Monday, June 18, 2012

I Want to Talk About Piping :-)

You've heard me mention my bagpipes a whole lot more lately.  That's because last month I started piping again. 

I had always wanted to learn to play the bagpipes - and, as I have mentioned here before, I learned at a relatively young age that life is short.  One day, I decided that it was time to start doing all the things I'd always wanted to do.  So, at the age of 40, I found a teacher and started to learn how to play.  I had a great teacher here in Chicagoland, Ritch Sims of Chicago Caledonian.  When I was ready to move from the practice chanter to the pipes, he even loaned me a set of pipes that his great-uncle had made.  They were not the easiest to play, and they would only take Shepherd reeds but I learned on them, and he even let me take them on loan to Southern California when I moved there, so I could keep playing. 

When I moved to SoCal in 1999, I had already signed up for "bagpipe camp," in Oberlin, Ohio, so came back to the Midwest the last week of June that year, and went to camp.  I was afraid I was going to be the oldest person there.  Well, I was not the oldest person there, but pretty close.  :-) Most pipers start when they are kids.  Young kids.  It was intimidating, but it was one of the best experiences I could have had at that time.  My piping took a quantum leap that week.  Amazing what playing for hours every day will do for you  :-D 

I'm writing about this today because I was just at the Highland Games over the weekend, and it's sort of like being at an African violet convention - I always come home from any African violet event amped up about my plants.  And after hearing so many pipers and bands over the weekend, I am more excited than ever about playing again.

Anyway - I was going through a bunch of my music, looking for a Piobaireachd (classical pipe music - it's kinda pronounced pee-brook) piece, and I found my student evaluation form from bagpipe camp.  I had the great good fortune to have the late Lindsay Kirkwood as my instructor that week.  He was just wonderful and I learned SO much from him.  Plus, he put me in touch with my teacher in SoCal, Ian Whitelaw

Here's what Lindsay said about/to me:

- very sociable, easy going
- have more faith in yourself
- you proved this past week you can do it
- remember to beat your foot (& identify beats)
- real joy to teach you
- easy to teach
- think about new pipes?
      All the best,  Yo A!,     Lindsay Kirkwood

It's so fun to read that now, looking back so many years ago.   I am sociable and easy going  :-)  I did gain much more faith in myself as a piper.  I do keep time with my foot, and I do figure out the beats  :-D  I loved learning from Lindsay, so I'm glad he enjoyed teaching me, and I certainly did give Ian a call - and was very happy to become his student. I was very lucky that he would take me, an adult beginner, as a student.  I did, eventually, get new pipes - well, used pipes :-) and I became an adequate piper. 

As I have mentioned here before, when I came back to the Midwest nine years ago, I had a teacher for awhile, but we never really clicked into a good teacher/student pattern, and he moved, which made it difficult to figure out a lesson time - I think he just wasn't that interested in teaching me any longer. I don't blame him - I know now that I was not a great student at that time. 

I kept playing off and on on my own - and Ian used to come in from the coast from time to time to work with a couple of bands here, so I got occasional lessons when he was in town.  And then, in 2007, I got my first spinning wheel and began to learn to spin.  I realized that I couldn't do both, so I took a sabbatical from my pipes.  It turned into five years. 

Piping again now is a whole new experience.  I see it from a different place, and with the new hide bag and the synthetic reeds, I have an instrument that I can actually play instead of fight with.  And even though it was hotter than blazes on Saturday, I had a wonderful (albeit sweaty) time at the Highland Games!  I really wanted to hear some of the solo competition, which I did in the morning, and I got to hear some of the Grade 4 bands in the afternoon. 

I always feel that I know that I am on the right path when things just fall into place.  That's where I am now.  I retained more muscle memory in my hands than I had any right to after five years (that's a serious gift  :-) ).  I have a great new teacher here, Scott McCawley, a Grade 1 piper from Midlothian Scottish who so far has the patience of a saint with me and with the condition my pipes were in.  I now have pipes that I can play, and I have a great desire to be more than an "adequate" piper.  Time to make the next leap.  Maybe there's a bagpipe camp in my future again next year - Maybe Ian's, out on the coast, or maybe Oberlin again - I guess we'll wait and see.  And in the meantime, if you're in the area in the early afternoon and you hear strains of pipe music coming from somewhere along the Chicago River downtown, it's probably me practicing at lunch time  :-D


candy said...

I love the sound of bagpipes! Always did. Maybe because I'm Scottish...

candy said...

Is anyone reading our blogs anymore?

A :-) said...

I know from my stats that people read mine but don't always comment.