LBPS retiring chair Judy Barker reports on the recently conducted Membership Survey

Hamish Moore, Immediate Past Chair of the LBPS, organised the week of Traditional Song, Music and Dance, which was held in Barga.  A beautiful hill town in Tuscany.  The first School took place some 5 years ago.  The Barga School is philsophically based on the principal of Ceolas, an annual event in South Uist, which Hamish set up in 1996.
Subjects taught were Scottish Bellows Small Pipes (Gary West, Hamish & Fin Moore), Fiddle (Sarah McFadyen,  Melody Cameron),Scots Song (Fiona Hunter), Gaelic Song (Kathleen MacInnes), Step Dance (Melody Cameron & Pat Ballantyne), and Guitar Accompaniment (Derrick Cameron).  All world class tutors from Scotland and Cape Breton.  The School was well attended with 54 students and 10 tutors.  Each day's tuition consisted of first and second choice classes, plus an afternoon integrated class.
Classes were held in the Conservatorio di Santa Elisabetta an ancient monastery built in the 15th. century. Beautiful surroundings for tuition with its history and interiors.
Evening entertainments included Civil Reception, Guided Walk, Whisky Tasting (Barga is the most Scottish town in Italy), Beer Tasting, and Wine and Polenta Night.  Evening informal sessions took place at various venues and piazza's.
The Final Concert for the School, given by the tutors, was held in the Piazza Salvo Salvi in front of a very large enthusiastic audience.  A fitting end to an incredible week.
If you still need further persuasion to consider going to Barga next year, Hamish provides the answer
"Barga provides the rest - The Conservatorio, the welcoming people, the spectacular food, the beauty of the city where magic happens and the chance and random meetings will constantly take place in piazzas and inspire a tune or song - living - soaring - or maybe even heaven."
This year, the Committee decided to consult the membership regarding the way forward for the Society and carried out a Survey sending a questionnaire to every member and we were pleased to have such a positive response, both in numbers and in the comments and suggestions made.
The “Headline themes” from the survey feedback were:
●    Minor changes to the Society’s aims were requested (Ed. and were agreed at the AGM).
●    The majority of the membership were not in favour of introducing monetary prizes for the competition.
●    Events should be organised further afield, both north and south, although there was a general appreciation for the necessity of retaining the main functioning of ‘business’ of the Society in central Scotland
●    Look again at establishing regional groups – the Committee would be delighted to offer support, both practical and financial for local people to establish such groups
●    More emphasis on Lowland and Border tunes and more accommodation of border pipes e.g. at the Teaching weekend
●    A class for small folk bands in the Competition
●    “Always look forward to Common Stock arriving on the doormat”
Whilst there were one or two unhelpful comments about the Committee (“Nerdy little clique”) it was clear that the majority of the membership who responded greatly appreciated the work of the Committee and I want to take this opportunity to thank all who have offered their time and energy in the past year to contribute to the Society’s events.
As I’m writing this the winter sun is shining on frosted leaves here at Primrose Knowe, but by the time you read it the Daft Days will be upon us, yblins, so here’s the season’s greetin’s to yin an’ aw.
Mind you, I sometimes find myself thinking on how the Daft Days must span from one year’s end to the next, I hear such perplexing things come drifting through. Pibroch, for instance - a word unheard of in the borders when I was in my prime; and then all this fretting about the back lill. Now I’ve dealt with this before, I hear some of you groan, and I must say it’s good to know that someone is reading my little contributions, but I’m going to say it again. As high an authority as Sir Walter himself agreed that no-one had as good a thumb for the back-lill as yours truly, but venture into the upper-octave I never did, and I’ll tell you why.
Well, it was my youngest, Willie, he was at the school in Haddington, up in the Lothians, when a lad from the far north was there, a MacDonald, Joseph they called him, if I recall correctly, and this was at the time when the toon had just appointed as its piper one Jamie Livingstone. Our Willie told me that this lad Joseph had some derisive opinions about piping in the Lowlands. Arguing that since they had no musick in the style of this instrument, they had enlarged the compass of it by adding pinching notes. The result he held, was an insipid imitation of other music, and I sometimes find myself nodding in agreement.
Now, I’m not unaware, my life having followed the strange path it has, that there’s others that thought differently. There was old Thomas Scott, of course, who was of the opposite opinion, considering this pinching business to be a great improvement, and one which, in the old man’s opinion, had been developed by one Douglas Maclean, though why we should take his word for it when he was totally confused about who this Maclean fellow was, I can’t imagine. Wasn’t he the one who held that the Border or Bellows bagpipe, as he called it had had its origins in the Highlands. And who takes any notice of that these days? If Mr Alexander Campbell had taken the trouble to consult me on the matter he might have had a rather different story to tell.
Still, there it is. Fashions come and go and we make what we choose of them.  But an old man like me is stuck with what he knows, and with the nine notes he grew up with, so I’ll play you the New Year Tune with them…