Geoff Jones reports on the activities of The Celtic Piping Club

Celtic pipers in Australia now have a fantastic new community hub thanks to the recently established Celtic Piping Club. The Club was launched at the National Celtic Festival in Portarling- ton (Victoria) in June. The launch was in the form of a concert showcasing Celtic bagpipes including Galician gai- da, Scottish smallpipes, Border pipes, Uilleann pipes and Northumbrian smallpipes. Whilst the Northumbrian pipes aren't technically Celtic, they are closely related and are included in Club activities. Following the concert, the audience was invited to 'come and try' various bagpipes. The response to this was unexpectedly terrific. With more than 30 people wanting to have a go, the come and try session could easily have gone for more than the half hour that was programmed. All in all it was a great start to the Celtic Piping Club.

Some of the pipers who performed at the Celtic Piping Club launch concert (L-R back: Andrew Teusner, Merran Moir, Sarah Wade, Geoff Jones, front: Jack Brennan,
Matt Horsley)

The next event on the Club calendar was a weekend of piping in the little town of Talbot in the central Victorian Goldfields – 'where the gold-rush began'. Talbot was a bustling gold-rush town in the 1850s. Today it is a quiet and charming village, featuring a number of historic buildings. The Piping weekend was held at Chesterfield House, built in 1866. Formerly a hotel, the establishment operated as a pub for nearly 100 years. It is now fully refurbished and perfect for functions such as piping weekends!
The weekend was well attended by Scottish smallpipe and uilleann pipe players - about a dozen in total plus their partners. Friday night was a time for everyone to meet, greet and socialise, and share a tune or two. Some pipers and their partners also played other instruments which added to the musical variety. Saturday morning saw pipers exercise their lungs, but not by blowing pipes. Local folk musician James Rigby conducted a singing workshop for the pipers. The songs chosen included the Irish jig 'Cunla' (aka 'Friar's britches') and Robert Burns' anthem 'A man's a man for a' that'. During the rest of the morning and early afternoon, pipers rehearsed tunes and worked on arrangements that would be played at a concert that afternoon.
The first half of the concert featured pipers performing solos, duets and in larger groups. Some acts were also accompanied by other instruments or voice. Like the launch concert in June,the audience were awed by the variety of pipes and the talent of the players. The first half finished with the pipers singing their own arrangement of the two songs learned only that morning - a fantastic effort!
After a short interval, the second half of the concert featured Melbourne based Scottish folk band Taliska, this time performing as a trio. Fresh from the recent launch of their second CD, Taliska had the audience transfixed through Scottish songs and airs, then had them up and dancing in the aisles with toe-tapping jigs and reels.
After a well-earned rest over a succulent dinner at the local bistrot, it was time for the craic back at the manor house in front of the open fire. Just the thing for a cold winter's night. The ses- sion lasted well into the wee hours of Sunday morning. As the last of the musicians were about to head to bed, a few decided to test the acoustics of the cellar. (Remember, the house had been a pub in a previous life.) Needless to say the acoustics were well worthy of another hour or two of music!
With much music, socialising and enjoyment had by the pipers and a success- ful concert well-attended by an appreciative audience, hopefully this weekend set the scene for a regular event.
If you are interested in contacting the Celtic Piping Club or subscribing to the (free) email newsletter, just visit the website or find them on Facebook.