This year the Collogue returned to the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society Rooms in Edinburgh. George Greig sends his Reflections from the Back Benches

IF I WERE TO SAY WHAT I THINK THE SOCIETY IS ALL ABOUT, I would say ‘The music, the instruments and good company’. All three were there in good measure and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I have been to more such events than I care to remember but I can safely say that this was up there with the best.
The venue was the Royal Scottish Pipers’ rooms in Edinburgh – we are indebted to them for their continued hospitality – and the event started pretty much on time. Clearly off to a good start! After the introductions, the first item was a playing session by Donald Lindsay’s Glasgow Smallpipers. What a good way to get the day going, with music. This group is relatively new and it was wonderful to see that new groups are springing up. The challenge, as Donald put it later, was for other similar groups to get going. They deserve our fullest support. They played a variety of tunes ranging from the Borders and Perthshire, Galicia and Catalonia and, in deference to our surroundings, G.S.McLennan’s ‘Kilworth Hills’. Digressing slightly (actually, digressing a lot), if you haven’t heard Gary West’s recording of Kilworth Hills, you should. He plays it relatively slowly with the accompaniment of a cello – delightful.
Next on the agenda was a slot which allowed us to see stalls on which a number of pipe makers showed the lovely instruments that they had made. This provided the opportunity for some folk to ask specific technical questions and others merely to catch up with old friends. What was especially encouraging was that, this time, we had a new pipemaker making his first appearance at a Society event. This was Burgess Bagpipes of Forres. I had seen mention of them on the web and it was good to see and hear both their smallpipes and their Border pipes. Had time allowed, I would have liked to try out the Border pipes myself since I quite liked what I heard.
We then moved on to what, for me, was the highlight of the day: a pipemakers’ forum, expertly chaired by Julian Goodacre. Each of the makers had a five minute slot to ‘tell us what they were up to’. That Julian managed to keep them to time is to his eternal credit because, while some are known to be ‘expansive’, they all had such interesting things to say that I would gladly have given each a session on his own. In no particular order of my recollection, Julian talked about reproducing really old instruments, Burgess Hay talked of the new while Donald Lindsay talked of the 3-D printed extended-range chanters he has developed. Nigel Richard gave us a crash course in acoustics and what influences what we hear. Richard Evans told us about a very clever development he had made in the manufacture of drone reeds which, while allowing for all manner of adjustment, should make them almost trouble-free. Somewhere along the way, Ross Calderwood told us about the Rostock chanter (I do believe that it was found in a midden which allowed it to be dated as the oldest chanter known). He then played a very sweet-sounding instrument based on it – I experienced chanter-envy, yet again.
The general discussion which followed didn’t range as widely as I had expected. The aspect which sticks in my mind is the question of whether the days of the artisan instrument maker could be numbered, partly because it was so difficult to pass on the skills and partly because of the rise of technology. It was interesting to see how open minded our panel members were. I think Richard summed up why he was happy to use a computer controlled lathe: he appreciated its ability to produce what he called ‘a chanter-shaped object’. It was then up to him to fettle and voice it and turn it from a shaped piece of wood into a musical instrument.
The final item before lunch was the AGM. There will be a full record elsewhere; suffice to say, this was a civilised affair in which the Society’s business was conducted efficiently. At the close of the meeting, Julian proposed a thoroughly-deserved vote of thanks to the whole Committee – well done the lot of you! I would only note here that Judy and Colin stood down as active Committee members after many years of sterling service and I would add thanks on behalf the wider membership.

 George Greig

George had to leave after the AGM to head back north via major diversions. So missed the afternoon session, which began with an introduction to the new LBPs website, given by its designer Pete Stewart. In the face of some major technical difficulties (nothing to do with the website itself) Pete presented an overview of how and why the site was designed, and a more detailed review of the site itself is elsewhere in this issue.
The day’s event then moved on to something very different, a presentation by Paul Martin, who had come up from Durham to give a talk about the pipes he plays and the music he plays on them. What he said and Plyed is fully described elsewhere.
The day was rounded-off with a return to the downstairs lounge for some informal piping. Every collogue manages somehow to have its own unique flavour and this one was no exception; most of us must have left with much to ponder on and the committee once again deserves thanks for the organisation. involved.