play in a lot of parades and charity events and most of these are in the summer when the weather is better.

One neat thing my band did get to do was play a concert with a carillon. The World Carillon Federation defines a carillon as, "A musical instrument composed of tuned bronze bells which are played from a baton keyboard. Only those carillons having at least 23 bells be taken into consideration". And Wikipedia says it's the heaviest instrument because the bells can weigh several tons. So it's basically a huge set of bells in all shapes and sizes and it's very loud. The picture at the top of this post is NOT the carillon we played with, but it gives you a sense of what one looks like. There are all differents types and sizes of carillons.

The carillon player does various concerts and I guess he decided a bagpipe band would be a nice compliment to his carillon. The carillon we played with is at the top of a tall office building. We went up 14 flights on an elevator, up 2 flights of regular stairs, and than up about 2 flights of a spiral staircase. I'm afraid my poor drones suffered a few nicks in the tight quarters of the spiral staircase.

At the top we found ourselves standing on a narrow ledge with a fantastic view, but no worries, there were solid concrete waist high walls so even though we were high up, we felt secure.

We were going to be playing "Amazing Grace" and "Highland Cathedral" with the carillon. The carillon player picked the tunes and while we know AG, we didn't know HC. So, because we weren't playing in front of a very visible audience, we cheated and taped the music up to the walls.

It was not our greatest performance. We had to stand in single file and I was stuck in between two of the biggest guys in our band, so it was impossible to see our pipe major. We had 10 pipers and amazingly, when we were playing with the carillon, we drowned it out. So it was impossible to tell if we were playing with it...and more often than not, we weren't because the carillon plays a lot slower than a hyper charged up bagpipe band.

Afterwards, we went down and played a nice concert in a park at the base of the building. We could all see each other and we were sans carillon.

Pipe on!

Piping, Piping Girl, Where Are You?

You've got a blog to write now! (sung to Scooby Doo song)

I know, I know, I've been so neglectful of this blog. Blah, blah, blah, busy life, same excuses as every other blogger out there who lets so much time elapse between blog entries. And grrrr, it's so hard to get back into a blog once you've left it for a while.

So what has Piping Girl been up to in the world of bagpiping. Well of course St. Patrick's Day was a blast. I took the day off, slept in, and took my time getting ready. My new special bagpiping jacket arrived just a few days before St. Patrick's Day and I put it to good use. It was cold outside and I actually wore it a lot inside as well. After tuning we went off to our first two gigs, than we got onto the bus we had hired to drive us around from 5pm on. We played several sets at each bar, probably 15 minutes. The best part of the night was when the youngest piper in our band, a college kid, jumped up on the bar and led the rest of us in playing along with ACDC's It's a Long Way to the Top. Towards the end of the night I confess that I had to cork some of my drones, but after 6 hours or so of playing who can blame me.

Since than I played at a cancer charity event with the band and at this neat event welcoming veterans back from visiting war memorials in Washington D.C. I also had the opportunity to play in a massed band setting at a local Scottish fair. Playing in the massed bands was awesome! We marched forward and than, spinning on our heels, marched back through the lines behind us, I think it's called counter-marching. It was amazing!

Well, I hope to be a better and more consistent blogger.

Pipe on!


Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!!!!

I'm off to my pub crawl today, but what kind of a Piping Girl would I be if I didn't post on the technical date of St. Patrick's Day. I know a lot of you might have celebrated this past Saturday but for me, St. Patrick's Day is today.

Just a couple of quick reminders, if you didn't make it to a parade on Saturday, chances are pretty good that you can still find one today. And don't forget that the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade is streaming their parade live at 11am Eastern Standard time of course

You can also check out Dublin's St. Patrick's Day webcam or check out a bunch of other webcams of Dublin.

Here's a video from last year's festivities in Dublin:

Here's another good video of a bagpipe band playing in a parade in Cork, Ireland 2007:

If you're after other St. Patrick's Day events like finding pubs that are celebrating or creating a tune list for your own party, don't forget to check out my St. Patrick's Day Preparations Post.

And if you're looking for some history on just what it is we are celebrating, check out my post from Saturday.

Here a couple of other amusing videos I found to get you in the mood for whatever it is that you do on this St. Patrick's Day. First, a video from the Oregon Zoo last year demonstrating that even Polar Bears celebrate St. Patrick's Day:

Finally, did you know that the beer company Guinness is lobbying to make St. Patrick's Day a federal holiday? They have an online petition and their grassroots effort has been titled Proposition 3-17. They have over 250,000 signatures so far.

I'm not a particular fan of this brew of beer, but I find the proposition interesting and this commercial amusing:

Happy St. Patrick's Day Everyone!!!!
Pipe on!!!!


Getting Ready for My St. Patrick's Day

So tomorrow is my band's big St. Patrick's Day pub crawl. There's also a deeper significance to tomorrow, it marks my one year anniversary of playing publicly with my band. I played the practice chanter for a year, than was a year on the pipes, and than made my debut with the band last year.

St. Patrick's Day is also important for my band, because, while we aren't a competitive band, we march in parades all summer long, and St. Patrick's Day is the unofficial start of our parade season too.

Last year St. Patrick's Day was on a Saturday, this year due to leap year, it's on a Monday. It will be very interesting to see what a St. Patrick's Day pub crawl is like on a weekday.

So what have I been doing to get ready for St. Patrick's Day?

