March 13th-15th
A familiar format at a new venue - event organiser George Greig reports on this annual weekend

The annual LBPS teaching weekend, known for many years as ‘The Melrose Weekend’ this year moved north to a new venue in Stirlingshire. The hotel owner and his staff were extremely helpful, the feedback from the participants was very positive and the hotel is likely to become a regular resort for future weekends. The central location and easy access by rail was seen to be a bonus.
Tutors were Fin Moore, John Saunders and Angus MacKenzie. Most teaching was by ear; however, there were a few instances where the dots were given out to make life easier for one or two of the participants.
There was a good variety and, again, the feedback was very positive. Fin introduced a super tune written by Sarah Hoy's dad called 'An Atom of Delight' [you can hear Rona Dawson play this as the first tune in her set in the competition]. Fin also taught ‘O’er the Dyke’ from the William Dixon manuscript. Angus taught some Cape Breton tunes and John introduced some fine tunes he had written himself. The tutors managed to produce a good range of material which was much appreciated.
The participants were put into three groups: I separated out those playing Border pipes - I encouraged them to play on smallpipes for one of the sessions but they elected to stick to Border pipes all the time which was okay by me. The remaining folk played smallpipes in A and I put them into two roughly equal groups on my own assessment of ability aided by what they put on the booking forms. People were free to swap groups if they wished. The feedback suggests that people were happy with the groups in which they found themselves.
The 'concert' at the end with participant groups playing things that they had learned interspersed by tutors playing 'party-pieces' went well and was thought to be a good way to finish up.

LBPS member Bjørn Willemoes-Wissing travelled from Trondheim to the Bridge of Allan event. Here he gives his impressions of the weekend

About 20 persons participated in the weekend and I realized that several had traveled quite far. For example coming from Manchester by train or north west Scotland by car to Bridge of Allen takes a comparable amount of time as to come all the way from Trondheim in Norway.
The teaching was divided in to three sessions, two on Saturday with one in the morning and one in the afternoon and one the Sunday morning. The participants were divided into three groups having one session with each tutor.
The tuition, at least in our group, was given so we had to learn by ear and by watching the tutors fingers. It's a bit challenging when not being used to it but nevertheless a very good exercise and it went quite well, especially in the beginning. During the day the ability to focus did everything else than improve, so maybe some shorter breaks a bit more often could keep the concentration going a bit longer throughout the day? It definitely helps to know the tune before starting to learn it on the pipes (or any instrument I guess). I remember in Melrose in 2010 where Gary taught the tunes by getting us to sing the tune first. I found that this was a very efficient way to learn a new tune.
To practice in that way on your own playing along with recordings from CD’s  or mp3 files  is also possible. Different software is available as downloads for the pc or apps for the mobile  phone to slow down the music without changing the pitch.
[Ed: see separate article for reviews of this software]
The tunes we learned in our group during the weekend were Katie’s Waltz (Donald McNeill), Some State! (John Saunders), Cota Mor Ealasaid (trad.), Turbo Shandy (Ross Martin), Walking the Floor (Trad.) and John Barber’s 50th (Duncan Moore). A bit of music theory was put in between practicing on the tunes. Finding out if a tune is composed in major, minor or in pentatonic mode, and in which key, helps a lot during the work with learning the tune.
On Saturday afternoon Fin held a short improvised session with reed repair and maintenance for a few that needed some adjustments to their pipes. I think it could be valuable to have a short workshop during future teaching weekends where topics like reed maintenance, chanter tuning and suchlike could be discussed. It’s much easier to observe and understand what to do in a given situation when it’s shown live than picking it out of even a well-written text about the same topic.
I also found it nice that Fin brought a pressure gauge so it was possible to see the effect of one’s bellows work on bag-pressure during playing. The pressure gauge had the scale divided from 0-30 inches of water and was connected with a hose to one of the drones where the top had been taken off.
A good dinner was served in the restaurant of the Hotel and at the end of the dinner Iain MacInnes was invited to play to round off the day  Afterwards there was a session in bar and during the evening and night some fine sets of tunes were played.
Altogether the weekend was well worth the effort of travel to participate.  Just to  mention a few things that will let me recommend going to an LBPS- teaching weekend: good tutors, great tunes, lots of inspiration and, not the least, meeting all the nice and friendly people interested in bellows piping