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Welcome to Begg Bagpipes


                           ------Est. 1980 Glasgow city centre's oldest bagpipe shop------
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                                                Newsletter - June 2011


Dear Piping Enthusiast,

Trust you are well and your pipes are easy, comfortable and a pleasure to play. Your bagpipe should give a full sound similar to that of a pipe organ - compare your drones to that of the organ's pipes. If you are not achieving organ status, then please give us a call and we can see what needs to be done. We have had the first major outdoor event at Dumbarton -see my field report below. We are also at the planning stage for the next Piping Live! event in Glasgow and as in the previous two years, we will be at the Marquee outside the National Piping Centre on Tuesday 9th August, followed by two workshops in our Bath Street premises at 3 p.m. on Thursday 11th and Friday 12th. We will be demonstrating how bags and pipes are all made by hand and will have some nice ladies serving wine and nibbles. You will be made most welcome on what is sure to be a party occasion.

Yours aye,

James C. Begg




I played recently at the RGI - The Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts where Mr. Gordon Macpherson, the renowned piper and sheriff officer is the President. This was part of their celebrations on the occasion of their 150th anniversary. Attending the event was Scotland’s Makar (Scots for poet or bard), Liz Lochhead, in her role as Honorary RGI. The poet is pictured with a rare sculpture by long-serving RGI, George Wyllie (89), at the RGI Kelly Gallery in Glasgow. The sculpture ‘Canary with Foot Stuck in Girder’ has rarely been exhibited and is unusual in that it is part of George Wyllie’s personal collection, created by the artist as a gift for his late wife Daphne. Also on display was archive material stretching back to the founding of the Institute on 29 May 1861, when a group of Glasgow businessmen and artists decided to establish annual exhibitions to showcase the work of living artists.

We also shortly have the film crew from the TV hit show The Xtra Factor doing some filming on Begg Bagpipes so we'll keep you posted as to when that goes out on air. More on this next month along with a report on my outing at a local gala with the band of 1st Lenzie Company of the Boys' Brigade - the BB have done so much for piping and drumming over the years.

There was some great feedback on last month's tune by the talented Mr. Willie Cochrane - it's interesting how simplicity in tunes is so attractive when mixed with a strong melody and flair.

Innerleithen plays host to the 10th Annual Innerleithen Pipe Band Championships on Saturday 18th June 2011 at Vale of Leithen Football Park, Innerleithen. Bruce Hamilton, President of the St Ronan's Piping Society who are organising the event, said “We are all looking forward to this special event with it being our 10th Anniversary. Let's hope the weather is on our side to make it a really good day". http://www.stronanspipingsociety.org/


A-Z of Piping - a Personal View by James C. Begg


K is for Keep Playing and Keep the Tradition


So in 2011 is piping live and well or has it been altered by the modern world? It is hard to answer but piping may be in danger from opening up too much to the wider world of commerce and losing its heritage and folklore. Admittedly, the internet and downloads are a boon to lots of people all over the world. However, we are losing the published books a little due to the economics of the situation - why produce a book which costs the composer time and money if there are no profits in it? Perhaps this more or less has always been the case since I didn't see Donald MacLeod or Duncan Johnstone running about with Havana cigars and Aston Martins (maybe the odd cheroot and a Whyte and MacKay, but just the one!). So without a strong economic argument, we never-the-less still have books being produced like Allan MacDonald's Book 2 and that of Stuart Samson's new book which will be released in August. These are produced I suspect mainly at the composers' expense to get their compositions recognised and will be assisted by modern technology - to these stalwart composers and their computers, we should all be eternally grateful - without printed books, piping would undoubtedly be the poorer for it.


Technical Academy - Setting the Pipe Chanter Reed


This takes a lot of care. If the reed sounds too high pitched or sharp, this can be altered by raising the reed slightly upwards in the reed seat. Keep adjusting the reed until you think you have adjusted it correctly. You are looking for a balance between the high A and the low A and we can use the tenor drone reed as a check too. When you feel the As are sound, test the E next and double check that the remaining notes are in sync too. Perhaps use a tune like the Skye Boat Song that uses most of the notes on the chanter. To sharpen a reed, lower it in the chanter - the opposite to flattening it. The reed must fit securely in the chanter. So when you apply smooth hemping, it helps the fit but also stops the reed being off centre. The reed does not perform well if it is directly in contact with the edges of the reed seat at the bottom of the staple where the staple makes contact with the blackwood.

Smooth hemping will stop air escaping through the chanter and also prevent the reed falling accidentally fall into the bag. Experience is required in reed set up and perhaps joining a band may be an good idea as tone is one a band's main pre occupations. Don't play a reed that is too stiff for you - this tends to happen to an early learner. The opposite is true as well in that too weak a reed will result in poor sound quality and give little pleasure.


Field Report - Scottish Championships

So it was the 1st major contest of the season and for those who are not aware, there are 5 major contests interspersed with other games. These 5 championship contests attract bands from far afield and the overall points gained from each one count towards the Champion of Champions award -basically the best performing band over the season. It's a highly sought after award but some potential winners unfortunately can't participate in all 5 events due to their own geographic location so the World Championships are still the  Jewel in the Crown for many. So off I trooped to Dumbarton on the Clyde estuary knowing it may be wet -however the morning started well and I was lulled into false sense of security as early morning in Glasgow was fine and sunny. For once, the weather forecasters were right and what a shocking day it turned out to be. The massed bands were cancelled and crowds were to say the least somewhat thin on the ground - how bandsmen can play in these conditions is truly admirable and definitely shows the extent of the passion that they have (photo is of Grade 2 Williamwood wisely turned out with capes and showing good promise). I listened to grade 2 and the wide variety of tone and the diversity of the standard from top to bottom was quite surprising - quite a big gap in my opinion. Some bands overdid the harmonies - drummers did not always connect to the pipers -almost like 2 different sections and medleys seemed so disjointed on occasions. It was also strange why a lot of bands played in shirt sleeves when it was hardly sub-tropical. It struck me that a lot of bands were erratic in some departments but I'm being a bit unkind as the weather was so bad. It proved difficult for the judges too - umbrellas were order of day but why someone could not hold the brolly for them didn't quite add up either - surely this simple step would have helped them concentrate on the job in hand. With some bands having over £100,000 of clothing and instruments absolutely soaked, it may be time for a review of event locations and dates. On to grade 1 -msr this time and it was very hard for all concerned under these conditions. I liked Inveraray and District and they presented a refreshing choice of tunes. Although the band has a great sound, it maybe still hasn't quite got the oomph/sparkle that gives it the "Gosh, listen to that" factor. A lot of bands selected John Morrison of Assynyt House as their reel and whilst it is a great tune, the weather compounded the natural difficulty of the tune itself. Scottish Power came in third and as I suggested in the last newsletter, this is a band that will challenge strongly in future for top honours. Fife Police are improving all the time and came is 6th. Winners were the Field Marshall followed by the O'Tooles, with Boghall 4th and Inveraray 5th. Most of these leading pipers were on a Begg sheepskin bag and I was naturally delighted with the outcome. The event itself was well organised, with the local council and their huge resources delivering another success for the RSPBA.


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If you would like to report on any aspect of the Piping World from
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Begg Bagpipes
202B Bath Street | Glasgow, STRATHCLYDE G2 4HF
This email was sent to: wgbegg@hotmail.com


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