1) Practicing

I got a bad cold last weekend and wasn't able to practice for several days, so I'm trying to get a bit of my playing stamina back. I also figured out that my bass drone reed was really loose, making it really tough to play too. Stuck into the bottom of each of the long stocks that stick out of the bagpipe bag is a drone reed. This fell out of my drone and into my bag. Well when I figured out how to get it out of my bag, it became loose again, this basically prevents an airtight seal from taking place and me feel like I was hyperventilating when I was trying to play my bagpipes.

Now that my drone reed issue is resolved and I'm feeling better, I've had some super good practice sessions over the last coupe of days so I feel a lot more confident about playing tomorrow.

Here are the sets that I've been focusing on, and that I'll be playing tomorrow:

"Scotland the Brave"-"Murdo's Wedding"-"Wings"
"The Green Hills of Tyrol"-"Balmoral"
"Bathgate Highland Gathering"-"Suo Guan"-"Tenny Penny Bit"-"Lady Carmichael"
"Argyll's Crossing the River Po"-"Battles O'er"
"Amazing Grace"
"Gardens of Skye"-"Leaving Liverpool"
"Cockney Jocks"-"Bonnie Lass O'Fyfe"

There's a quartet of pipers in my group that will be playing an Irish set that includes "Oh Danny Boy","Minstrel Boy" and "Wearing O' the Green".

2) Getting my uniform in order.

St. Patrick's Day last year was also the debut of all of my cool bagpipe uniform stuff. I have a white dress shirt, kilt, sporran (black purse like thing that hangs around my waste), belt, hose (socks), glengarry (hat), flashes (little bits of cloth that hang off the socks), kilt pin, hat pin and sgian dubh (little ceremonial dagger tucked in my sock).

Tomorrow I'll also be wearing my new ghillie brogues, these are special shoes my band decided would be part of our band uniform. I did wear them at our Burns Dinner back in January, but that was just for a few hours. So I'll be curious to see how they hold up to pretty much a whole day of wearing and moving about.

I'll also be wearing my brand new argyle jacket. This is something else my band decided to add to its uniform and at the Burns Dinner, I realized I was just about the only one not to have one yet. So I ordered it about a month ago, it was on back order, and it came in the mail on Friday! More importantly, it also fit. The weather tomorrow isn't supposed to be the greatest so I think it will definitely come in handy.

3) Making Sure My Bagpipes Are Ready

I already talked about my bass drone reed, but there are a few other maintenance type things I've been doing like taping up my mouth piece, my chanter, and my drones. Over time they can get loose, so I use tape (hemp can also be used), to make sure they're all set. One time at a practice last summer a piper in my band had their chanter literally fall out of their bag when we were marching, it was too loose! And it scared me, because chanters can pretty easily crack and break. I also bought a new cord for my bagpipes, this is the bit that holds the drones all together, I haven't replaced this yet, but I still might do it yet tonight...we'll see.

And that's about it. My band is meeting at 2pm tomorrow to tune and than we'll hit our first bar at 3pm. We'll make 9 stops total (although some of those are repeat stops at the same bar), and our last scheduled stop is at 9:30pm.

We're all going to ride around on a bus together for part of the pub crawl too. We were able to have the bus the whole day last year, but we won't be catching it until 5pm tomorrow. The bus totally made the experience perfect last year, we didn't have to worry about getting quickly to the next bar, finding a parking place, and waiting for everyone to trickle in. With the bus, we could all be together and than make our grand entrance.

I probably won't post on the pub crawl until later on in the week, I suspect it will take me a few days to recover!

Pipe on!


Happy St. Patrick's Day! (If You're Celebrating Today)

Well Happy St. Patrick's Day! If you're celebrating today that is. Many pubs are celebrating all weekend long and into Monday, and there were plenty of parades today as well.

If you're looking for information on the history of St. Patrick's Day, you can't go wrong with The History Channel's website. We all know that St. Patrick's Day celebrates the life of St. Patrick, actually, it really celebrates his death, which was supposedly on March 17, 460 A.D. For an entertaining version of what we do know about St. Patrick's life, check out this Veggie Tales version of events:

I'm not really celebrating today...I know, I'm such a die hard purist! Monday from about 2pm-9:30pm I'll take part in my bagpipe band's annual pub crawl. And I'm sure we won't be the only one's celebrating St. Patrick's Day on the 17th.

Pipe on!

St. Patrick's Day Preparations

St. Patrick's Day is Monday, March 17, but due to conflicts with Holy Week, many of you might be attending St. Patrick's Day festivities on Saturday, March 15. That's the day that the Catholic Church designated as St. Patrick's Day this year.

From the advertisements I've heard on the radio in my own town, it sounds like local businesses are taking advantage of the confusion and celebrating St. Patrick's Day Saturday through Monday. I might take in some of the events on Saturday, but for me at least, the big show is Monday.

But for those of you that will do most of your celebrating on Saturday, I thought a St.Patrick's Day preparation post was in order.

Blogging is a very good way to work off my own nervous energy for my band's pub crawl on Monday, so expect the posts to come with a fury this weekend. And really, a true celebration of the day can't be done in just one post.

So, what to do? Where to go? Go and take part in the festivities at your local pub, many are offering live music and free stuff! But you need to find a St. Patrick's Day celebrating pub first. I was easily able to find information in my own local and regional newspapers. Many places are celebrating all weekend, but it also seems like many are reserving special features like serving a special Irish menu, for Monday. There's probably a pub with an Irish connection in your community, after all, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day!

If it's a parade you're after, there are plenty of those as well. In fact, if you're in Hot Springs, Arkansas you can attend the "First Ever Fifth Annual World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade" which is some kind of strange oxymoron, but it really is the shortest parade. Apparently in the 1940's Ripley's Believe it or Not named Hot Springs' Bridge Street the shortest street in the world. And apparently the largest parade is held in New York City. NYC's parade is Monday and it's going to be streamed live, so even if you can't attend a parade you can watch the biggest!

