page 4


page 5

This event took place in Penrith, the very town where George Skene stopped over for some piping in the early 18th century (see CS Vol 17 No 2). It was well attended and. as the descriptions below by Angus Winchester and Dave Dunlop indicate (I have combined their reports - Ed), was a great success. Photos by Anita Evans

Over twenty-five pipers attended a Smallpipes Teaching Day organised by North Cumbria Pipers on 20th November. Penrith Methodist Church provided an excellent venue: close to the motorway; ample space and enough separate rooms to enable several different sessions to take place simultaneously. Although most participants were Northumbrian pip- ers, eight Scottish smallpipers enjoyed excellent tuition sessions with Vicky Swan. As well as the teaching sessions, there were workshops on pipe maintenance and reed making with Richard and Anita Evans, and a stunning mini-concert by our tutors.

Vicky rose magnificently to the challenge of teaching a very mixed group of players.

Most had experience of Highland pipes, some were new to the Scottish smallpipes, and one (yours truly) very much a beginner. We concentrated on playing rounds and harmonies and produced some good sounds. To a newcomer like myself, it was both exhilarating to play with others and a valuable learning experience.

The Northumbrian pipers were split into two groups for tuition and it appeared from my position in the beginners group that there was quite a bit of flexibility with people dropping in and out of either group as the day progressed.

Northumbrian smallpipe tutors were Philip Gruar and Chris Ormston. Philip took two sessions with the beginners and one of intermediate and Chris did the converse. I found Philip’s coverage of the basics to be very valuable since like some of the other beginners I have been working in isolation and one great strength of an event such as this is that you receive personal attention to address your immediate needs as a learner. I found it all very reassuring. Our session with Chris gave my confidence a further much-needed boost espe- cially as he favours playing by ear - good news for a non-reader. I left his session feeling that it was ok to be me. Chris appears to be the most relaxed of players and both tutors dem- onstrated that playing is more effective if you can maintain a relaxed approach.


The tutor for Border pipers was Matt Seattle. In the afternoon Matt joined forces with Rich- ard Evans in a workshop which looked at the differences between versions of some of the

tunes which are shared by Border and Northumbrian pipes. Matt is very much on form just now and his playing was sensitive and assured. He was soon joined by Maestro Ormston and I’m sure that many of the audience - what- ever their personal skill level or instrument of choice - must, like me, have regarded this as the high point of the day.

The afternoon was rounded off by a mini-concert featuring more of the playing of these


Matt Seattle and the Border Directors


excellent tutors which segued into a final play-around for all


attendees, although for this we once again split into groups depending on whether we sharp- ened our sevenths or not. I personally was surprised and pleased to discover that I survived this play-around quite well, managing to join in with more tunes than I sat out.

On behalf of all attendees I would like to extend warm thanks to the tutors, to all those who gave of their technical expertise, and to Richard and Anita and other members of the North Cumbria group for their excellent organisational work both during the day and at the relax- ing evening ceilidh.