Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Received Some Great Instruction (Not Radio Related)

This past weekend I had the rare opportunity to receive some piping instruction from 3 of the world's top pipers.  I attended a workshop in Peterborough, ON for pipers and drummers.  The 3 piping instructors were 8-time winner of the Glenfiddich Piping Championships, Willie McCallum, and multi-winners Angus MacColl and Stuart Liddell.  I won't go into further details of their careers here but suffice it to say that I was exposed to instruction from 3 of the world's finest piping soloists of all time and in Stuart's case the pipe major from one of the world's the top pipe bands (Inveraray and District Pipe Band).  

The pipers in attendance were divided into 3 groups and each were instructed by one of the instructors for 1/2 a day.  Our group of about 12 pipers (generally beginning pipers with up to a few years experience) had our first day's lessons with Angus followed by Willie in the afternoon and we learned 3 tunes: a march (Corriechoillie), a strathspey (Louden's Bonnie Woods and Braes) and a reel (Kate Dalrymple).  We also learned about practising methods and how to train our fingers for better execution.  There is no "trick" to getting better on the bagpipes other than repetition and practising good technique.  Every time you play an embellishment or note transition incorrectly, without going back and doing it properly, you are teaching your fingers to play it wrong.  Your fingers' muscle memory learns bad technique which makes it even harder to correct later.  I always enjoy learning new tunes and I like it even more if it's a tune I have heard before and liked but didn't know the name of which was the case here with Louden's Bonnie Woods and Braes.  I'm very happy to have learned it.

In the evening there was a ceilidh which included a roast beef dinner, a recital from the 3 pipers and the drumming instructors.  This recital was phenomenal.  Incidentally, the ceilidh was a kick-off/launch for a documentary DVD that featured these pipers and 2 drummers on a road trip down the famous Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica.  The tour and subsequent DVD was/is called Pipes and Sticks on Route 66.  We got to watch about 2/3 of the DVD before our time was up at the venue but from what I saw it was a great production.

On the second day of the workshop our group received instruction from Stuart and I was not disappointed at all.  He taught us a simple march called I See Mull but he taught it to us without the sheet music.  This was an entirely different way to learn and it was a challenge but it really helps with the memorization of the tune.  He then had us playing the tune on our practice chanters while marching in a circle...all from memory.  This was very different from how I have learned in the past and I liked it.  After a coffee break he asked us what else we would like to talk about or learn and someone mentioned Piobaireachd.  Now this area of piping is very different from the "Light Music" most people associate with the bagpipes.  The tunes are slower and can last almost 20 minutes sometimes.  It is definitely not for everyone, listener or player.  Because of this, he was tentative at first but after everyone expressed their approval he proceeded to teach us a simple Piobaireachd called Glengarry's Lament.  It was great to be exposed to this ancient form of music for the first time to any extent.  I liked it and I may try some out.  After lunch we all went outside and did some piping, marching...usual band stuff.  It was great and I had a blast.  I learned a lot but the thing I learned the most was that it takes a lot of practise and hard work to improve...More GDEs!!!

Me with Stuart Liddell

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