Here's an amusing video of last year's NYC parade, done in a record 3 minutes, you have to see it to believe it!

But maybe you want to stay at home and host your own St. Patrick's Day Party. Not a bad idea after all; the police typically step up enforcement around St. Patrick's Day so celebrating in your own home is not a bad idea. Here are some good recipe ideas:

But really, you can probably make about anything, throw in some green dye, and you're good to go! In terms of setting up the tunes, there are a lot of great classical tunes including:
"Wearing of the Green"

"Minstrel Boy"
"Irish Washerwoman"
"Danny Boy" aka. "Londonderry Air"
"When Irish Eyes are Smiling"

Some good groups that you might check out are: The Chieftans, The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers, and Gaelic Storm are all good ones. The Irish Rovers are also a good group, they sing a great song called The Unicorn Song:

I personally LOVE The Proclaimers and even though they're Scottish you can't go wrong with Irish Girls are Pretty, 500 Miles and Sunshine on Leith. I also recently found out that John Mayer sings a song called St. Patrick's Day:

I'm sure I'm leaving out plenty of good groups and tunes here, any other recommendations?

What are people out there doing for St. Patrick's Day??

Pipe on!!


Oh Danny Boy also known as Londonderry Air

One of the most associated songs with St. Patrick's Day is Danny Boy.

Many people love this song, but to some people this song is depressing and overdone. In fact, there's a pub in New York City that is holding a pre-St. Patrick's Day karaoke night, and the bartender is paying its patrons in Guinness NOT to sing Danny Boy.

Danny Boy is also known by another title, Londonderry Air. The fact that it's known by 2 different names speaks to the interesting history of this tune. Its history is also very complicated. If you are intensely interested in learning more about the history of the tune than Michael Robinson's Danny By-the Mystery Solved! looks to be a good site, as does Jim Hunter's The Origin of Danny Boy.

Based on what I read on Michael Robinson's site, Danny Boy refers to the lyrics. The lyrics were written by an English lawyer named Frederic Edward Weatherly in 1910. He wrote the lyrics that we know today, but they were set to a different melody. He called it Danny Boy, but the lyrics weren't successful with this melody. He never set foot in Ireland, nor did he probably have any interest in Irish tunes. So it took a letter from America to give him a melody for his lyrics.

In 1912 his sister-in-law sent him a melody called Londonderry Air. His lyrics matched with this new song, and, voila, Danny Boy was born.

Jim Hunter spends more time on his site talking about where the tune itself came from. According to his site, the melody shows up in 1851 when Jane Ross bought it from a blind fiddler named Jimmy McCurry who was playing at the docks of in the County of Londonderry, Ireland.

According to Wikipedia, the song was first recorded in 1913 by Ernestine Schumann-Heink, a German opera singer. But it seems that we can thank English opera singer Elsie Griffin for making it so popular. Weatherly gave it to her sometime after 1913 and she went onto perform for the troops in France during World War I. Although I didn't read this anywhere, I think it's safe to assume that in the midst of World War I, soldiers far from home, would take to such a moving tune:

Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

And if you come, when all the flowers are dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be
You'll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.

And I shall hear, tho' soft you tread above me
And all my dreams will warm and sweeter be
If you'll not fail to tell me that you love me
I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.

Some sites claim Danny Boy is thought of as an anthem for Ireland, that it was supposed to be a song that brought everyone together during a very tumultuous time in Ireland's history. But than other site's say the song is rarely played in Ireland, and that they aren't as obsessed with the tune as Americans seem to be. Anyone out there care to comment on that??

Wikipedia has a very comprehensive listing of all the people who have recorded it, as well as its use in movies and television. Like I said initially, a lot of people love this song, including me, so there are tons of recordings of it on youtube. I tried to pick out what I thought were the best ones:

We'll start with something light, the Muppet version:

Next is Michael Eskin playing it on the Uilleann Pipes, the toughest small pipes to learn I've heard:

Here's a beautiful duet by Cliff Richard and Helmut Lotti. Richard is an English musician and Lotti hails from Belgium.

Country Western singer Ray Price sings it here:

The punk rock group Darkbuster puts their unique spin on it here:

Finally, a young British singing sensation by the name of Declan Galbraith gives a beautiful rendition:

I know there are lots and lots of other singers who have covered this song, Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby to name a few. I don't really have a favorite version, but please leave a comment if you do.

As for myself, I have run through this tune a few times on my practice chanter but I've never taken the time to memorize and learn it on my pipes. This is probably due to the fact that my band is a primarily Scottish based, and once a year, in the weeks leading up to St. Patrick's Day a few of the pipers who know this tune start practicing it. I will probably learn it sometime as I'm sure it's one of the requested tunes that pipers get. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy getting a breather and listening to it on St. Patrick's Day.

Pipe on!


Wii Girl

This blog is focused on bagpipes and Scotland, but from time to time I thought it might be interesting for loyal readers of my blog (at least give me the illusion that are some of you out there!), to learn a bit more about Piping Girl. Being a bagpiper is kind of like leading a double life. It’s not a hobby that people traditionally associate women with, and it’s definitely a niche hobby, there really aren’t a lot of pipers out there. Readers of this blog see the one side of my life that is pretty unknown in my day to day life, so I thought maybe you'd enjoy looking in a little bit on the other side of my life.

