This year’s Annual Collogue returned to The Tontine Hotel in Peebles for a weekend-long event

The weekend got off to a fine start with a dinner on the Friday evening, which opened with what was to become a ‘theme’ of the event. Hamish Moore welcomed everyone with a story of a meal he had enjoyed when teaching his course at Barga in Italy at which he had met Mauro Nenci, who along with his compatriot Franco Zampogna, was attending the weekend from Rome. He then invited Mauro to teach the company the toast that they had drunk repeatedly during that origina meal. And so began the singing of ‘Brindisino’. I was impressed that several LBPS members recognised the word [though not the song] as a term for the drinking song in La Traviata. If you’re confused, I suggest you Google ‘brindisi’ [not the Italian town, with which this has no connection, I understand].
After the dinner we were entertained by two former chairmen of the Society. Hamish Moore told us about his transition from vet to pipemaker and Julian Goodacre told us, in his inimitable way, of his investigation into the astrology of the LBPS and its founding members, the majority of whom, according to his researches, were born under the sign of Gemini. With this enlightening insight the company adjourned for the inevitable session in the Bar.
Saturday morning began with a talk on his experiences as a pipemaker from former LBPS chair Nigel Richard of Garvie Bagpipes.. Nigel spoke about his life in pipe making with many humorous asides and tongue firmly in cheek.  Although partly retired, Nigel is still making pipes from his home in Pathhead while spending the winter months in sunnier climes and a very different musical world. He gave us an interesting insight into the challenges, frustrations, occasional epiphanies and triumphs involved in producing bagpipes (and especially reeds) to the highest standard.  He demonstrated how a gun drill works and included some comments about  innovations and experiments that took place in the early days of the revival when the pipe makers were not as confident of their craft as now.This was followed by an ‘entertainment’ from storyteller Anne Pitcher and singer-songwriter Ewan McVicar on the traditions of the Renfrewshire village of Kilbarchan and of Habbie Simpson, the village’s 16th century piper, about whom we know quite a lot through the work of Robert Sempill who wrote the "Life and Death of the Piper of Kilbarchan."  The poem, though known to many of us,  was really brought to life by Anne Pritcher and Ewan MacVicar.  They had put together a presentation showing pictures of Lilias Day in Kilbarchan which for several centuries (up until the first world war) was a large scale outdoor production celebrating St Barchan's day at which the piper was an integral part.  This was intertwined with a reading and explanation of the poem illustrated with tunes from the period.
The poem mentions many other functions a piper would be expected to play at - clerk days or religious festivals, dances, the bells - which turned out not to be New Year as anticipated but at the horse racing - football matches and convoying the bride to the kirk - but laments that now Habbie was dead there was no-one to carry out these duties.  
We heard the tunes Trixie (Under the Greenwood Tree), Put On Your Sark on Monday, The Day it Daws and several others mentioned in the text and were told how Habbie attempted (unsuccessfully) to stab a man who didn't like his piping and had deliberately punctured his bag;  he seems to have been very much a larger than life character.
Many of those present were familiar with the the story of the ‘Piper of Kilbarchan’, but probably far fewer were aware of the way in which he is still celebrated in the village, and even fewer could have been expecting Habbie himself to turn up. We went to the AGM with the memory of the sound of some of the earliest of Lowland Scots music, played on a pipe that may well have been the kind that a piper would have played in the late-16th century.
The Society's AGM was uncontentious, Hamish Moore replacing Iain MacInnes as Hon President being the most notable change. Tribute was paid to Roderick Cannon, a former President and much missed member of the Society who died during the year, as readers will be aware. George Greig, who retired from the Committee after many years’ service, was awarded an Honorary Membership during the meeting, and two new committee members were elected (well, one new and one returnee - welcome Chris Bacon, and welcome back Rona Macdonald).

Fin Moore’s class

The afternoon consisted of a range of playing workshops, as well as a maintenance session with Hamish Moore, and reports of these are elsewhere. One innovation was the invitation to the general public to ‘Come and Try’; several sets of the pipes made specially for the LBPS for hire were available and George and Judy were on hand to introduce total newcomers to the mystery. George tells me that one newcomer finished the session playing the ‘Rowan Tree’, having never played pipes before!
Another innovation was the inclusion of a workshop on the interpretation of Lowland music, a full report of which is available on page 42. Later in the afternoon, Iain McInnes ran a workshop for ‘beginners’ at which he tells me gracings were discussed in the context of  the tune ‘Go To Berwick Johnny’, and Fin ran one for ‘improvers’.

Hamish Moore explains how to repair a split cane reed at the Peebles Collogue
(photo Grahamm Barnes)

After a meal in the local Curry house (where the toast was again ‘Brinidisino’), Saturday even offered a concert in the Eastgate Arts Centre, entitled ‘Heartlands and Boundaries’.
John and Caroline Bushby opened the evening with a performance, on gaita and tambourine, of the 15th century tune known at the time in Scotland as ‘Rusty Bully’ and followed this by showcasing some of the Balcarres MS music which appears on their new CD. A highlight for me was Caroline singing the border ballad ‘Fair Helen of Kilconnell Lea’. The first half of the concert featured Callum Armstrong with former fellow-student George Pasca providing a tour de force on pipes and cello. Rona Macdonald wrote ‘Callum's virtuoso playing on a fully chromatic chanter and his innovative tune-writing style is truly without comparison and quite beyond the ability of this writer to describe in print.’
Iain MacInnes, fresh from working on the Society's forthcoming CD, played a typically musical set of tunes on smallpipes in D and the evening finished up with a selection of tunes, tempos and songs from the Fin Moore trio (pipes, fiddle and guitar/cittern) which was a terrific way to conclude a very enjoyable evening.
Saturday evening concluded with a prolonged session in the Snug of the Crown Hotel across the road. I gather a good time was had by all. I was asleep at last, for the first time for 48 hours, it seemed.
Sunday morning saw another innovation in the form of a public session. Although this was attended by only a few non-LBPs players, it was nevertheless voted a success, being ably led by John and Caroline Bushby {smallpipes, border pipes, gaita & harp). Under their guidance a large circle of players got to propose tunes, on some of which everyone joined in, others of which were opportunities to hear something new. This was a format that should be repeated. The session concluded with a final Brindisino (with coffee) proving a perfect finale to a stimulating weekend.(Ed: Many thanks to Rona Macdonald for allowing me to borrow, from her review of the weekend published in Piping Times, her comments on those events in the weekend that I was unable to attend, )

George Pasca and Callum Armstrong at the Collogue Concert