------Est. 1980 Glasgow city centre's oldest bagpipe shop------
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Dear Piping Enthusiast,
It's been a nice international mix of customers this past week with Western Australia Police needing an urgent delivery of bags, along with returning soldiers of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards from Afghanistan and customers in New York and Toronto. A new press has now been commissioned so that will increase our production capacity.
We are coming to the end of our Any Questions? series and the penultimate session is with the distinguished Gordon Walker - see below. Our final session in next month's newsletter will be with Yours Truly and we shall also report on some of the common themes we have seen from all our contributors.
James C. Begg
March sees two great annual events taking place on the 8th in Glasgow - the Uist and Barra at the College of Piping and the Duncan Johnstone Memorial for up and coming pipers at the National Piping Centre. Both are well worth getting along to if you can.
For those of you who didn't catch it, we have changed our postcode and address slightly but remain in the same premises - we are now 202A Bath Street, G2 4HW
Burns Night at the Lenzie rugby club went off well. Stewart Smith gave a really funny turn finishing off with a Chic Murray sketch- Chic has to be Scotland's all time unique comedian. My favourite was: A man and his wife arrive at the airport check-in, when he exclaims "I knew we should have brought the piano". "Why is that?" his wife asks. He replied "because the passports are sitting on top of it". Well, it seemed funny at the time!
Any Questions? - for P/M G. Walker
Gordon Walker can best be summed up as being "The Piper's Piper". He has had a glorious solo piping career, is renowned as a composer and has spent many years passing on his skills through teaching. There is a picture of Gordon in my shop from some 20 years ago and I have many happy memories of our long acquaintance. Perhaps the strongest one is when he arrived at the shop one afternoon from his Army tour of duty in Northern Ireland, got me to fit a new bag for him and then went on to win the Argyllshire Gathering at Oban the very next day - amazing - natural talent, innate ability and unflappable!
Q. At what age did you start playing and who were/are your tutors?
A. I started when I was four and a half years old, and could play a scale before I knew the alphabet. My grandmother gave me a picture of two of my uncles, Jim and Bert, who were in the Scots Guards and this caught my attention. Subsequently, I was put in touch with a family friend, P/M David Kay from Cumnock and he was my first tutor. At aged 16, I joined the Army as a boy soldier and prior to that had piobaireachd tuition from Iain Clowe of Dumfries. The Army had a major influence of course with my learning and in particular from Iain Morrison, Andrew Pitkeithley and John MacLellan.
Q. What is the best piping advice you’ve had and who gave it to you?
A. When I was winning junior events, David Kay said "Don't always expect to win". Work hard was his advice - if your instrument is going well and you've worked hard, then the outcome is likely to be good.
Q. What would you say has been your biggest piping difficulty?
A. Getting motivated, which is not a problem when I have something to aim for - it's a bit tough during the long winter months.
Q. Which is the best piping book?
A. When teaching kids, Scots Guards volumes 1 and 2 along with Donald Macleod's books are excellent. Modern day books from Michael Grey, Bill Livingston, Bruce Gandy, Chris Armstrong and Angus MacDonald are all good.
Q. Who is your favourite player and why - past or present?
A. John Wilson, John Burgess and Angus MacDonald as I was growing up, as well as Bill Livingston for piobaireachd - and of course, John MacDougall and Iain MacFadyen. From our own age group, I enjoy the playing of Roddy MacLeod, Willie MacCallum, and Stuart Liddell who is taking over the mantle of the late, great Alasdair Gillies. Another of my favourites is Chris Armstrong - along with Roddy, Willie and Stuart, these four great players can entertain as well.
Q. Is there something in piping you wish you could have done but haven’t as yet?
A. I've never won the clasp in Inverness- never won it but I've been 2nd. Perhaps the reason for this is not applying enough discipline in learning tunes I may not have picked myself. There are of course other distractions in life in general, as well as spending time with pipe bands.
Q. What is your pet hate within piping?
A. I think it is being forced to learn tunes that you don't like, which are brought on by rules in certain competitions. There are set tunes stipulated by the Piobaireachd Society and they are not always the most tuneful ones you would select to play - hence it can be a chore rather than pleasure. We of course have to keep tunes alive that individual players may not personally like and we accept this responsibility but there may be a case in alternate years to allow a player's own choice.
Q. What has been your happiest piping moment?
A. Undoubtedly, it was winning the silver medal at Oban at 16 years of age when my parents were there. There were also euphoric moments when I won the gold medals at Inverness and Oban
Q. What is your most prized piping possession?
A. My two sets of pipes and all the prizes I have won. The latter are stored in a huge glass cabinet that I bought from a cabinet shop in the USA. I was there with Alasdair Gillies and we both bought one for the same purpose.
Q. What do you do outwith piping that might surprise us?
A. Cooking but not washing - it was great when I managed to buy a dish washer! I enjoy cooking programmes, easy-listening music and films, particularly those detective and murder themes like Colombo and Taggart. I guess I enjoy all the sort of things I didn't manage to do when I was a soldier.
Gordon - thank you so much!
The leading electronic pipe, now at a great discount for this month only.
Don't miss this chance - reduced from £340 (excl vat) to £287.50 (excl vat)! The leading electronic pipe - reliable - versatile -comes with headphones - can be put through stereo computer or midi - various octaves and sounds.
Field Report - The Glasgow Highland Club Dinner
The 2nd of the two annual Glasgow Highland Club house dinners in early February proved to be a night worth attending as usual. This turned out to be especially true with it being held on a Monday when it might have been a lot easier to simply curl up on the lazy boy chair at home. I enjoyed the company of Iain MacDonald, a piper and dancer from Lenzie, and Peter from Torrance, a master tailor. Both were on good form. It was nice to see a lot of the usual suspects and many knew from our February newsletter that I would be present. With work and family commitments, I can't get along to the Highland Club as much as I would like to, so this occasion was to be savoured. Chris Armstrong was given the honour of playing the after dinner piobaireachd. He played a recently learned piece, The Big Spree, on a solid bagpipe and performed very well. It's never easy to entertain a knowledgeable audience of experts and enthusiasts but Chris achieved this to great effect. I meet up with him on quite a regular basis these days due to his involvement with the Power, who are one of our major customers. It's always nice to have a chat and a laugh with him as well as getting the job done. John Wilson, the Club Piper, has had some knee problems and is out of action. John, we all wish you a full and speedy recovery.
We had the snuff then followed that with Ainsley Hamil who is currently on the BA Course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She is a member of Barluath - this is the group led by Edward Seaman who normally play at the Begg Bagpipes day in the NPC marquee during Piping Live! I was glad we have previously provided a platform for her and the band. The quality of her voice and singing shone through and her rousing rendition of Ye Jacobites by Name brought the house down. The hard working president Dugald Macintyre brought a most enjoyable night to a close.
James C. Begg
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 email@example.com