While some members were engaged in the International Bagpipe Conference earlier this year, others were busy with their own projects. Here, Jock Agnew describes their day

The 10th of March 2012 was declared, by the Bagpipe Society and others, as International Bagpipe Day, and I was joined by Vicki Swan, Jonny Dyer and Sam Allen to take the audience (of about 70) on a journey spanning several thousand years and a host of different countries - accompanied, of course, by a large helping of appropriate music.
The local press and radio gave us a welcome build-up – the Maldon Standard announced: ‘A taste of Scotland will be coming to Langford this weekend as the country’s most iconic instrument goes under the microscope.’ And we were mercifully spared any of the eternal jokes.
I stole selectively and I hope with impunity from Common Stock, Hugh Cheape’s Book of the Bagpipe, Piping Times, the Tara Music Company, Samuel Pepys’ diaries, and Ruancie Kinaird; all of which were acknowledged.

Jock Agnew, Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer lead the session. (Photo: Ron Axford)

The format was simple: with the help of the audience (which included several Highland pipers, small-pipe players and folk musicians) we established just what a bagpipe might be; its component parts and how it could be played. Then, with appropriate pictures projected onto the screen, we looked at and discussed different types of bagpipe; how they featured in literature and art; the music that was played and the music that might have been played; the points of interface between pipe music and other genres – classical, jazz, pop; and some of the influence imposed by the church and the army throughout the ages.
Sam read out the different quotes (which gave me and everyone else a break from the sound of my voice); Vicki, Jonny and I played the tunes on various pipes and other instruments, and at half time, when refreshments were served, Vicki made available a set of practice small-pipes (Richard Evans) for anyone to try.
The evening ended with an invitation to musicians in the audience to come and join us for a few session tunes. This proved very popular, and provoked several ‘encores’. Vicki, with her Swayne Border pipes led the tunes in G, I led the tunes in D with my own Border pipes – and we found the volume available on these pipes gave a good reference point for the other musicians (mostly melodeons) to follow. For instance we played Bobby Shaftoe followed by the Rattling Bog in D, and Donkey Riding followed by March Past in G (Morris tunes).
When it became time to finish everyone was reluctant to go home. There were so many questions to be asked and information exchanged. It was a great evening, and the entry fee generated over £350 for our church bell fund.

Jock Agnew

Michelle Jones tries out a set of smallpipes. (Photo: Gareth Jones)