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Craig Hohm

This year, due to the renovation of the main town hall, the event was held on the shore of Lake Champlain in large rented tents, which suggested the possibility as viewed from the road that one might encounter elephants and acrobats. Alas, there was no budget for these acts, but the usual format carried on despite flapping canvas and force 5 winds. Lessons in the mornings offered instruction in Scottish smallpipes, Northumbrian smallpipes, Border, Uilleann and French pipes. The afternoons were taken up with a variety of workshops, and in the evenings there were concerts which featured the instructors. The main tent during the day housed twelve vendors selling music, recordings, pipes and materials.

A few of the workshops were of special interest to me:

1. Introduction to didgeridoo. Working from the rationale that the didgeridoo is the mother of all drones, I managed to persuade the organisers that a workshop hosted by my son (the didgeridoo player) and myself (on Scottish smallpipes) would be of interest. In fact it was

well attended, with several of the participants braving public opinion and trying their em- brouchure on the various didgeridoos. I love the combi- nation of these two instruments; in fact the combination is in- creasingly featured on re- cordings (e.g. MacCrimmon's revenge). The majority of didgeridoos are near the key of D, which work well with the D SSP, but for my money the fa- vourite is the larger A didgeri- doo with the A Scottish smallpipes.

We made one out of 2" pvc pipe about 5 1/2 feet long with a pvc cap cut to an aperture of 1 1/8" . It gave a wonderful, deep booming sound for a material cost of about $5. The volume is well balanced with my Scot- tish smallpipes. It is an air hog however, according to my boy, and more taxing to play than the D. For further historical justification of this dronal combo in Celtic music see this web- site:

This site showcases bronze age Irish horns, which are played similarly to, and sound re- markably like, didgeridoos.


Barry Shears hosted a workshop teaching Cape Breton dance sets on Scottish smallpipes. Barry also mentioned that his brother had bought a set of old border pipes in western Can- ada from the MacLennan family, possibly made by Duncan MacDougall (1840’s?), two ten- ors and bass in a common stock, bellows blown.

Matt Seattle taught Border pipes and gave a lecture on the structure of Border pipe tunes, “the DNA of Border pipe repertoire”, based on his study of the Dixon manuscript and other sources. I found myself intrigued by the number of pithy titles present in this body of mu- sic: was there something about the culture that brought us the border pipes that also led to the preservation of these earthy tune titles? How did they escape the sanitization of the Vic- torian purge? Matt mentioned one particular tune, known by three titles, which encom- passes the full scope of a romantic relationship: courtship (Lassie Go Milk on my Cowhill), consummation (All Night Long I Lay with Jockey), and denouement (If Ye Will Not Rock It, Let It Lie and Blare). We also discussed whether the legend of William Allan dying while playing a strain of Dorringtom Lads was caused by the strain of this difficult tune.

The border pipe forum was very well attended, perhaps 40 people in all. There were pipes by Moore, Richard, Swayne, Sloan and Ross. Several excellent players showcased their pipes and the makers discussed their individual instruments. Nigel Richard and Hamish Moore represented the makers this year, talking about the versatility as well as the inherent limitations of the Border pipes, eg the known tendency for the low A and G to break when graced with high notes. The strengths of the instrument lie with its power and chromatic fingering. Nigel played a heavily chromatic Moroccan tune, Fin Moore represented the old Scotchy stuff, Jim McGillivray played a Highland set and there was one Galician tune dem- onstrated as well. It seems to me that the Border pipes can straddle the Border of several musical worlds. Surely some of the future of this revival depends on the instrument moving into other genres, much like the guitar or fiddle. The forum ended with a group rendition of The March of King Laois, 5 (or 6?) sets of Border pipes well tuned with a pipe case drum- beat.

The evening concerts went well as the icing on the day’s cake. Interested parties are wel- come to browse the large photo gallery on the North Hero website. 2002.htm