August of this year saw the 18th iteration of the Pipers’ Gathering—for its third year at the Wisdom House in Litchfield, Connecticut. Some 70 participants came together to enjoy a weekend of piping and other music-making, workshops and concerts. Piping Instructors/Performers in 2016 included:
- Scottish smallpipes—Iain MacInnes (Scotland), Barry Shears (Cape Breton, Canada) and Chris Gray (US)
- Uilleann pipes—Brian McNamara (Ireland), Benedict Koehler (US) and Chris Gray (US)
- Northumbrian smallpipes—Bill Wakefield (US)
- Border pipes—Will Woodson (US)
And because pipes and their music don’t exist in solitary, the Gathering also hosts workshops and lessons on other, “complementary” instruments such as whistle, flute, fiddle, and fretted instruments (guitar, bouzouki and the like). In 2016 these included Dan Foster (fiddle), Laura Mackenzie (flute, whistle) Chris Gray (him again, whistle) and Owen Marshall (guitar).
Vendors are an important aspect as the Gathering is one of the few places that prospective buyers can see and try an instrument before ordering and previous buyers can get their instruments fettled while watching so they can better maintain their instruments in the future.
One of the main foci of the Gathering is to introduce new participants to the world of piping. To this end there are “Honk and Squeeze” workshops where total novices can get a hands-on introduction to the instruments under the watchful eye of an experienced piper, a Beginners Track to bring along those just starting out in a comfortable setting, and a whistle introductory path (with the clear statement that whistles can be a “gateway instrument” to piping). And finally, a limited number of scholarships are offered to new, or financially-challenged, pipers to get them to the event. These scholarships are funded through the Van Jackman Memorial Fund (which includes a generous donation from the Bagpipe Society). This year three such scholarships were awarded (see later for excerpts from reports from the recipients).
Planning has begun for the 2017 Gathering, scheduled for 18–20 August, again in Litchfield. It would be wonderful to see some members of the Bagpipe Society in the mix of participants as well as some vendors from the Society’s membership. More information is available on the Pipers Gathering web site http://www.pipersgathering.org/ as well as a downloadable copy of the 2016 Gathering program booklet which includes information on the performers, articles of interest to pipers, tunes, etc.