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 Scotsman.com 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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