So, when my fingers aren’t flying over my bagpipe chanter, I really enjoy playing the Nintendo Wii. It’s actually not my Wii, it’s my husbands', but I play it a lot more than he does, so I think it’s really mine, but don’t tell him that! As you know if you’ve tried to get a Wii, they are still SUPER tough to find. We’ve had our Wii for over a year, and they are still hard to find. You can sign up for different alerts from companies that sell them online, stake out your local Target, or find an inside person who can tip you off when a new shipment comes in. But even all of this really comes down to plain old simple luck.

I ran across an opportunity where you could potentially win a Wii, and I thought I’d pass it along to the rest of you. It’s being offered by Charter High-Speed Internet. They are offering this opportunity to you if you pre-register for their High-Speed Internet for Life Auction.

This opportunity is offered to legal residents of the 29 states in which Charter Communications provides Internet services, and you have to be at least 18 years old when you enter. So you do have to qualify for the offer by living in an area where Charter services are offered.

Once you do qualify, you can pre-register for the auction now, never place a bid, and still be entered into the contest for the Wii. So you don’t even have to bid if you don’t want to and you’ll still be entered into the contest.

But, since you’re there, you might as well read up on the auction itself because that too sounds like a fantastic opportunity. Internet for life! How awesome would that be! While you can pre-register now, you can’t bid until the auction starts which is on March 12, 2008. Bidding starts at $10.00 and the auction ends on March 26.

Like I said, it does come down to luck, and with St. Patrick’s Day coming up, maybe a bit of extra luck will shine down on you! So, Click Here for a Chance to Win a Nintendo® Wii™!

No worries gentle readers, this blog won't become Wii Girl, but once in a while I figured it might be good to let you into the other side of Piping Girl's life.

Pipe on, or maybe I should say Wii on!

Bagpipes are Big!

Bagpipes are a big instrument, certainly not the biggest instrument out there...when I was trying to figure out what the biggest instruments in the world are I stumbled across The Oddmusic Gallery. A fluba, the serpent, a Harpsichord made out of LEGO's, this site has it all and than some.

But back to my point, the bagpipes are big and awkward to carry around. I have to be really careful when moving with my pipes from room to room because even though I am a mere 5 foot 4 inches, I can still knock my drones against the top of the doorway if I'm not careful. On that same note (no pun intended), the bagpipes are also a sturdy instrument, they're meant to be played outside so it has to stand up to the elements. So even when I do occasionally hit it against a doorway I don't worry too much. I do however live in fear of rooms with ceiling fans, I fear a fan vs. bagpipe battle would not end well for the pipes.

When carrying my bagpipes I have to break down the bass drone and carefully fit them into my styling yellow Menards tool box that I have fashioned into a bagpipe case.

I bought this case right after I bought my bagpipes. Like any quality musical instrument, bagpipes are expensive and at the time I didn't care to foot the bill for an expensive case as well. This case has worked really well up until this point but since it looks like I'm going to be playing this instrument for the long haul, I think it's time to invest in a long term case. Besides, I've seen my husband eyeing my big yellow tool-box, I promised he could have it if I ever upgraded. And I think I've had my fill of tool-box related jokes.

So I've been doing a lot of research. I want a sturdy case that has lots of pockets for storing all the little things a piper finds themselves accumulating, extra reeds, corks for my drones, ear plugs, and the like. I also really want a case that can accommodate my hard cover binder filled with my piping music. If I arrange everything just so, I can fit my binder into my yellow toolbox, but it'd be nice to have a special music binder pocket. Finally, I want to have flexibility in how I carry it.

So, after much research, including a discussion thread over on the Bob Dunsire Forum, I've narrowed it down to 3 options.

The first is the Bag Piper Case:

This one has 10 carrying points, it's airport friendly, and it has a lot of storage pockets. A couple of people in my band have this case so I have actually seen it, and they have nothing but goods things to say about this case.

Next up is the Piper Bagpipe Case:

It's similar to the first one, it's cheaper but shipping would cost more.

Finally there's the Bandpack Case:

I am impressed by how compact this case looks. It's designed for people that have to carry their pipes with them on the subway or bus, or I suppose on great rambling hikes into the woods. This case's sleekness intrigues me, I guess I like to think of myself eventually hiking off into the hills with my pipes...but for my immediate purposes it's probably not as practical. Plus, it seems like it wouldn't protect my pipes quite as well as the other cases. that I've narrowed it down to these 3, what do you think? I am leaning towards one of these cases, but I'd be curious to see what everyone out there thinks.

I've set up a poll for you to vote for your pick in the upper left corner of my blog.

And don't worry, I'll be sure to let you know what I end up with.

Pipe on!


Carnival of Bagpiping Blogs

I'm always looking for ways to get more people to check out my blog. I read about one such opportunity called a blog carnivals and decided to submit a few of my posts to some of them. If you've never heard of blog carnivals they are like reading a magazine. Each blog carnival has a theme, they promote it, other bloggers submit a post that fits within the theme, and than they publish it.

I submitted my post entitled Bagpipes Rock in the New Millennium to the Carnival of Rock and Roll. It's a monthly carnival put on by The Soul of Rock 'n' Roll and they accepted it. A nice way to spread a bit of Piping Girl across teh blogosphere.

I thought I would host my own version of a blog carnival by posting about some bagpiping blogs I've found. I've posted about bagpiping blogsbefore, but since than I've found a few more pipers out there in blogland.

First up is Jori Chisholm’s Bagpipe Lessons Blog. Jori is a professional and award winning piper. If you have an interest in learning how to play the bagpipes but can't find a teacher he offers a lot of different long distance options. This blog really compliments his Bagpipe Lessons site. It has loads of videos of Jori in concert and all sorts of great resources for pipers of all skill levels.

