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Your email will never be sold, and I won't burden you with tons of meaningless drivel (just an occasional spoonful!) I will keep you posted a couple times a month on upcoming shows, music releases,and the occasional free download for fan feedback! I look forward to writing you. Mike "Pops" McGee

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!

Well, looking at the calendar this will probably be the final post for the year, so some closing thoughts may be in order.

I had something of an epiphany this week. I was driving down the road and noticed all the graffiti. It occurred to me that in general the only person who normally sees it is the tagger who did it. Then it hit me! Cyber space is just one big vacant building. And 99.99% of us posters are just cyber-taggers. We put up the best sites we can, we are very pleased with our work, and we haven't a clue how to drive traffic to our sites. I did some research on the visitor activity on my blog, and found that the most heavily visited page was one of the earliest posts. It contained a semi-erotic picture of a European performer. It gets hits from all over the globe even now, six months later, while the other posts get random hits if any! Hmmm... I wonder if there is data base of erotic bagpipe art?

The really important thing to remember is that we love Piping. The cyber world is just a place to go when the lips give out! Have a great and prosperous New Year! See you again in 2009.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Piping... Who Cares? Just do it!

I was just reading a discussion board where the topic de joure was “How do you ask a bad piper to stop playing?” and I wondered, why would you? If you don’t like it move on, if those listening do like it (why else would they be listening) leave them alone, they’re having a good time.

I thought back a few years to an event where our club had retained an Elvis and a Neil Diamond impersonator. No one thought them the real thing, or held their music to that standard (besides it was kareoke), yet everyone had a great evening.

I think more people piping and enjoying pipers is far more important than all pipers sounding the same (no matter how good that may be.) For Christ sake people, just do it! You’ll be amazed how much fun you have.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Worthy of your patronage!

As we are all out shopping this time of year I want to share one of the best customer service experiences I have ever had. I have a set of "Kitchen Pipes" made by Scott’s Highland Services, LTD. I purchased these back in 2004. I always thought it strange that these pipes which produce a much lower volume than my GHBs would be noticeably harder to blow. You know, one of those things you always intend to inquire about but never get around to.

Well, I finally sent Jim at Scotts Highland Services an email asking about this phenomena. Not only was he full of useful suggestions, he insisted I return the pipes to him for a complete refurbishing. It is a rare thing for me to encounter a manufacturer who is so proud of his product as to offer this level of support. In fact, you would have to call him a craftsman, not a manufacturer.

Good on you Jim!"

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Holidays begin

Well here we are, with only two days left in November. Despite an overload of Thanksgiving turkey, I have finished prepping and practicing my Christmas set. First I’ll inflict it on family and friends, and then it’s off!

And, while I’m goofing around with Christmas, I will begin prepping for St. Patty’s day.

I also want to pick up another march or two as I have six parades between now and the next Shrine Ceremonial in March (right after St. Patty’s.)

It is just one continuous cycle. But such fun!!
Sharon and I want to take this opportunity to wish you and those you love the Merriest of Christmases and a Happy New Year.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Anthem Veterans' Day Parade

I piped for El Zaribah Shrine in yesterday’s Veteran’s Day parade at Anthem, Arizona. It was a little over two miles in length and I learned some valuable lessons. I was the solo piper immediately behind the Color Guard, and just in front of the Legion of Honor.

Lesson number one: Although the first mile and a half is up hill do not complain, the last half mile is a real downhill treat.

Lesson number two: Because the crowd is intermittently spaced along the parade route they can not appreciate your piping on vacant stretches of the route. Save your breath for when you have an audience!

Lesson number three: If you don’t have a lot of non-Celtic marches and you are following the Color Guard, play obscure marches, and resolve to learn a few “American” marches by the next parade.

Lesson number four: Finally, and this is true for everything, do not take yourself too serious. Have fun, this is not a dress rehearsal.

See you at our next parade!

Monday, October 27, 2008

El Zaribah Shriners

I just returned from Lake Havasu City in western Arizona. I had the pleasure of leading the 2008 fall class of Shriner Candidates on their mile long parade through town, and then Piping for the Arch Degree in that evening’s ceremonial. It gave me pause to think of just how blessed most of us are, not just for our own health, but for the health of our children and grand children.

All day on the way up and then again the morning of the parade I was totally focused on performing for the Shrine. However, as I watched and participated in the Arch Degree, which is a celebration of the great work done by the Shrine hospitals, I realized what larger blessings life gives most of us.

So, here’s a toast to your good health and to the good health of those you love. May you never need the Shrine and may you always know they are there.


Sunday, October 05, 2008

Reeds for your Bagpipe

Just in case there is anyone out there who actually follows this blog, you will notice that I have posted a link to Chris App's website. Now I know this will appear to be a bit of shameless whoring (advertising), but the truth is Chris has some excellent on-line videos on reed adjustment and maintenance. There is also a lot of very good information on reeds in general. I hope he will forgive me for saying so but by following his video directions it is really quite easy to make even Paki reeds serviceable.

