Piping Perfection - established 1980
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Dear Piping Enthusiast,
The Glorious 12th of August is nearly upon us - not The Glorious Twelfth being the term used for the start of the shooting season for red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scotica), and to a lesser extent the ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It's far more important than that this year with the World Pipe Band Championships being held on the 12th on Glasgow Green. The Worlds, as they are termed, are the pinnacle of the pipe band season with thousands of pipers and drummers from all over the world making something of a pilgrimage to participate, support or view an amazing annual event. There can only be one world champion (in each grade) so to win this coveted trophy is a tremendous accolade and requires extreme dedication, sacrifice, perseverance, skill and ability if such dizzy heights of musical perfection are to be attained. For Grade 1, the event is held over 2 days with the top 6 in each section on the Friday going into the final on the Saturday. Two disciplines are there to be played on both days, being the march, strathspey and reel plus a medley event. The winner is the band that can hold excellent performances together in both. There is really no benefit to be had for a band that wins one and comes way down the listing in the other. Consistency is the overall major component and it's not just the piping that has an effect. A good drum core holding up the rear is a must but essentially a band playing as a unit is the goal - i.e. a superb ensemble, and this element generally has a major influence on the overall result.
It is hoped that the judges know which Glorious Twelfth they are attending and leave their blunderbusses at home - they will only have need of a pen, paper, clipboard and good pair of ears. There is definitely no ducking the judges' inquisition and for the faint hearted member of a band, it might feel akin to being a tasty hare which is surrounded by a pack of hungry hunting dogs. Then, and if you have managed to survive this experience, you still might have to run the gauntlet of the lovely Jackie Bird and her team of TV zoomers. But hey, with live streaming on the internet, and TV presentations, it all helps to promote piping and drumming on a global basis.
In advance of the big day, we salute the future World Champions in each Grade, but equally take our hats off to all the bands that have travelled far and wide to join with us in this magnificent celebration.
James C. Begg
News - Piping Live!
I'll draw your attention to the Piping Live! events which are on all week leading up to the Worlds - check out www.pipinglive.co.uk
for the full programme. I will be at the College of Piping this year in the trade stand event on Thursday 10th of August in Otago Street, Glasgow. I'll be spouting eloquently about pipe bags and all things piping during the day from 10.30 so do please come along and say hello. Apart from Piping Perfection with Begg Bagpipes, there will be other outstanding personalities in attendance viz.
- Pipe Major Chris Armstrong who will be demonstrating his X-TREME line of pipes and reeds;
- Craig Munro of Wallace Bagpipes who will be demonstrating his bagpipe range;
- Pipe Major Dougie Murray who will be demonstrating Kilberry Bagpipes’ products;
- Debbie Park of Debbiecovers with waterproof bag covers and gloves;
- Jock Elliot of G1 Reeds.
- And of course James/Jim/Jimmy Begg of Begg Bagpipes.
This event is free to attend.
Date & Time: Thursday 10th August 2017 at 10:30
Focus on Bags - Part 2
As a bit of a case study, we are looking at two pipe bags that will have the stocks, chanter and blowpipe fitted - see last month's newsletter on the dark art of bag fitting. The sheepskin is unusually left handed which is just the reverse of fitting the right handed player although I continually have to remind myself as it's so easy to go into auto pilot mode and revert to the right handed players side. Unusually, it was like buses this week with 2 customers opting for the corrie handed option. A piping anecdote suggests all left handed players are good pipers and over the years I wouldn't disagree. As you can see, the stitching is straight, tight close with uniform stitching and great shape. The seams are thick, solid and hand stitched. Everything is done from start to finish by hand. The skin is selected individually for the correct thickness and fault free material. The twine for stitching is actually hand made too, which may surprise many people. The shape of the bag and the subsequent pressing are again all done by hand. Hours of work are put into each bag and some bags can be in the system for quite sometime. This is the only way to guarantee continuity of supply and you will find a Begg bag quite unique and different from other suppliers. Our tanning is different to most as is the skin source and this plays a major element in maintaining our market leadership, year in year out. Check out our performance in the recent article from the excellent pipesdrums.com.
The fitting of the bag is just as critical as the bag itself. For canting and moulding the stocks, I use natural twine. Whilst it is troubling that it can break if you are somewhat over-energetic with the pulling process, it does give a far better connection to the bag and allows better manipulation of the stocks. It makes a solid bond and firmness that plastic, gut etc can't. The whole natural product in all its important aspects mentioned above connects to mould the bagpipe into one item. I did mention this point the late and sorely missed, irrepressible Jimmy Liddle of B Cal fame of how it would mould to his shape - Jimmy said he hoped not since he was a somewhat rotund figure and we laughed greatly at that. Work on bags is immense and measured in many hours. They are checked all the way through from start to finish and it is most reassuring that every bag made in the past 37 years has been sold. We don't go in for freebies or any other marketing gimmicks - it's all about quality and service and it's really great to hear from customers like Mitch McDowell in Ontario, Canada as reported in last month's newsletter.
Pipe bags have become of more interest to players over the last 30 years or so. As the overall quality of sound is arguably superior to that of the past, pipe bags have become of more interest as to what they can do tonally and how the shape may enhance comfort and musical performance. We all seek that holy grail of the likes of what Donald Macpherson managed to achieve in making playing look effortless, comfortable and masterly. The days of having the sole option of cow hide or sheepskin have disappeared with the advent of synthetic bags made of Gortex, hide/synthetic cross breed and so on, but strangely, a lot of pipers seemed not to appreciate that the best tonal quality is from natural materials - you only have to look at the bags the leading Grade 1 bands and top solo pipers are playing to come to your own conclusion.
So there we have a bit of an insight in two parts into the world of bags. Whilst sheepskin is the gold standard of bags, there are situations where cow and synthetic materials can be more applicable depending on climate, frequency of playing, budget, personal preference and so on - I pride myself on giving fair and honest advice and so if you are a bit unsure or just fancy a chat about bags, then please do call, email or catch me in person.
We are here in Bonny Kirkintilloch, working away night and day, to serve our global customer base and it is pretty much 24/7 365 days a year, but sometimes we manage to escape to become pirates in Omis, Croatia............
If you would like to report on any aspect of the Piping World from wherever you live, or if you would like to comment on any articles or issues, we'd be pleased to hear from you. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org