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Jim Buchanan, Secretary to LBPS, has set up this teaching enterprise which caters for pip- ers coming, so to speak, directly off the street.


It began with a desire to learn “proper” gracings for piping in the Highland manner. This drew me to Andrew Warren’s class for the practice chanter for the great Highland bagpipe that is run by the Adult Learning Project Scots Music Group, usually known as ALPSMG. This experience made me realise that there was a demand for a class for smallpipes, some rented, that could be run within the ALPSMG framework. With prompting from classmate Kenneth Dickson who shared the same view, I raised the idea with the LBPS Committee. For about two years Andy Hunter’s committee had been thinking about a specification for practice pipes for beginners and it seemed to me that here would be an ideal opportunity to try out the experiment of practice pipes, paid for by the LBPS, being rented out to learners. If we had some sets then we should seek people to teach a course and then get ALP to pro- vide the framework by hiring teachers and providing a venue.

I should explain what the ALP initiative is about. It is part of a City of Edinburgh Council Community Education organisation initiative and is a registered charity. ALPSMG is run by a voluntary committee with active participation by students and tutors who decide the for- mat and composition of their classes. The Group employs a part-time Development Worker and an Administrator funded by the Scottish Arts Council. The aims of the Scots Music Group are:

*To create a critical relationship of respect and status to Scots music song and dance that it may live in the heart of the community and beyond

*To build a repertoire in the Scots idiom with reference to the past, present and into the fu- ture

*To encourage and maintain the oral and aural transmission of the Scots tradition

*To bring the best practitioners of Scots music song and dance into the life of the organisa- tion as performs and as tutors to inspire and encourage students

*To give students the skills and opportunities to perform together in the community.

ALP Scottish Music Group provides levels of tuition for absolute beginners, improvers, intermediates, advanced intermediates and weekend workshops. The teaching method is principally learning by ear in the belief that the acquisition of this skill frees the player to


use expression in the tune rather than being tied to the page; also that playing should be from memory which will help students to join in the numerous sessions that take place around Edinburgh. Thirty classes are run by ALP on a wide variety of instruments at all levels. The growing number and quality of Edinburgh folk sessions is an indication of their success.

Rory Campbell and Gary West happily agreed to share the teaching of the class. With this promise ALP were then keen to include a new class to complement the existing Highland Bagpipe class. Their brochure said “Highland bagpipes are in one key and are probably best described as the pipes you imagine when you think of the bagpipe. Scottish smallpipes are played using a small bellow which is strapped under the elbow. These pipes come in several different keys and can therefore be played with other instruments — without drowning them out!”

Next we set up stall on enrolment night on 14th September and were gratified by the queue of applicants at our table. By the end of the evening twenty-two people had signed on for the first term. The cost for 10 lessons is £36 per person and we found 5 sets of practice pipes to hire out at £10.00 per month. LBPS paid for two sets and Nigel Richard, Julian Goodacre and myself cobbled together three more. Seven people were keen to hire so demand outstripped the supply. It turned out that about a third of the new class are begin- ners, one third improvers and one third Highland pipers wishing to learn smallpipes with the divergent aims of being able to join in pub sessions and of preserving domestic harmony.

Now we have split into two classes; beginners taught by Ian K Murray (to whom grateful thanks for giving so freely of his time and experience) and a bigger class with Rory as prin- cipal teacher and Gary as back-up. Our teachers’ contrasting styles are a constant stimulus to this class and, yes, we really are trying to develop the skill of learning by ear although most of us are still hooked on the dots. We are on a steep learning curve with the hiring-out of practice pipes. I am grateful to Robin Beck of Loanhead for his robust and practical design for these. Mark II is in development and I look forward to reporting on this in the next issue. Oh, and I still try to do “proper” gracings sometimes but now I just don’t worry about it any more.