Naturally, he also has an outstanding product line at very reasonable prices when you consider he will custom build to your specifications. Good on you Chris! :-)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

This was written by an Anah Shriner Highlander regarding an incident prior to a parade in Bangor Maine

An Experience Related By Highland Drummer Noble Tony Smith

Friday afternoon, August 22nd, we were tuning up for the Sea Dog gig under the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge prior to the opening of the Folk Festival. We were approached by a Maine family; a Mom, Dad along with the approximate 3 or 4-year-old child in a stroller. The child’s mother kept waling towards us shouting: “THANK YOU”, THANK YOU”. At first from a distance it wasn’t apparent why she was saying thank you. I was thinking she may have thought we were one of the traveling bands there for the Folk Festival and was happy to see a pipe band in the lineup.
That certainly was NOT the case. She saw the ANAH logo on the Bass drum and knew exactly who we were. She pointed to her child’s prosthetic legs and said that is the work of the Shriners Hospital. “THANK YOU so much for what you do, ALLYOU SHRINERS, THANK YOU”. This child was wearing shorts and sneakers and if she had not pointed out they were prosthetic, then I probably wouldn’t even noticed.
This family was very grateful for the work Shriners hospital had done for their child and even watched our band’s performance. They wanted us to convey their thanks and gratitude to ALL SHRINERS for the hard work they do to support the hospitals and families of patients.
Hearing this really brightened up that late Friday night drive to Manchester for the Northeast Shrine Field Days which followed the Sea Dog gig.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Learning to play the Bagpipe

I was watching the ads appearing on the side bar here and I saw one for”learn2pipe” a DVD tutorial by Pipe Major R Pinkman. Well… I decided to give it a try.

It was without doubt the best $40.00 I have ever spent! Mr. Pinkman’s course is complete, sufficiently detailed, and VERY well illustrated. He walks you through the very basics of holding the chanter properly, finger positions on the chanter, the scale, grace notes, doublings, triplings, tachums, grips or leumluaths and toarluaths and includes a nice repertoire of tunes. Naturally you must provide the effort to practice.

Now, will this make you a piper in 48 hours? Absolutely not! But, if you live far from a qualified instructor as I have for most of my life, then this is the very best alternative I have ever seen and I must tell you I have tried many. If you treat each lesson as a private tutoring session, practicing diligently each week in between, you will amaze yourself. In addition you will not spend much of your life as I have “un-learning” mistakes.

This package can be ordered at learn2pipe.com. Do not be put off by the basic nature of Mr. Pinkman’s web page; after all it is his teaching you are buying not his skill as a graphic designer. As soon as you make payment, you will be directed to a website where you can download the entire course onto your computer or play it directly from the Web site. The DVDs will arrive by mail with in a few days.

If you want to learn to pipe and for whatever reason can not get a qualified instructor then you must get this course. It is just that good!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Medeival experience in the 21st century?

And so, as I sat around I began to ponder….. How bad would it be to become a Ren Fair/SCA vendor? Have a small enclosed trailer to transport your pavilion and wares, traveling from one event to the next, and then returning home for the Winter. You could simultaneously sell your wares on Ebay and at the event, running all your credit transactions through Paypal or some such service.

A good source of inventory would be critical, from a wholesaler who could ship timely to different locations as you traveled. Deciding what to sell would be a challenge. Establishing price points for the product could also be an issue. There is also the merchant’s fee to consider as well as various local sales taxes. Also there is the cost of living on the road. I'm sure it wasn't this complicated in Middle Ages!

Wouldn’t it be grand though! I used to ride a motorcycle, and I attended many of the larger rallies. The merchants were always a main attraction. You knew they had substantial mark-ups, but it was all stuff you had never seen before. Very exciting.

Selling your wares by day, piping by the fire of an evening, all the while traveling the country with some rather colorful individuals.

Sadly, as a consultant by trade my first inclination is to develop a Business Plan, and then there goes the Majik!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

First Bagpipes, now the kilt?


I saw this on the internet,

"After all this, it is hardly a surprise to learn that the kilt and tartan, too, are not quite the Scottish traditions that they seem. Sad to say, the kilt was invented by an Englishman, Thomas Rawlinson, who came to Scotland in the 1720s to manage an ironworks in the Highlands. Rawlinson observed that while the actual native costume of the Highlanders — the long belted cloak called the plaid — might have been suitable for rambling over hills and bogs, it was "a cumbrous, inconvenient habit" for men working at a furnace. So he hired the tailor of the local army regiment to make something more "handy and convenient for his workmen" by "separating the skirt from the plaid and converting into a distinct garment" — the kilt. This symbol of Highland tradition, as Trevor-Roper notes, was "bestowed ... on the Highlanders, not in order to preserve their traditional way of life, but to ease its transformation: to bring them off the heath and into the factory." As with so many of the tales Trevor-Roper has to tell, the truth may not be as romantic as the legend, but its irony makes it no less compelling."

Ron F.

