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Newsletter - March 2013
Dear Piping Enthusiast,
It is getting into the competition season in the Northern Hemisphere and the first major solo competition was the annual Uist and Barra, held at the College of Piping. I unfortunately couldn't attend this year since I had to take my daughter to a badminton competition in Perth but I understand it all went off smoothly as usual. Gordon Walker ran away with everything, taking first place across the board and you will note Bob Shepherd's comment below about who is his all-time favourite player - Gordon is an outstanding talent. The National Piping Centre also held the Duncan Johnstone contest for up and coming players and this is to be commended. It is vital that some contests feature the "Greats" of the piping world but we must ensure the lower ranks have the stage to demonstrate their talents, to gain experience and perhaps to graduate to the top in due course.
We have two great institutions here in Glasgow - the National Piping Centre and the College of Piping. Whilst there will always be some sort of rivalry between them, the world of Piping would be stronger if they could work to complement each other. A case in point is the one Rab Wallace makes in his College of Piping blog
of 8/3 and one I agree with - how come the National Piping Centre had the Duncan Johnstone on the same day the College had the Uist and Barra? The latter is a long standing event at this time of year and surely should be given preference - the NPC needs to get into more comms with the COP to avoid these types of clashes in future.
James C. Begg
Look out in the next couple of months for a new Begg Bagpipes web site. We were one of the first to offer an online service, and whilst not everyone necessarily wants to buy online and may prefer a more personal service at our shop, the web site gives everyone a chance to do some research into what's available at a time to suit them. We need to take a few more photos and tweak some of the sections but it is looking pretty good - will keep you posted.
I also like to keep you up to speed on our customers who are setting the standard in the world of piping. Stuart Shedden, P/M of Torphichen and Bathgate, is one such individual and he called me recently to let me know how delighted he was with his new sheepskin bag - that was very nice of him to take the time out and much appreciated.
Stuart will be centre stage next month on our Any Questions feature so don't miss that.
Any Questions? - for P/M R.T. Shepherd
Pipe Major Bob Shepherd needs no introduction as he is one of the great characters in the world of piping, pipe bands, teaching and bagpipe manufacturing. There is not enough space here in our newsletter to document his amazing history and successes, so if you would like to read more, check out these links:
In the meantime, enjoy this insight into Bob's thoughts.
Q. At what age did you start playing and who were/are your tutors?
A. I started at the age of 10 with Lochore Juveniles P B... P/M H Macpherson. Later at the age of 14 took lessons on Piobaireachd from P/M W Ross at Edinburgh Castle. I then travelled to Larbert from Fife where I studied under J Russell who with his brothers John and Andrew also created my interest in reed manufacture. Because of the travelling involved, Jimmy arranged for Walter Drysdale to take me on board.
Q. What is the best piping advice you’ve had and who gave it to you?
A. Any form of music must involve the listener and therefore interpretation and expression are important factors especially with the Great Highland Bagpipe, being a legato instrument. Therefore it is important the rhythmic patterns and the relative note values should be studied, coupled with the ability to sing the melody. This advice came from my teachers Jimmy Russell and Walter Drysdale.
Q. What would you say has been your biggest piping difficulty?
A. Lack of confidence.
Q. Which is the best piping book?
A. P/M Donald Shaw Ramsay.... Set the standard with the Edcath books.
Q. Who is your favourite player and why - past or present?
A. P/M Gordon Walker....posture, immaculate turn out, always a good quality Instrument with the minimum of fuss. His performances always involves the listener with his technique and expression.
Q. Is there something in piping you wish you could have done but haven’t as yet?
A. I have had the good fortune to have won the Famous Argyll Shield at the Cowal Games on several occasions, and on one occasion, did the complete sweep winning the Grade One, Juvenile and Novice Juvenile grade including the drumming prizes for each of the grades........6 first prizes in all. As always in previous occasions, we attempted to be near the beginning of the triumphant bands famous parade down the street. I wish I had delayed and played my bands with the six trophies (probably a record never to be repeated) as the last band, bringing down the curtain on a truly memorable day.