Next up is Keydet Piper. Keydet Pipier is a competitive piper who has been playing a lot longer than me, since 1998 to be exact. It's a newer blog but he posts regularly, you should read it just to find out what Keydet Piper is (it's in one of his earlier posts).

An even newer blog is Skirts and Skirls, put out by, yes, another piping girl! Twenty-one year old Kayla to be exact. Like I said, it's a new blog, but it has a lot of promise.

So there you have it, a piping carnival, thanks for coming along for the ride, and, as always, Pipe On!!


Irn-Bru I Love You!!

I don't drink coffee, can't stand the stuff actually. I drink a lot of tea and a lot of Diet Mountain Dew, those are my drinks of choice. When I was living in Scotland I couldn't find Mountain Dew, diet or otherwise. A lot of people there had never even tasted the drink which surprised me as it's so popular here in the United States. Yet another good reason to get out and travel a bit in the world, it knocks your assumptions right out of you.

So I had to find an alternative, and I quickly settled on a funny looking orange drink with an indescribable taste called Irn-Bru. Manufactured in Glasgow, it was everywhere and I was hooked.

It's an incredibly popular drink in Scotland and the company is also known for their quirky advertising campaigns:

It's a very difficult drink to come by here in the United States. In fact, the only place I've found Irn-Bru in the US is at Scottish fairs. So I went to a Scottish fair last weekend looking forward to getting my Irn-Bru fix, and, much to my dismay, they ran out of it!

Frantic over my missed opportunity, I finally broke down and ordered some from Irn-Bru USA. I've been meaning to try this company out anyway, so it was a good excuse. Within the week I found my two cases of Irn-Bru sitting on my doorstep. As carefully as I could, I hauled the 30 pound package into my house.

I know it might see crazy to some people, but it was like opening a birthday present filled with something that brought me back, if only for a moment (or a few moments depending on how long I make it last!) to when I lived in Scotland, a time in my life that I have enjoyed like just about no other.

So now comes the tricky task of rationing it out.

But at least I know where I can get more. It's expensive and it might seem foolish to some, but even if I only order it once a year, that connection with a country and an experience so important to my life is totally worth it.

Pipe on!


Travel for the Soul

In case you haven’t figured it out (American blogger writing about Scotland), I love traveling and learning about other countries and cultures. I lived and worked in Scotland for 3 months towards the end of my college career and that’s really shaped my life and who I am today. I thought about joining the Peace Corps for a period of time, but the 2 year commitment really threw me off. Who knows, maybe I will still do that sometime.

I’m sure there are all sorts of travel and volunteer opportunities out there, but I found one really neat volunteer program called Twin Work and Volunteer Abroad. It's a UK based program, but most of its voluteer programs at least, look like they're open to anyone.

The thing that I like about this volunteer program is that it offers something for everyone. You can work, do an internship, volunteer or learn a language abroad. The best thing is that there isn’t a two year commitment. You can teach English in Nepal for 2 weeks or 5 months. Or, you can help out the zookeepers in Songkhla, Thailand for 5 weeks.

Another really neat component is that whatever you’re interested in, you will probably find a volunteer program for you. You can be a music master in India or support elephant conservation in Namibia. If you’re looking for travel, flexibility, and variety Twin Work and Volunteer Abroad looks like a great opportunity. I can’t speak highly enough of my own experiences living and working abroad in Scotland, so whenever I see something that might help others do the same, I’m happy to spread the word.

Pipe on!


My Pre-St. Patrick's Day Fix

St. Patrick's Day is less than a month off, I can't wait! This past weekend I got to go and get a bit of a pre-St.Patrick's Day fix in the form of an indoors weekend Scottish fair. There were lots of great vendors selling everything from swords to fine china. I picked up a nice Scotland themed t-shirt. There was Celtic music, Scottish country dancing, and Highland dancing. Various clans also had booths set up advertising their lineage.

There was also a good sampling of Scottish food including one of my favorites: meat pies. Oh my gosh, I am just in love with Scottish meat pies. When I lived in Scotland I would have one for lunch every single day and if they sold them here, I would continue having them for lunch. They aren't like an American pot pie, it's just really, really ground up beef wrapped in the tastiest pastry you've ever set your taste buds on. The only time I get to eat them now is at Scottish fairs like this.

The other thing I really look forward to getting at Scottish fairs is the Glasgow manufactured pop called Irn-Bru. Unfortunately, they ran out of Irn-Bru, I was so disappointed. But on a positive note, my Irn-Bru deprivation compelled me to buy two cases of it from a US based company. It's just like the Scottish stuff, minus the FDA banned carcinogenic colouring Ponceau 4R and Sunset Yellow FCF.

Towards the end of the day I got to sit in on an open rehearsal of a local competitive band. The day was topped off by a performance by this same band who had a particularly impressive drum corps.

St. Patrick's Day is in sight everyone!

Pipe on!


Human Bagpipes?!

Human bagpipes. Very, very bizarre. I never in my life would have even conceived of something like this. But apparently a lot of people did. There are all sorts of videos on youtube featuring people who proclaim themselves to be human bagpipes. They sound a little bit like those throat singers, and a lot like people who have way too much time on their hands. But since they have all of that time, and even more time to tape themselves and post it on youtube for all the world to see, we might as well take a listen.

So, call it the poor man's bagpipes, call it strange, maybe you won't be able to call it anything at all because you're laughing or speechless, I present to you now, the human bagpipes:

Pipe on!

When is St. Patrick's Day 2008?

