------Est. 1980 Glasgow city centre's oldest bagpipe shop------
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Dear Piping Enthusiast,
If you were able to attend in person, I trust you enjoyed Piping Live! and The Worlds, but if you couldn't be there yourself, you no doubt caught the brilliant streaming from the BBC - what a great addition this free service is to piping and drumming around the globe. I was pleased to be able attend the Civic Reception at Glasgow City Chambers with the Lady Provost Sadie Docherty, in the company of my good friend Mr. Roddy Macleod and his affable director from the National Piping Centre Mr. Alberto Laidlaw. During his speech, Roddy talked about the wealth and the unseen cultural benefits that Piping Live! brings to Glasgow and to the Scottish nation as a whole. I also managed to catch up during the week with the College of Piping's Mr. Willie Park for a spot of lunch and the selected venue was the National Piping Centre - history may suggest there has been friction between Glasgow's two august piping colleges but I suspect these days are well and truly over, and we are surely the better for that.
Congratulations to Shotts
on winning the 2015 world championships - it was without doubt a great and well honed, all round performance. We were delighted to supply the majority of pipe bags to 5 out of the top 6 bands so how good is that? We are delighted.
Paul Warren, who is one of the piping instructors in Oman with the Sultan's armed forces, has asked me to mention his new Exam Excellence Programme that is designed to help both teachers and students with the SCQF and PBQD exams/syllabus. Check out his website Elixir Piping and Drumming
for more information He's obviously doing a lot more than just topping up his tan in the Gulf! It's interesting as well that as the standards of bands in Oman rise, he is considering moving from synthetic bags to natural materials to further enhance the improvements being made. We wish him well and will be supporting his efforts in this regard.
Piping Adventures and Experiences - Hogmanay
I suppose we are not too far away from the next one. We're already inundated with the Xmas party night propaganda and it drives me mad. There have been a few Hogmanay events that I remember better than others for some unknown reason! From a playing point of view, it was always traditional to play outside my own house as a dark tall stranger first footed (you would be more careful these days as to who you would let walk straight into your house). A lump of coal was the standard gift as I assume it was to warm the house as most houses had coal fires. Coal fires were great but hard work and they either seemed to be too hot or not on at all - but ultimately, it gave the house a warm glow and a focal point.
I've played at various places over Hogmanay and been well received. I just about survived some over-amorous ladies in a southern suburb of Glasgow and was lucky to get out, especially with my kilt still on -it was that bad or should I say good. One year, I spent a complete 5 days in the Isle of Man with P/M Davie Wotherspoon when we were young lads .Davie played for the 2,000 seater nightclub and I got the posh bit playing round a few of the hotel's bars. Again it wasn't for faint-hearted. Davie, by the way, is forming a new band to compete in Grade 2 I think and the idea is to work around peoples' busy lives by practicing once a week on a Saturday and stepping up practice slightly as the season kicks in. It's a good idea or is it the P/M just looking for easy life?! I also travelled for many years to a very grand house overlooking the Erskine Bridge on the River Clyde. It was a grand, private dinner party with log fires and all the trimmings and I got the impression of what it must have been like some 300 years previous when the chiefs returned from stalking and the piper played. The highlight of the evening was when I played some eightsome reels in the driveway and enjoyed a toast with my kind hosts. The downside was always having to drive in poor weather as well as not being with my own family, but there was of course a "silver lining" in my sporran to compensate. These days I am now back playing for my current neighbours and glad to entertain them at such a poignant time of year. If you have any Hogmanay anecdotes or any interesting Piping Experiences, do please let me know.
James C. Begg
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Field Report - the Worlds
Piping Live! and the World Pipe Band championships seem to now be set in stone as one of the top attractions in Scotland. It's interesting to note that the general public who aren't players themselves also seem to embrace it. It perhaps has to be said that the general public find the admission price too steep and I would agree with that. A cheaper entry would encourage more to go and in that way would actually make more money as well as promoting the art. Taxi drivers, hoteliers, restaurateurs and the like all enjoy the boom in business that these events bring. There is always lots of chat over the week and when people ask me what I do for a living, it often comes as a bit of a shock to them when I tell them I am first and foremost a bag-maker. The follow up question is usually "and you can make a decent living doing that?" With my usual modesty, I reply along the lines of "being the best has its rewards!" There has been some comment post the Worlds about band formations and whether or not the circle is still the best way. There may be the odd occasion like a concert when a different approach is required but in my opinion, "if it's not broke, don't try and fix it". Some observers seem to demand change for change's sake and perhaps try to force change through - a balanced and considered view is required which takes input from all interested parties globally. Let's not rush to change a system which works. We should bear in mind that in the late 70s, the orchestral situation was tried and not regarded as a success. Perhaps it's a good idea not to get confused with the difference between pipe bands and orchestras. The circle works well and according to my connections, change is not required - unless you are a budding Andre Rieu.
James C. Begg
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