Iain Kinnear reports on his annual teaching weekend

On the 15th October 2010 The Burn Estate near Edzell in Angus was ringing to the sound of smallpipes when a group of 16 enthusiastic and cheery folk gathered for the annual smallpiping weekend held by Ian Kinnear. Robert Watt from Ireland was the visiting tutor for this year’s course bringing with him his unique and most accomplished playing and teaching expertise. As well as introducing some of his own compositions to the teaching material, Robert gave an insight into his own approach and method for practicing and developing his playing which has helped him achieve the level of competition and international performing standard for which he is acclaimed.
Folk attending the course came from Scotland, Ireland, England, France and Belgium – both male and female! There was a good mix of standards with everyone coming with their own particular aims for the weekend – ranging from mastering the bellows technique, learning more about tuning and reed management to extending repertoire to cover both Scottish and Irish tunes for session playing with other instruments.
The weekend began with a welcome dram in the drawing room in front of a roaring fire. On Friday evening Ian spent time with each individual checking over their pipes to make sure they were in good playing order and finding out what each person hoped to gain from the weekend. After the evening meal, everyone gathered in the drawing room for some informal tunes and songs as well!
On Saturday morning the pipers split into 2 groups. Robert led one focusing on several of his compositions and in particular the technique involved. The other was led by Ian with the focus being bag and bellows positioning, bellows technique with the aim being to get everyone comfortable with their pipes and blowing a steady tone. Ian then taught the group “The Chanters Tune” by ear. Despite their preconceptions about their ability to learn by ear, and much to their surprise, they were all able to do it! The rest of the day was taken up with playing sessions; everyone then got together and the 2 groups shared with each other the tunes they had been working on, finishing with everyone playing Robert’s tune “Anne’s Waltz”.
On Sunday, as well as having several playing sessions, Ian also gave a talk on repertoire and playing with other instruments. The aim here was to get pipers to think about what key tunes are in, whether tunes have been adapted to fit the pipes and if so will they still be compatible with versions played on other instruments.

Pipers at Iain Kinnear's Weekend

Here are some words directly from a couple of the participants from this year’s course;
“I had bought a set of pipes from Ian a few years ago with a view to adding them to my highland pipe playing but being away at sea a lot they rarely left the box – when they did I struggled with the technique.  This course was the perfect opportunity to sort that out, and it did.  Ian’s patience and ability to explain, observe and adjust was exceptional and I am now a happy piper on both highland and small pipes. Still not sure if the small pipes will come to sea with me due to the salty environment but they definitely do not live in the box anymore at home or in the band room.”  
Campbell de Burgh.
“As a newcomer to smallpipes, I was apprehensive about joining this workshop, but was made to feel welcome by even the most accomplished players present.  The first evening, reassured by finding two of my Scots Music Group beginners classmates present, and no doubt aided by whisky, I even dared to contribute a couple of my old school band 2/4s.  I was inspired by Robert's playing and fascinated by Ian's talk on session playing. Another eye-opener was the importance of the key of a tune.  With the GHB I just bashed through whatever was presented, without giving the key a second thought. Now I may have opened a can of worms!
The Burn was a great location, grand in scale but not over posh.  Very friendly welcome, good food, blazing fires and set in Glen Esk, (my father's homeland) which is really bonny in autumn.  The biggest lesson of the weekend was that smallpipes are fun!  I'll be signing up for next year.”
Allan Sturrock
“I returned to playing pipes in August 2008 after a twenty plus year gap, only occasionally picking up the big pipes over the years. It was a chance visit to a pub in Portree that I first came across someone playing a set of mouth blown smallpipes. Returning from my Skye holiday I looked in to smallpipes and came across Ian Kinnear and his sets of Scottish Smallpipes. Ian invited me to join his weekend course in October 2008 where he was joined by the fantastic Andrew Stephenson of Skipinnish.
This year I returned to join Ian and his guest tutor Robert Watt, one of the new generation of a piper’s piper, a fantastic piper. Ian works hard at mixing people at the right level of their ability so everyone can enjoy themselves. In my first visit to Ian’s weekend course in 2008, I joined the beginners using a set of Ian’s pipes that he was able to lend while mine were being made. This year I was a vet – well, at least I now had a small repertoire of tunes and was able to join the other players every so often during the open session evenings we had, which was a sheer joy.
The tutor sessions with Robert were a pure delight. It is great to see and hear how a professional musician works their magic. I am pleased to say that I will now be one of Ian’s regulars and my summer will end each year with a visit to Ian’s weekend workshop. There is not a friendlier and more welcoming place to go and enjoy playing good music and meeting good people.”

Ken MacIntyreIan Kinnear’s annual smallpiping course will be held from 7th – 9th October 2011 in The Burn, Edzell, Angus. For more information please contact Ian at Firwood, Inveriscandye Rd, Edzell, DD9 7TN, Angus; 01356 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..