I know it might seem a little eary to start talking about St. Patrick's Day but we're really only just a little more than a month away from it. Because I'm a novice, non-competitive piper, to me at least, St. Patrick's Day is the premiere bagpiping day of the year. And I suppose the fact that St. Patrick's Day 2007 was the first time I played publicly with my band also cements the importance of the day in my mind.

My band is confirming their calendar for our annual St. Patrick's Day pub crawl and we found out that the actual date of St. Patrick's Day 2008 is a bit of a debatable issue.

It turns out that Monday, March 17, the day that is typically celebrated as St. Patrick's Day, falls on a day that is holy to the Catholic church. It's the week between Palm Sunday and Easter so it's also a week that is holy to all Christians. So the Irish Bishops wrote to the Vatican about the conflict and the Catholic church officially moved St. Patrick's Day to Saturday March 15.

Interestingly enough, this is the first time the day has been moved since 1940 and there won't be another conflict with the date until 2160.

So what does this actually mean?
It means that any religious services connected with honoring St. Patrick will be held on March 15.

But what does it mean for you and your St. Patrick's Day festivities and parade plans ?

Glancing over US parade dates, it looks like most US cities are using both the draw of the weekend, and the conflict with the Holy Week to hold their parades on the 15th as well. Atlanta, San Antonia and San Francisco for example, are all holding their parades on the 15th. Chicago is also holding their parade on the 15th, but information on their web site says that they always hold it on the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day. Washington D.C. and Boston are holding their parades on the 16th.

The only major US city that I could see that is holding their parade on March 17th is New York City.

Internationally, London and Sydney are holding their celebrations on the 16th.

But, let's look at the really big St. Patrick's Day show: Ireland. Belfast, Cork, and Dublin are all holding their parades on March 17th. According to statements made by Dublin organizers, the actual day and parade are such a huge tourist draw (they expect 600,000 people). They also wanted to just simply avoid confusion, so they kept it on the 17th.

So what did my band decide to do? Well, none of us are Catholics, so, with respect to all Catholics out there, orders from the Pope don't mean a lot to us. In case I haven't mentioned it before, most of the people in my band are of Scottish descent, so lots of Presbyterians. It really wasn't a debate at all, someone read about the change in dates and mentioned it to the band but we all wanted to keep to the traditional date of March the 17th, and that's what we're doing.

Pipe on!


Pipes in Strange Places-The Sequel

Way back in August I was wandering around youtube looking at all of the bagpiping videos and I noticed that there were a lot of clips. There were clips of bands marching, people playing in their living rooms, and people playing up on stage. But something else I noticed is that there were a lot of clips of people playing their bagpipes in really strange places! The highlight of my original post was a guy playing the bagpipes in a speedo, while standing on floats in a swimming pool, I'm serious, check out my original post!

Now that you believe me, I've found some other great clips of people playing their pipes in strange places. I've been saving them up and I can't stand it any longer, I MUST post them!

I'll post them as a top 5 list so....I think a blog typing drum roll would look something like this:

Coming in at #5 is a piper and drummer on a roof in Halifax. Looks very neat silhouetted against the sky:

At #4 are some pipers and a drummer playing on a subway in Philadelphia. They were probably just taking the subway back from a gig but it takes some talent to play on a jerking subway, you can see the closest piper stumbling a bit for balance (or perhaps from drink!) towards the end:

For #3 I chose a clip of comedian Mark Malkoff. He made the news recently because he's living in an Ikea store in New Jersey while his apartment is being fumigated. He's been posting clips of his experiences on youtube and this one involves a bagpiper playing in the bathroom for his fish's funeral.

Now, before you get upset thinking that he killed the fish for comedy, the comments at the bottom of the clip reveal that he bought a live fish and a dead fish.

I also like this clip because one of my husband's fish died recently and I played Amazing Grace on my practice chanter as he flushed the fish down the toilet:

Number 2 is a winner because it's a clip of another piping girl, and, to make things even better, she's playing her bagpipes while riding on a ski lift and snowboarding:

I have of course saved the best for last. My #1 choice. What can I say, I'm a sucker for unicycles and bagpipes. If you've ever gone to the very, very bottom of my blog you've noticed my video bar with a clip of Melvino in all of his bagpiping madness on a unicycle. I think this clip is as equally impressive:

I may have to devise my own list of strange places to play my bagpipes, any ideas??

Pipe on!


Happy Robert Burns Day!!

Well everyone, today is the big day! It is the 249th anniversary of Robert Burns',or as the Scots affectionately call him, "Rabbie" Burns' birthday!

I've been blogging about Burns Supper's recently. Has anyone out there in blogland attended their own Burns Supper? Anyone out there brave enough to actually host a Burns Supper?

Well, last weekend I participated in my own Burns Supper, and never was there a more appropriate day to blog about my own Burns Supper experience than on the day of celebration itself. So I already talked about how my evening started, with the Kirkin' o' the Tartan. I don't believe I mentioned though that there was a piping component to this too, a couple of the piper's from my band started the service by playing Highland Cathedral and than at the end of the service they played Amazing Grace.

So after the Kirkin' o' the Tartan we settled into the dining area for dinner. There were about 50 people in attendance and the room seemed filled to capacity. Pipers and their guests got preferential seating and I found myself sitting right in front of the head table.

The meal started with some kind of a chicken soup:

Next up was the main dish, really the main event.

"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm."

Yes folks, it was Haggis time. It was literally like a Haggis parade. First came a piper, than a drummer, "And then, O what a glorious sight, Warm-reekin', rich!", the Haggis in its place of honor, on a large silver platter. The Haggis was marched all around the room so everyone could have a look at it and than placed on the head table.

