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Promoting the Bagpipe Revival since 1986

The Bagpipe Society


Spielkurs Pipenbock is an annual event in Northern Germany which features workshops on traditional instruments, music and dance - including two bagpipe courses:• half-closed pipes and Swedish bagpipes aka säckpipa.The main attraction for me was the chance of being taught by Swedish riksspelman Olle Gällmo, so I made the trip in 2018.• And went back again last year, and will be going again in November 2020!

The Pipenbock weekend is a full-on experience, packed with tuition, concerts and dancing. You definitely get your money’s worth! Workshops start on Friday morning, so it’s best to arrive Thursday night. The course takes place at Schloss Dreilützow, 80km east of Hamburg (the nearest airport), in pleasant green countryside. There is also a resident ghost, of course, who goes by the name of Dieter, although I did not have the pleasure of encountering him. All accommodation is in shared rooms as the imposing 18th century manor house largely caters for school trips and similar low-budget travel groups.

The säckpipa course benefits from having two tutors as Olle has been teaching in conjunction with German pipemaker Matthias Branschke since 2011. Usually participants are split into two groups with alternating tutors, but when only four of us signed up in 2018, we got double the attention, and spent extra time developing harmony lines. Sheet music is provided in advance, although tunes are taught by ear. With Swedish dance this is particularly appropriate as the notation cannot adequately describe the lilting rhythms of a polska.

Matthias teaches German dance tunes culled from a series of handy little booklets - Neues aus alten Büchern - compiled by a group of German musicians who regularly trawl through old manuscripts and save many beautiful tunes from oblivion.• Matthias is excellent at breathing life and wit into these tunes. He is also very helpful with any technical and practical challenges of the instrument.

Olle shares his ever-growing collection of traditional Swedish dances with the participants, additionally providing sheet music - helpfully annotated with tuning & playing instructions - to all after the event (currently well over 60 tunes taught in the previous 9 years of Pipenbock). He has a profound knowledge and understanding of Swedish folk music which he communicates well in word and on pipes.

Both are excellent workshop leaders who adjust their teaching to the needs and abilities of the group rather than adhering to a strict schedule - this includes linguistic flexibility:• to accommodate a single English-speaking participant in 2019, one group was taught in English only, with the less anglophone members in the other group.

As the säckpipa is still very much a minority sport, this weekend provides a fantastic opportunity to learn from two of the finest, and to play for hours with a room full of fellow enthusiasts, most of whom come back year after year.

Booking via the website - which is mostly in German - or you can direct enquiries to the organiser, Merit Zloch, via