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Vicki Swan, herself a music teacher, wrote this account while travelling down the A1 and

e-mailed it to Jock to beat an incredibly short copy deadline!


The George and Abbotsford Hotel in Melrose, 2nd - 4th June 2000 was the centre of the piping world, a fact proven by the distances travelled to attend. From England, a little over 300 miles, from Wales, a little over 300 miles andfrom parts of Scotland also a little over 300 miles!

Most people arrived on the Friday evening. Being full of enthusiasm it didn't take much persuasion for myself and my guitarist colleague to kick off proceedings with a slow air and a nippy reel.

The three tutors for this year were John Saunders, Fin Moore and Gary West. Also close to hand was Hamish Moore to help with any instrument maintenance and repairs. As in previ- ous years the attendees were split into three groups, beginners, intermediate and advanced, this worked well with any wrinkles in grouping being ironed out after the first session.

Each group had two hour and a half sessions with each tutor. Each of the tutors were very different; Fin offered music in his own relaxed dance like style, teaching by ear. John used more notes to teach from, ensuring that two of the groups were taught a tune that could be played together in the all important session in the evening. Gary had been asked to teach some Dixon tunes. It was Gary's method of teaching by ear that caught my attention, he did the usual splitting of the tune into two bar phrases, but instead of playing those sections straight off he made us sing them. Although there were a few murmurs of dissent at this suggestion, it turned out to be a very efficient method.

Although the lessons are an integral part of the weekend, just as important are the coffee breaks and mealtimes. Many a piping tale was swapped at the meal in the evening. The food was outstanding and the wine flowed freely, (well not free, but plentiful!) Many bel- lows belts had to be let out a hole for the ensuing session.

Not much encouragement was needed to get people playing, as soon asthe first tune had been played there was a flurry of activity and a forest of drones and a battalion of bel- lows appeared. Everyone was encouraged to playa tune: pipe tunes, flute tunes and songs flowed to rapturous applause from other residents of the hotel. Thanks should go to Jonny Dyer for providing guitar accompaniment. This helped the session go with a real swing.

The weekend was overall a success with each participant going home with a whole sheaf of new music and a whole weekend of piping behind them. For those people who are not lucky enough to live in Scotland the Melrose weekend gives players of all abilities the chance of some affordable tuition withsome top notch players and also experience of playing in sessions. Thanks mustgo firstly to Rona for organising the weekend so well, especially as she was extremely under the weather with a virus. Secondly thanks to the three tutors who worked tirelessly on improving everyone's playing in such a fun and infor- mative way and thirdly to the George and Abbotsford Hotel for putting up with the constant sound of pipe music all weekend.