Burns' Address to a Haggis was read, and appropriately when these lines were read:
"His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright...",

the sghin dubh, or small knife that is typically kept in a piper's hose (sock) was stabbed into the Haggis.

Traditionally, Haggis was made with sheep leftovers, and by leftovers I mean the hear, the lungs, the liver...literally what was left after serving all the other bits of the sheep. They couldn't afford to waste it. So this would be boiled in a sheep's stomach and than spices, salt, and oatmeal might be added to it.
So after the grand entrance of the Haggis we were served a pastry filled with vegetables and chicken called a Bridie. Large bowls were left on tables filled with neeps and tattties, also known as turnips and potatoes.

Finally, on large platters, out came the Haggis. I don't know the exact ingredients in the Haggis that we ate, but I'm sure that it would be considered gourmet next to this. It was mixed with rice and looked like hamburger. It tasted really bland, and tasted like hamburger too. The Haggis I had in Scotland was really spicy tasting, so I was pretty surprised.

Here's my plate, at the bottom is the bridie, all of the white are the neeps and tatties and than at the very top of my plate is the Haggis:

While we were eating a few people stood up and made various speeches about Haggis or poems/song lyrics written by Burns. One of the pipers from my band played Highland Cathedral on the small pipes and a woman sang along. Books of Robert Burns songs were passed out and we sang a few songs out of that.
Traditional toasts were also made, one being the Toast to the Lassies, and the other the Toast to the Lads. Both were well done, and were light in tone overall. The Toast to the Lads was a bit more well done I thought, very tongue in cheek.

Right around the time we had dessert, some sort of trifle, my band decided to get up and play. Now remember, the room we were eating in only held about 50 people; not really big enough to handle the noise of 10 pipers playing. But the dinner hosts were kind enough to supply everyone with a set of ear plugs at their place setting, and it was a Burns Supper after all, everyone had come for a truly Scottish experience and what's more Scottish than bagpipes!

We played two sets. First, Scotland the Brave, Murdo's Wedding and Wings. Our second set was Bathgate Highland Gathering and Suo Guan. So we didn't play very much, but there just wasn't any other decent time to play as people were making toasts. Piping and toasting really aren't mutually inclusive.

After we played people and returned to our seats, we all sang Auld Lang Syne together. Everyone is supposed to link hands and sing this, but my table was anti-social and while we sang, there was no joining of hands. After that, people pretty much packed up and left.

I did however had two issues with the evening. First, a key traditional component was missing from the evening, the Immortal Memory speech. This is supposed to be a speech about the life and works of Robert Burns, it's kind of a key part to the evening since Burns is the whole point of the night. There wasn't really a master of ceremony's, someone leading us through the events of the whole night, so I think that was part of the problem.

My second issue was that I wished we would've been able to do more piping. It's such an adrenaline rush to get all dressed up in my piping gear and play with the band, and we probably played for all of 10 minutes.

Overall, it was an excellent experience and I was quite pleased with my first American Burns Supper.

Anyone else out there have any Burns Supper experiences to share?
Pipe on!


Kirkin' o' the Tartan

"Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.
My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go."
-Robert Burns

The air was filled with bagpipes and heavy with the scent of what was to come. Family tartans adorned men, women, and children; and for once the bagpipers weren't the only ones wearing kilts!

This uniquely Scottish event being held in America was to celebrate the 249th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns. Celebrating the life of a writer, a poet no less! What a novel idea! In the face of our celebrity obsessed society, only the pure tenacity of the Scots could pull off such a feat.

The last time I attended a Burns Supper was in Stirling, Scotland in 2000-a tough act to follow. There were a lot of similarities of course, after all, the Scots have had the last 249 years to perfect the format of the dinner. But some parts of the dinner were of course uniquely American.

The event was held in a church. I had to get there a bit early to tune up and found myself stuffed into a basement room that was not meant to hold 10 bagpipers and all the noise they can make. Did I mention that I was wearing my brand new special piper shoes, my Ghillie Brogues. I thought I would be quite uniform with the rest of the band, and I was of course, but I was the only one not wearing a special piping jacket. So now I'll have to get that.

After tuning we settled our pipes into a room upstairs and went in to the church to take part in an event called the Kirkin' o' the Tartan. This was not something that was part of the Burns Supper that I attended in Scotland. It's basically a church service but with a little twist. At the start of the service the minister called for anyone to come to the front of their church with their tartan and call out their clan name. This was followed by the Blessing of the Tartans.

I read up a bit on the Kirkin' o' the Tartan and found that it is something that is pretty much only practiced in America and Canada. Its history can be found in the defeat of the Highlanders with Bonnie Prince Charlie at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. To subdue and punish the Highlanders the English Parliament passed the Act of Proscription which outlawed wearing tartans, speaking Gaelic, and outlawed Scottish music including the playing of the bagpipes.

To make these restrictions more bearable, Highland churches would have 1 day in the year when Highlanders would bring a small concealed piece of tartan and join in a prayer for the end of the Act.

In 1941, the Reverend Peter Marshall who was the chaplain of the U.S. Senate basically revived the ceremony for Scottish Americans involved in the war. Probably more history than you wanted to know, but the history makes it more meaningful to me so I hope it does the same for you. After the half hour service we went into the dining area to have dinner.

I'm not Scottish so I didn't have a tartan to present, but it was quite a sight to see all of those tartan bits laying in the front of the church.

I know I haven't even gotten to the actual dinner yet but this event is big enough to be broken into several blog posts so to be continued!!
Pipe on!


The Haggis Hunt-Only 9 Days of Hunting Left!!

I really have to share this site I was recently told about. It's put out by the and is called The Haggis Hunt (No worries, I have a link to it at the bottom of this post).

