(Victoria, Australia) A report by Brett Guyer

I didn't really know what to expect when I booked in for my first Celtic Piping Club weekend. I'd only recently made contact with the group after buying a set of smallpipes from Geoff. My plan to ease myself back into the world of piping.
I had played in pipe bands for years with many debaucherous trips away, but they always had a focus on competing and the strange notion of judging music.
I anticipated that this weekend would be more akin to an ethnic minority network, or perhaps a support group for sufferers of some psychological trauma or strange physical condition. I guess all three of these could be a way of describing anyone who has found themselves with a set of pipes under their arm more than twice.
I had the luxury of arriving late on the first night, and so avoiding the potential awkwardness at the start of any gathering of people who don't know each other that well. There was a session playing along merrily, and while there was some reluctance by anyone wanting to dominate the group, I feel it was more out of politeness and respect for each others backgrounds than any sort of pecking order. I had wondered how the varying pipes might play together, but it turns out there are many tunes that quite happily crossover. If people didn't know the tunes or they didn't suit their key, they were quite happy to sit back and just enjoy the playing. It looked like a friendly inviting group from the start.
The workshops were interesting, I learnt some things I had wondered for years, and other things it had never occurred to me to wonder about. That great dynamic of different minds and different levels of playing made sure that it was quite broad and we didn't get bogged down into any one area of nitty gritty.
My home leader was Andy on the harp. He turns out to be quite a knowledgeable teacher with a surprising understanding of the pipes. He did pull out a Frankensteinesque blasphemy of old junk that had somehow been pieced together to give the general impression of a set of pipes. One of the other pipers at the Soiree was in the other room, and said he had come through to see what sort of pipes they were as he thought they sounded quite pleasing.
Andy has a little of the rogue about him and made us all laugh along with the teaching of music theory, a potentially dry subject. It was interesting to see his take on layering the instruments to create variety in our ensemble.
I didn't change groups, so only had brief meetings with the other tutors. Angus has a great upbeat energy which made tunes led by him in the session kick along with a lively feel. Jenny, had the cards of warmth and openness along with her knowledge of music theory. It was interesting to hear her take on the psychology of playing music, and lovely to hear her sing a few songs.
I would have to say, everyone I spoke with over the weekend turned out to be a lovely person in one way or another, and I think I learnt something from everyone there, regardless of their ability or their involvement in the club. It was also great to have some experienced hands look at my pipes and give me some tips on getting them to sound better.
The highlight of the weekend would have to be the musical soiree at the local establishment. It was a charming bar with a warm quiet vibe and rustic seating perfectly suited to the smorgasbord of small acts. Being more or less forced to perform as part of a small group gave a bit of focus for the workshops. It was great to see what the other combinations of people and instruments came up with.
Well, I'm off now, having been emboldened to steal some cane from what I'm telling myself is public land. Hopefully my next letter will be written from the liberty of my own lounge room and not some cold gaol cell reserved for cane thieves and pipers.
Regardless, I'm sure I'll be back for the 8th annual Goldfields piping weekend.

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