goldfields weekend 1

Kerryn and I rolled into Castlemaine on Friday the 11th of August at around 8.00pm in search of the Cumberland Hotel not knowing quite what to expect of the weekend.We'd left Adelaide after a morning's teaching having packed our two sets of Scottish Smallpipes, Kerryn's “Dudi”, my Half Longs, two sets of Northumbrian Smallpipes and the Leicestershire bagpipes, with a degree of trepidation. I had put my NSPs down 20 odd years ago and only picked them up again last year, and both Kerryn and I were newcomers to the Scottish Smallpipes.
That was our reasoning behind packing a few of Kerryn's flutes, my guitar and my baritone concertina so that we could have our “workhorse” tools with us to perhaps redeem ourselves should our piping skills be seen as lacking.As it turned out, we needn't have worried at all.
As soon as we saw table 13 in the Cumberland Hotel we were home.There were the pipers at dinner.Pipers with their husbands, pipers with their wives, pipers with their partners and pipers with their looks of delight and anticipation all grinning at us and saying, “hello” as they recognised two more crazy musicians gathering with them for a common purpose. To share the love and respect for the music and the instruments and each other. As diverse and complicated and intriguing a group of people as their instruments, and yet joined by their fascination with this ancient “thing” that we are all obsessed with.
After dinner we moved on to our accommodation and workshop headquarters, the National Trust listed property of Campbell St Lodge where Kerryn and I discovered that our beautifully appointed room was at the top of the stairs! This is obviously some kind of initiation for the newbies as I lugged several loads of our gear up the lovely staircase as Kerryn stood on the balcony chanting, “Raymeo, Raymeo, wherefore art me pipes Raymeo?”
My response is not actually printable so we'll move on.The evening consisted of meeting new friends, learning new tunes, talking about the music in such a relaxed and inclusive way that my SSP splutterings and my NSP failings were met with delight and support and not an ounce of disapproval, and I was able to meet Matt Manchester (the visiting presenter) for the first time.Kerryn flitted, as is her wont, twixt the light side (Scottish Smallpipes) and the dark side (Uilllean Pipes) with an enormous grin on her face, which spoke volumes about the situation that we were lucky enough to find ourselves in. This was a “session” apparently, but like no other session I've ever found myself in. There was none of the elitist or purist stuff that can happen in a pub or in a festival beer tent, this was respectful and interested players enthusiastically embracing anything that anyone offered.I even managed a smile as I lugged my pipes back up the bloody stairs.
Saturday was work time.Breakfast was early and the day was full.Matt ran workshops that challenged everything I thought I knew about music teaching, music performance, music theory and music in general! He turned us all into 16th century music students!It was fascinating and challenging at the same time.
He's also a piper, like us, and a lovely bloke to talk to.Sunday was all too brief.
A workshop from Matt and then a lunch we sadly couldn't attend. The 7 hour drive back had to be faced and we both had to be ready to teach our various instruments in the morning. The drive home required no CDs or radio programmes. We talked and talked as we re-lived the weekend and the wonderful people we had met for the first time that were now friends for life. The sessions, the workshops, the tunes, the stories, the jokes and the very joy of it all.
We both became members of the Celtic Pipers' Club before we left Castlemaine because we felt accepted from the first moment we saw those wonderful people at table 13 and we refuse to miss out on such enriching and life affirming events in the future. Thanks so much and more power to your elbows!

Ray Smith and Kerryn Schofield. Adelaide.

goldfields weekend 2
Participants at the Goldfields Weekend