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Craig Hohm

This was my first Visit to the North Hero Piper’s Gathering. The Gathering takes place among the cluster of town buildings facing Lake Champlain, with the Green Mountains in the distance. Accommodations range from State Park camping to elegant Bed & Breakfast hotels on the waterfront.

The mornings were devoted to lessons in the individual pipes: Scottish smallpipes, Uilleann, Northumbrian, English pipes. I attended the Scottish smallpipe lessons offered by Mike MacNinch and Gary West. In addition to taking us through several tunes, Mike or- chestrated duet playing between the ‘D’ and ‘A’ pipers, and Gary emphasised methods of ornamentation.

Afternoons featured seminars in various topics. Of special interest to me was ‘Crossing the Borders — adapting music for different bagpipes’; Dick Hensold played ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ (from The Wizard of Oz) on Northumbrian smallpipes, and Jerry O’Sullivan used Uilleann pipe techniques on the Scottish smallpipes for a version of ‘Langstrom’s Pony’, complete with crans and a slurred ‘C’ natural in part four.

Throughout the weekend the town hall was thronging with vendors. Pipes (Uilleann, High- land, Scottish small, Northumbrian, Reel, and the various permutations of Julian Goodacre’s research and imagination) were available to try and buy. There were CDs, tapes, books, other instruments, and tables of supplies, including baulks of exotic wood yearning to be the pipes of tomorrow.

Saturday night we had a dance in the main hall. Generally, given my age and inherent gravity, I refrain from dancing in public places; but on this occasion I was compelled by the true vocation of pipe music to leap about with everyone else. Why don’t we dance more with this music?

Sunday night was a concert by the instructors concluding with Geoffrey Goodacre and the Unidentified Flying Chaucers. This quartet, supplied by Julian with pipes seemingly drawn from a Brueghel painting (or The Canterbury Tales), finished the show by marching out of the hall onto the front lawn where I (and my reluctant wife) were compelled to leap around once more in a satisfying conclusion to the weekend’s activity.

Next year’s gathering is the last weekend in August. It is already on our schedule.