------Est. 1980 Glasgow city centre's oldest bagpipe shop------
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Newsletter - November 2012
Dear Piping Enthusiast,
Hello again and I hope both you and your pipes are in good shape. Sorry we missed last month's newsletter since we are really busy over here -- demand for our sheepskin bags maintains the momentum seen over the past couple of years and we are flat out. You really only have to look at the results of bands and solo pipers who are on Begg bags to discover the driving force behind the demand. This month, we are pleased to report another success. Denny and Dunipace Gleneagles PB, who had a great 2012 season and won Grade 2 at the World Championships, have confirmed their promotion to Grade 1. We are really pleased and look forward to continuing our relationship with them. It is also great to see a change of direction for Shotts and Dykehead under the new leadership of P/M Ryan Canning and we welcome them to the Begg bag family - let's keep an eye on how they get on in 2013 and we wish them well.
James C. Begg
A big event coming up shortly is the 73rd Annual solo piping competition held by the Scottish Piping Society of London. This is a wonderful event and features the prestigious Bratach Gorm - don't miss it if you are around the London area on Saturday 10th November.
On a note of interest, James and his son Gavin played their first public duet recently at the Glasgow Museum of Science and Gavin also works in the Begg shop at the weekends - the future of bag making in the long term may well be secured.
Did you watch the live streaming of the Glenfiddich Solo Piping from Blair Castle, Perthshire on Saturday? This technology lends itself really well to Piping when you consider our global presence and reach - the live feed extended through the night in parts of the Southern Hemisphere but this was solo piping at its best and was not to be missed. If the streaming concept is to be developed and repeated, it would be in everyone's interest to make sure that due diligence is paid to the "watchability" aspects - does tuning up really have to be such a long drawn out affair? It doesn't make for enjoyable viewing or listening.
A-Z of Piping - a Personal View by James C. Begg
- X is for the X Factor
Who would you say has the X factor within the World of Piping? Well, the definition within our world will be somewhat different from that you see on weekend TV since we have our own unique standards, aspirations and culture. I would also like to think we set the bar far higher in terms of skills and longevity and the rewards to be gained are not purely of a materialistic nature. For me, the X factor surely has to include "legend" somewhere in the mix. If this is the case, then my thoughts turn to the likes of Angus MacDonald and Donald MacLeod. We know they were masters of their art and full time professionals but what else was it about them that separated them from the rest? They both were of course prolific composers and produced high quality books but we need to also look to their personal qualities - kind, unassuming and good company to be with. They were not ones to blow their own trumpet so to speak and were not seeking fame - but both achieved it and have become legends. There are others who you might consider including the Glen family, the Macrimmons, R.G Lawrie, P. Henderson and A. MacKay. Who would you nominate? We'd be pleased to hear from you and with your permission, would publish your thoughts in a later edition of our newsletter.
Coming back to Angus and Donald, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend time with each of them and not only did they have the X Factor, but they also had the Y Factor for being young at heart and the Z or Zee factor for zippitydoo! So X, Y and Z taken care of, courtesy of two Piping legends - that's a nice way to end our journey through my A-Z of Piping and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
James C. Begg
Special Offer - Get into the Real Thing!!
A whopping discount on hide bags this month- normally £70.83 (plus vat if applicable) but now £54.17 (plus vat if applicable) for this month only - more than 20% off - forget Groupon - this is the best buy around. Bags are soft, "bullet proof" and ideal for the occasional player. They work well in warm climates but are not suitable if you are a moist blower. So use this opportunity as an entry point into the world of leather and you won't be disappointed.
Field Report - Bob McMichael, An American Piper in Scotland - part 2
The first part of my report detailed the amazing few days I spent in Glasgow last May, taking lessons at the National Piping Centre, staying at the Pipers’ Tryst, attending a Scottish Power rehearsal, and getting a new sheepskin bag from James Begg.
After Glasgow, my wife and I had a rendezvous planned with my dad and stepmom in Lochranza, on Arran. We rented a car from Enterprise down near the Clyde, and promptly got hopelessly lost in the maze of one-way and bus-only streets (resulting in an expensive citation mailed to me months later, complete with a photograph of me freaking out in the car). I should have expected something like this when I realized we’d been given the absolute worst vehicle I’d ever been in: a Chevrolet Spark, whose license plate my wife and I decided read “LUCIFER.” Nonetheless, we finally made it to the ferry in Ardrossan where I broke out the pipes and new bag and played to a stone wall which offered no negative (or positive) feedback. I was eager to get the new bag broken in because there was a chance I’d be playing in front of some folks the next night.
We stayed at Castlekirk B&B in Lochranza, a wonderful place we’d visited eight years earlier. My dad and his wife are poets, and I’d corresponded with the proprietor of Castlekirk, whom I knew ran an art and performance space there, about hosting a reading. And I offered to play my pipes briefly and talk about the connection between poetry and piobaireachd as a kind of introduction to the real show. She liked the idea. Despite a torrential downpour, the reading drew folks from all over the island and we had a good crowd. I was nervous because I was struggling with the new bag still and had never played in front of a group of Scots, but I managed to eke out a couple urlars before turning it over to the poets (which included four poets from Arran). Everyone there was wonderfully gracious and warm, and a great time was had by all despite being assaulted by pipes at the start.
The next day we headed toward Mull, but I wanted to see if I could find the grave of the namesake of one of my favorite piobaireachds, Lachlan MacNeill Campbell of Kintarbert. I’d managed to locate the Kilnaish Mausoleum from Bridget Mackenzie’s Piping Traditions of Argyle and marked it on my GPS. We found it, crumbling and getting swallowed by vegetation, but a break in the weather made it a spectacular moment, especially considering it was almost exactly 160 years to the day of his burial there. I played a bit of the tune he fancied and thought I felt a bit of shifting under my feet. (Photo of Bob playing at the graveside.)
A week in Inverness during some of the most horrid weather I’d ever experienced provided lots of time indoors and no playing, except for a brief visit to Tulloch Castle near Dingwall. Now a rather rundown but high-priced hotel, the manager said it would be fine for me to play in the Great Hall since there were no guests in at the moment. I enjoyed that very much, but we had a long day trip ahead of us so I had to cut it short.
I’m not the most intrepid tourist and don’t like to bother people so I didn’t really dig deep to find piping-related events. But I did ask around a bit in Inverness and other places nearby and was surprised by how little interest I found in the subject up there, especially since in August and September it’s supposed to be lousy with piping. Oh well. Timing is, at least sometimes, everything.
Time to head home, and on our drive from Inverness back to Glasgow I stopped at a field where the Viscount of Dundee is said to have died after winning the Battle of Killicrankie in 1689. Not far from Blair Atholl, we got another stunning break in the weather and I crossed the fence, trespassed in a farmer’s field, and played “Lament for the Viscount of Dundee” to the Claverstone, once again noting some shuffling of earth beneath my toes as I played.
Bob McMichael, Boise, Idaho, U.S.A
Bob, Thank you so much for two entertaining articles and we hope to see you back in Scotland in the near future. James and Bill 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. mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org