Q. What is your pet hate within piping?
A. Pipers and Bands who find it necessary to prolong their tuning of the instrument prior to and during a performance.
Q. What has been your happiest piping moment?
A. Coupled with the answer to question 6 (Cowal Experience), I would single out the Ballymena concert we did in 1983. I had decided (against advice) to include Piobaireachd in our repertoire. With a band consisting of 22 pipers and 10 drummers, it was the last item in our programme. I had made the decision to conduct and at around midnight with the aid of a baton, I nervously conducted the band in their rendering of the “The Desperate Battle”. When we come to the end........there was silence (to me it seemed an eternity) and then the audience burst into a deafening rapturous applause.....from which a booming voice uttered "if this is pibroch, I want more". If this wasn’t emotional enough, the audience then started to sing "Will you no Come Back Again". After the first verse, J King started a 5 pace roll and the pipers united with the singers in the chorus - I was in tears.
Q. What is your most prized piping possession?
A. Receiving the MBE at Buckingham Palace for services to Piping and Teaching.
Q. What do you do outwith piping that might surprise us?
A. I am an avid supporter of Opera - I enjoy the drama and expression created by the human voice and orchestra coming together. I also travel and follow the Andre Rieu Orchestra........it is interesting to note that he often includes Pipers in the presentation of his music. But I am afraid that I must admit, if I had the choice to attend a Pipe Band competition or an Andre Rieu concert, I would choose the latter.
Bob - thank you so much! We stock a lot of Bob's products - reeds, small pipes, chanters etc and have done so for many years. Please call or check our website should you require any of these top products.
Check this out!
As I was doing some research on the web, I came across an amazing site - Ceol Sean - The World's Largest On-line Collection of Bagpipe Music. Over the past twelve years, Ceol Sean has created over 35 bagpipe tune collections on CD, and they are now available on-line for free!! That translates to over 7000 tune settings for viewing online, downloading to your computer and printing. This astonishing and valuable resource has been made possible by the tireless work of Steve Scaife from Springfield, Illinois, U.S.A., ably supported by his wife Sue. Ceol Sean was founded on the belief that there is a vast body of 'lost or forgotten' pipe music from the first half of the twentieth century and before, that would benefit the piping community if only it could be made easily available. As they look to the future, their priority is to make pipe music freely available via the Internet. For those who may prefer a physical CD, these are available at a very reasonable price. So our sincere thanks go to Steve and Sue for making this valuable resource available to today's pipers and to those of future generations - what a fantastic project with such long lasting benefits to the world-wide piping community. If there is one thing you should be doing above all else today, it has to be to check out their website www.ceolsean.net. Brilliant!
(p.s. in case anyone is wondering, I did check the copyright status with Steve - to the best of his knowledge, all settings are in the public domain and free of any copyright restrictions.)
Special Offer - 10% off all reeds - for one month only.
10% off all chanter and drone reeds, including plastic - yes all reeds! There is free post as well so enjoy a new tone and treat your bagpipe - don't leave it neglected. Discount will be taken off manually after you order. Click here.
Field Report - Tribute concert in Birmingham Town Hall, UK
Over 60 musicians, including the Birmingham Irish Pipe Band, recently gathered for a sell-out concert to honour the lifetime achievements of a leading light within the Irish community in the UK. Mick Hipkiss, twice all-Ireland ballad singing champion and founder of the famous folk band Drowsy Maggie, received a tumultuous reception from the 850 capacity audience. The night featured Irish songs and tunes in the main, but of course, a Scottish flavour is often present in such events. Bill Begg, who performed on fiddle and pipes with Drowsy Maggie for 13 years in the late 70s and 80s, played both instruments on the night and is seen on stage in the picture with the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, who presented Mick with a Gold Medal Civic Award for his contribution to Birmingham society - he is only the 39th person to have ever received such an award.
YouReport. 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. mailto:email@example.com