Saturday, December 24, 2005


Of Uilleanns and Philabegs

I should be starting up some regular work on the Uilleann pipes again soon. One of Elise's flute students (the one I ran into at the Christmas walk) and I will be working together to self-teach the Uilleann pipes. I will loan-to-own her my spare practice Uilleann set, and play the other. I recently reeded them up with the 3rd generation plastic reeds from Bagpipes Galore, and they sound pretty good. The intonation isn't perfect, but the 2nd octave is well behaved, and that's more important for a synthetic practice instrument. I already sorta know most of the fingering (except low C-nat, and high C# and D), so a little time each day on it should produce results, and improve my bellows skills for the smallpipes too.

My other bellows pipes, the Scottish smallpipes, have been sent off to EJ to fix a cracked mount and some other routine maintenance.

My practice on the big pipes has mostly been confined to getting caught up with the band repertoire, but since there are strathspeys and reels in there, I'm getting double duty. I have been spending time on the A-440 pipes, mostly practicing my Devil's Tailor's pipe set, and 18th century pipe tunes out of the Patrick McDonald Collection. I need to get back on the piobaireachd soon, probably when the new reeds for the A-440 chanter arrives.

Fiddle has been more Gow and Marshall. I'm really loving this late 18th/early 19th century stuff. Very delicate. We just finished the Bb section in Marshall (I am so in love with that key!), and are still on Gow strathspeys in all sorts of keys. The C-minor strathspey was nice, as was the D-modal one that is built around D and Em chords, instead of D and C chords. It almost has the feel of an E-dorian tune (like Bog an Lachan) turned inside out!

My replacement C-whistle is on order, and the Appins generously paid for its replacement. Yay Appins!

Today was spent sewing on buttons on my period and modern Highland outfits. I also stitched in the pleats for my 18th century philabeg, pleating the front apron as per the Joseph McDonald illustration. I haven't quite worked out the best way to put it on, but once it is on, it looks great! Especially with Gerry's longer waistcoat and jacket. Once I have my own short waistcoat and jacket, I'll probably sew a longer one of my own to wear with the philabeg. Or at least a longer jacket.

Monday, December 05, 2005



It's official!

I'm now piping in Grade III in the EUSPBA!

I knew it was coming, but still very nice to have confirmed.

Now the real work begins...


Watch Your Step!

I discovered how different piobaireachd written and piobaireachd played can be. I have been crash-learning Black Donald's March, and John forgot to mention the scansion, so I assumed it was 4-pulse. So I was playing it HMMH; when it turns out to be 3-pulse, played MMHL, with the light pulse almost as a pick-up note. This completely changes the feel of the ground from common to compound time. Relearning it in a day and a half was a bit of a challenge! Fortunately, only the ground and Var. II follow this pattern; the rest of the tune is played similar to a 6/8 crotchet-quaver (Var III. and its implied doubling) or 2/4 time.

The Scottish Christmas Walk parade in Old Town Alexandria took place this weekend, and went off very well from my perspective. City of Alexandria looked smashing, as did the Appins (with whom I paraded). The morning was very cold, but the pipes were reasonably well-behaved. I played excerpts from the piobaireachds Black Donald's March and Struan Robertson's Salute, the ancient march Hey Tuti Tati, and the strathspey/reel combo Stumpie/Atholl Plaid. I had intended to play The Scots March in the 2nd and 3rd octaves of my wooden whistle in C (fife-style), but my whistle was getting cold, and I thought it might be a good idea to keep it in my waistcoat. Of course, it slipped out without my seeing it, and I crushed it with my foot. The fipple section survived, and the Appins generously donated toward the replacement of the body, which is now on order.

I almost lost my lip during the parade, but I had many compliments on the sound of my pipes (which I thought to be mediocre - the chanter was a bit shawm-like with the kludged reed). We went to Pat Troy's where I ran into one of Elise Kress' flute students (we keep running into each other, and then saying, "you look really familiar!"), and the to Murphy's where I was asked to play a piobaireachd (not too many requests for that!) and I did my march as well, and got a free beer out of it.

The Royal Mile session was a lot of fun, and better attended than any since spring. And I made Chris the offer to join the Devil's Tailors, and he volunteered to play Bodhran as well as guitar, which opens up even more options for us! I can't wait to brainstorm arrangements with Anders with this additional talent to draw from. Now we just need 1-2 girls to sing and play flute for us.

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