What they have done is set up 8 Haggis-cams around Scotland, one camera in New York, and one in London. You view these cameras on their website and if you see the elusive Haggis dart across one of the cameras, you click on the "I saw a haggis" link at the bottom of the screen. They have little pictures of the crafty Haggis all around their site so you know what you're looking for.

They have some nice prizes, but the fun really is the hunt, and exploring around this website. If you look under the rules link you'll see a description of the different types of Haggis and learn about the legendary Golden Haggis. There is also a delightful Haggisclopedia where you can learn the zoology of the Haggis and how to hunt this mythical beast. There's also a Haggis shop and Haggis games.

While we're on the subject of Haggis hunting, I found this amusing video on youtube that should get you pumped up before you go on your own Haggis hunt:

So check out The Haggis Hunt, and happy hunting!!

Pipe on!


Burns Supper II

Next week, on this very day I'll be piping at a Burns Supper with my band and enjoying some of the fine haggis that you see at the top of this post. I can't wait to post about my first American Burns Supper!

I do expect the experience to be similar to the one I attended in Scotland, as there is a somewhat set format for Burns Suppers.

First up is the Selkirk Grace:
Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

How brilliant of a prayer is that!!

Next comes the main event, the entrance of the haggis. Everyone stands as it's piped in. Than, with great drama and bravado, Burns' poem To a Haggis is read:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic
Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect sconner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil!
see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

Even if you can't understand every single word, you surely get the meaning! But for a little help, check out this wonderful recitation and montage:

So you see, if you are planning to host a Burns Supper and you don't have anyone to recite the poem, this video will take care of it for you.

After the rest of the food is served it is time for The Immortal Memory Speech. This is supposed to be a short speech on Robert Burns and it can be serious and literary, or more on the funny side.

After this is A Toast to the Lassies and than, in response, A Toast to the Lads. From what I've read, this was originally a toast to thank the women for preparing the food and a time to reflect on the women in Burns' life, but it's not supposed to really be a serious speech. It's supposed to be witty and funny, as is the Toast to the Lads.

After that, other poems by Robert Burns are recited, perhaps some Highland dancing is done, or a few more tunes on the bagpipes are played.

The evening is culminated by everyone linking hands and singing Auld Lang Syne.

There are lots of good sites on the Internet to help you out with your Burns Supper. Here are some that I recommend checking out:
BBC Burns Night Guide is good because it has even more audio files of Burns' poems.

The Bard: Your Complete Guide and Burns Country
are also good all around sites on Burns and Burns Suppers.

Is anyone out there going to their own Burns Supper or planning to host one of their own??
Pipe on!

You Can Host a Burns Supper!

Hey everyone, it's January and time to start getting ready for your Robert Burns Supper!!

Eight years ago, right around this time of the year actually, I went off to live in Scotland for 3 months. I had only been living there a few weeks when I got to attend a Burns Supper. I haven't been to one since, but this year on January 19, I will not only get to attend one, I'll be playing at it too. The one I'm attending is being put on by a local church and the guy who caters it is a drummer in our band, so pipers who play get to eat for free!

I thought some of my readers might be interested in attending or possibly even hosting their own Burns Suppers so I wanted to get this post out early on in January.

So, with all of my enthusiasm here, I need to backtrack a bit and first explain who Robert Burns is. Robert Burns was a poet and lyricist in Scotland in the late 1700's. He's basically one of Scotland's most loved historical figures, and is widely considered their national poet. The Burns poem that you are probably most familiar with is Auld Lang Syne. My favorite Burns poem, also set to music, is Scots Wha Hae. A very distinctive aspect of his writing is that a lot of it was written in the old Scots language which is beautiful and wonderful to hear.

He is such a wildly popular figure in Scotland that January 25 (the day Burns was born), is known as Burns Night in Scotland, celebrated with a Burns Supper. Many Burns Suppers (like the one I'm attending), are held right around January 25, so yours doesn't have to be right on January 25.

It is great fun to attend a Burns Supper, try googling one for your area. If you can't find one, you can put one on for your friends and family. There are plenty of resources on the Internet that can assist you in the general format and food for a successful Burns Supper, but I'll post everything here too.

This is going to take several posts, so I thought I'd start by posting about the food you'll need to have on hand for a successful Burns Supper.

The first course at a Burns Supper is a soup. At the Burns Supper I attended we had Cock-a-Leekie Soup. But Scotch Broth would probably be a bit easier to serve as I think you can buy it canned at most grocery stores.

Next up is the Haggis. The Haggis is a vital part of your Burns Supper as Burns wrote a poem called Address to a Haggis that is recited at all Burns Suppers.
If you are desperate to make your own Haggis, here is a whole collection of recipes. But you can also buy Haggis and have it shipped right to your doorstep if you like, there's even vegetarian Haggis! What kind of crazy paradox is that!

The McKean Family of Haggis, is a British based company, so their prices are in pounds, but they ship to the US too.

I also found the Caledonian Kitchen This is a US based company and they have both canned or fresh Haggis for you to choose from.

Other traditional Scottish food that you can make can be found at this great BBC web site I found. It also looks like you can buy a lot of traditional Scottish food at the Haggis sites I listed above.

There are lots of special toasts throughout the night so your guests will need plenty to drink. Whisky of course is a good Scottish beverage of choice, but wine is fine, and we actually had Irn-Bru too at the Burns Supper I attended.

I'll post more on the format of the evening later. But now is the time to find a Burns Supper in your area, or to start planning your own Burns Supper, I'm sure you'll find that after your first Burns Supper it will be an annual tradition.

Pipe on!!
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