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Hamish Moore has been giving courses in tuition on bellows-blown Scottish pipes, at home and abroad, for some years now, and Gordon Mooney has also started passing on his expertise. Here, Maggie Moore and Jock Agnew give accounts of some of last year's teaching sessions.

HAMISH Moore’s eight tours in North America since 1986 have helped spread knowledge and enjoyment of cauld-wind piping across that continent. This has       resulted from an increasing number of     enthusiasts - some from Highland piping backgrounds, some complete beginners and others who play other instruments - whose common aim has been to learn more about the cauld wind pipes. Previously Hamish has taught under the auspices of heritage summer schools in West Virginia and New York State (similar to those held until recently in Stirling and now in Edinburgh), but last year was encouraged to go it alone. The New England area of the US currently boasts a large concentration of pipers and Vermont is a particularly beautiful state, so when Matt Buckley, a piper from Richmond in Vermont, offered his house as the venue for the first course, Hamish was quick to agree. The time was set for August, immediately before the well-attended Pipers' Conference held annually in North Hero, not too far distant, to benefit those coming from further afield. Distances in the States are quite awesome; it took two students 17 hours to drive from West Virginia, while the furthest-travelled student was Laura McKenzie from Minneapolis in the Mid-West.

The mail-shot and subsequent booking was quickly completed by Matt and another friend and keen piper, Sandy Ross. Between them they did a great job as on-the- spot co-ordinators. The ten places were quickly filled and the venture was up and running.

It's impossible to describe what a wonderful setting Matt’s house was to provide for the course. It is isolated amid woodland, rolling hills and lakes, with, not 30 yards away, a spectacular river. The feeling of tranquillity and spaciousness is all-pervading. The house itself is well-suited to hosting such an event, with a large open-plan living area that was ideal for formal teaching, sessions etc, as well as enough self-sufficient practice areas, inside and out, to accomodate the cacophony about to ensue! The weather, too, deserves a mention - blue skies, bright sunshine and not too humid, a typical Vermont summer.                            

Most participants in the Monday-to-Friday course stayed in local motels or camped, with a few actually resident in the house. Costs had been kept low and the atmosphere was one of enthusiasm and informality. With the students divided into three groups, depending on needs and abilities, formal teaching took place in the morning, with emphasis on bellows-playing technique, ornamentation and repertoire. After lunch the groups were altered to   accommodate solo, duet, trio and quartet work, in which harmony, part playing and composition was encouraged, with the challenge of making music with others being the dominant theme.                     

 At 3.30 every afternoon, a forum was convened and a subject introduced for discussion. This invariably proved to be an entertaining, enlightening and sometimes heated affair, with topics ranging from "Ornamentation in Cauld-Wind Piping" and "Accompaniment” to “Cape Breton and its Place in Scottish Musical History". The discussion on accompaniment proved to be especially informative as we were fortunate to have with us for a couple of days Susie Petrov, a great pianist who specialised in accompanying Scottish music. Her input to the forum resulted in everyone having a much better understanding of chords and the structures of tunes and how these relate to melody playing.                                              

The time remaining before dinner was spent relaxing; for most, this meant a dook in the river. After dinner everyone was again raring to go, whether it was to the local folk club, a Burlington hostelry or simply to a barbeque at home, a good session was always the result. Most of the pipers on the course played other instruments - fiddle, flute, guitar, concertina - so music-making was always varied and of exceptionally high quality. The whole week was a resounding success, with every course member insisting on being included in a similar event in 1990, and many of them saying how much theyhad enjoyed the spirit of warmth and comradeship which had characterised the week. The course personnel then transferred in their entirety to North Hero and the Pipers Convention organised by Alan Jones, which made a fitting end to an exceptional week. Hundreds of musicians attended the concerts, workshops, dances and sessions during this brilliant weekend. ~ MLM. * Hamish Moore plans further courses in the United States for late spring of this year.

WHILE THE re-emergence of the cauld-wind pipes is reaching maturity, lost, we are told, for over a hundred years, these pipes were “rediscovered”. Colin Ross led the way and now there is a good long list of competent pipe-makers from which to choose, with chanters tuned in almost any pitch and one or more keys fitted to extend the range. Music appropriate to the cauld-wind pipes has been researched - for the most part by Gordon Mooney, who urges other musicians that there are still more tunes in the archives, waiting to be unearthed. However, for a while the only real guidance that players of bellows-blown pipes could hope for on the care, maintenance and playing of their pipes was through Gordon Mooney's tutor and through hearing how others interpreted the music at the annual competition. Then Hamish Moore started his now-well- established courses, and cut two LPs which featured several types of cauld-wind pipes played with enviable skill and technique.   Was the playing of these pipes now to become stylised and each tune given a straightjacket of “correct” ornamentation? I think not. Hamish's views are altogether too flexible and innovative. A single source of tuition, however, no matter how "lateral- thinking” in its approach, must run the danger of stamping each generation of pipers with a common flavour, a common style. A trick, a recognisable technique, can be identified with a particular teacher, as it can in the Highland pipes, so that the knowledgeable may say of a player, "Ah yes, he (or she) will have learned that from Hamish."   Now, as of July last year, we have a second serious source of tuition for Lowland and small pipes. Richard Butler, at his annual Northumbrian piping weekend last July extended its scope to include the Scottish bellows-blown pipes, with Gordon Mooney as the tutor.

The Northumbrian half-long pipes (and I'm still waiting for someone to tell me the difference between these and the Lowland pipes) are alive and kicking. At least their inclusion in various Northumbrian piping competitions would suggest so. So what better spot than Newcastle-on-Tyne as a venue for tuition in the Scottish cauld-wind pipes? Richard Butler's two-day course has started many young players on their way to becoming household names in Northumbrian piping. Last July, working on the premise that many musicians like occasionally to step across the boundaries between different musical disciplines, the weekend gathered under one roof students of clarsach, fiddle, Northumbrian pipes and Scottish bellows-blown pipes. The weekend was not restricted to learning, experimenting and producing musical sounds - although that was the largest part of the business. There was instruction on reed-making and tunes from the Peacock collection (many of which are of Lowland origin although, to quote Gordon Mooney, a good tune knows no border) were demonstrated and discussed. Gordon, in fact, gave a slide presentation in which he showed, using musical demonstrations on the pipes, the origins and associations of some of the melodies.

One advantage of this sort of weekend, where different musical disciplines are gathered together, is that those who have an interest in another instrument can get some helpful encouragement without having to give any commitment. Pipers can become temporary fiddlers, or move freely between Northumbrian and Scottish piping sessions. The weekend, in the pleasant surroundings of Newcastle Polytechnic's Coach Lane Campus, was spent with pleasant companions and provided some incredible musical memories. No hide-bound thoughts on technique or tune arrangement could survive those two days. Different tunes, it became clear, could flourish within different settings, in different keys, on totally different instruments. Play for the benefit of the tune and for the ear; play for the sheer enjoyment of it.

In the various gatherings the cauld-wind pipes were demonstrated for what they are; a fine-sounding instrument, capable of interpreting tunes in a totally individual way. So these pipes are cutting a firm niche in the accepted musical world. their reemergence has, I suggest, matured. - J.A.