English Bagpipes in Blockbuster!

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The most expensive film ever to be shot in Scotland, the Netflix drama “Outlaw King”, should feature English Great Pipes and Leicestershire smallpipes. It’s a stirring drama about the rivalry between Robert the Bruce and Edward II and was filmed earlier this year in a variety of locations. The musical director for the period scenes was Jim Sutherland; the brilliant percussionist and cittern player from the Scottish folk and swing group The Easy Club. He gathered around him about twenty acoustic instrumentalists as Edward II’s court musicians, which included yet another line-up of The Goodacre Brothers, to play two ‘adrenalizing’ pieces of music. This time The Brothers were me, Pete Stewart and Fraser Fifield. Among other musicians were Steve Tyler, Nigel Eaton, Chris Elmes and Andrew Cronshaw. The film was premiered in September at the Toronto Film Festival but it is not available on Netflix until November 9th.

For me it was a very well paid jolly lasting four days, but I am not signing autographs and calling everyone “Darling” yet as it is quite possible that all the shots of the musicians may be lying on the virtual cutting room floor. And even if the camera does stray in our direction no one would recognise me, with beard, moustache and £4000 wig glued in place! However, I hope the pipes are visible. Pete is playing his original high D English Great pipe and I am playing an odd combination of Low D English Great pipe drone fitted with a modified low C Cornish chanter.

You might catch sight of us in the chapel scene with Edward II and his 100 Black Knights (who all grew genuine beards for the occasion). We also played at a banquet scene where Edward II waved two dead swans above his head and the excitable Black Knights climbed on the tables and started throwing food. (My right foot received a glancing blow from a medieval bread roll). And in a peasant’s dance scene Fraser played a set of my Leicestershire smallpipes. That was the same day that Pete and I got sent home without ever being filmed, yet we got paid over £600 each! That is the most I have ever been paid for NOT playing the bagpipes, and I am always available for more of this type of work.

As I write this I have not seen the final cut, so I have no idea what it will include. I do hope that Jim’s splendid music will not be overdubbed with a plinky medieval- sounding synthesiser. And I hope that more than our drones and elbows will appear, as Netflix has world coverage and this should raise the profile of English bagpipes!

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