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Promoting the Bagpipe Revival since 1986

The Bagpipe Society

Grace Notes

Welcome to another edition of Chanter – the last in the Society’s 30th anniversary year. As we approach the end of 2016, I think the Society can look back with a degree of satisfaction as to what it has achieved over this period but also look forward to many more years of making a positive contribution to the world of bagpipes and bagpipers. In 2016 the Society has given financial support to various initiatives and this Chanter includes reports from two events which have benefitted. It is especially positive that both had an educational aspect as well as a social one. Promotion of the Society also continued through the year. Members gave a talk and demonstration to a packed venue at the FolkEast festival in August, as well as appearing at other festivals and events throughout the country – each one demonstrating bagpipes and, hopefully, encouraging new players and members. The Blowout celebrated the birthday by stimulating new music to be written for the pipes, as featured in the last edition. Society membership numbers are healthy (but more members are always encouraged!), the Facebook page now has over 1400 “likes” and the new website (thank you Joe!) is looking good and is being visited in record numbers. So it is a fitting end to this year to have a retrospective from the Society’s President, Jon Swayne. Jon has written a personal reflection on not only the Society’s journey over 30 years but also his personal one. Jon Swayne has had an immeasurable influence on both bagpipes and its music and I know that many members would not be playing the instrument now were it not for him. It is therefore, with great pleasure, that I can announce that Jon has been awarded a lifetime Honorary Membership of the Society in recognition of his significant contribution. Congratulations Jon – and thank you!

Despite the many inroads that both the Society and individual members have made with spreading the “word” about bagpipes, our work is not yet done! Jon, in his article, optimistically states that bagpipes are now less likely to be viewed as an oddity, with audiences aware that a bagpipe is actually a bagpipe even though it’s not the bagpipe. Sadly, I have to report that my experience differs. When performing with Piva, I still find that the majority of audiences ask me that the name of my instrument is, and I am met with amazement when I tell them that it is, in fact, a bagpipe – and it’s not from Northumbria, Scotland or Ireland!

I also find it sad and somewhat frustrating that bagpipes are still treated with a certain amount of derision and ridicule – along with similarly grouped instruments, such as the banjo (which I also happen to love). This was particularly evident in the summer when the press “silly season” excelled itself, yet again, with a furore over “bagpipers’ lung”. The fact that it could so easily have been trombonists’ or saxophonists’ lung seems to have escaped journalistic medical knowledge – but then that would not have made such a good headline! Chanter contains two articles on the subject. One submitted by an actual doctor – and was printed in a medical journal prior to the “big story” hitting the front pages and the other is from Ian Clabburn. Ian, as Chair, had the media spotlight shone on him and he recounts his experiences of the story.

Finally, having decided that there was no appetite for an open forum question and answer section in Chanter, I was very gratified to receive two “calls” for information. It is reassuring that there are some things left in the world which cannot be answered by a quick search on the internet. Please respond in your droves – and ask more questions too! There’s a wealth of knowledge out there just waiting to be tapped!

Enjoy this edition of Chanter and wishing you all the very best for the forthcoming festive season.

PS. Many apologies to Julian Scott who I inadvertently renamed as Julian Sutton in the last edition of Chanter.