My god man, no one challenges our belief in Davey Crockette, Daniel Boone or Casey Jones! Reality is way over rated. Protect the legend. It's all that brings beauty to this otherwise drab existence. ;-)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

15th Century Bagpiping anyone?

Well it looks like I’m in for a unique experience. I have been invited by Clan Amuck to attend the SCA War at Mormon Lake as their bagpiper. Period attire required. It immediately raises two questions in my mind. Exactly what pieces are period (14-15th Century) appropriate? And more importantly, is the bagpiper classed as a combatant?

The first question is not too great an issue as the Clan Chief advised me to just play “what ever”. Scots Wha Hae to march them into battle. Scotland the Brave and Minstrel Boy while they are flailing away at each other…. I don’t know.

The second issue though is of some concern, for both me and my bagpipes. I’ll need to get a little more information here! I think my youngest son has made the wisest choice, he is going as the Clan "Brew Miester" and entering the brewing competition. I guess the worst that can happen there is he could be carried off as "spoils of war".

Friday, July 25, 2008

Polish them drone bores?

Well, I don't know that there is an absolute "correct" answer, but here is what the lads on Bob Dunsire's forum seem to think!

"That said, there's no proof that highly polished bores create better tone. The old bagpipes, made on treadle lathes, don't have polished bores and yet they produce the best tone. Besides, the tuning chambers and drone bells don't have highly polished bores, and it's often said that these sections of the drone bore are what produce the better tone.Then again there are those who say 'its all in the longjoint bore.'
_________________________Iain Sherwood

A polished surface allows water vapor to condense far more rapidly than an un-polished surface because you're decreasing the surface area of bore.Compare this to frosted glass vs smooth glass. Water vaper condenses to form droplets far more quickly on smooth glass than on frosted glass.Mark

I remember a fad for drone polisishing some years back. Several Highland bagpipe dealers advertised the service. Aside from removing metal burrs and paper curls with pictures of queens and presidents from the drone who ordered the polishing, I never heard any improvement in tone. And not one experienced player I have ever asked has said, "Och, aye, you must get that done, and straight away!" Several suggested that they haven't even got a clue what their bores look like, really. As Iain, Richard, and Robin are saying, it may not do a thing for your tone. Do any top players swear by polishing?

Twenty years ago I polished the bores of my drones and noticed a slight increase in volume and brightness. I'm not entirely certain it was worth the effort. Mostly I concentrated on the bottom joints of each drone. I did the polishing with a piece of drill rod held in a variable speed drill. I wrapped the end with two sided tape and then twisted steel wool onto the tape to make a polishing head. With fine steel wool the effect is more of a burnishing than removal of material. I finished up with a twist of nylon stocking soaked in bore oil. The bottom joints came out very slick indeed.

From Bob Dunshires forum:That said, there's no proof that highly polished bores create better tone. The old pipes, made on treadle lathes, don't have polished bores and yet they produce the best tone. Besides, the tuning chambers and drone bells don't have highly polished bores, and it's often said that these sections of the drone bore are what produce the better tone.Then again there are those who say 'its all in the longjoint bore.'
_________________________Iain Sherwood

From Bob Dunsire's forum:

Monday, July 21, 2008

New trends in Bagpiping

So where will bagpiping go from here? There can be no doubt that the main thrust for some time to come will be the traditional Bagpiping. Rigidly defined and steeped in the traditional image of the Bagpiper and the Bagpipe band. And this is as it should be. This is the image the public holds dear and conjures up when hearing bagpipes, and the public is the consumer. As in everything else, the marketplace defines the product.

But there seem to be new trends as well, as evidenced by groups like the “Bagpipe Barabarians” and “The Heathen Highlanders”. And while most bands now perform a version of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” (sometimes even in public), Rock and Country artists alike are beginning to explore the bagpipe’s potential .

As a child growing up in the USA I remember when the Guitar was associated only with “Cowboys” and classic Country Western music. Then folk artists, balladeers, rockers and new agers all grabbed a piece of it. Who is to say the same thing is not happening with the bagpipes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Highland Bagpipers, a recent thing?

I couldn't sleep last night and so I spent some time banging around the net. I found an interesting article on a blog called the Ochophobist. It was in the April '08 posting, about half way down and titled Stage Highlanders, Triumph of Cheap Cute. As I read the article, the author is proposing that today's "Bagpipers" are a homogonized, "Disneyfied" invention of the Victorian era. My first thought was that this was bunk, but then I began thinking, how is it that bagpipers EVERYWHERE look so very similar? Why is the music so rigidly interpreted? It seems that the major difference between performances is skill and execution, rather than artistic interpretation. For example, if you were color blind how different would any two bagpipe bands in the world be? Food for thought. Why is it bagpipers wear kilts, how does that impact the music? It seems a little strange that a tradition supposedly going back 800 years, originating in extremely rural and remote glens and valleys would produce such a uniform and standard product. Now the author's assertion that bagpipes themselves were not invented until the Victorian era is clearly in error as there are historical references from much earlier periods. I'm willing to bet however that those Bagpipes and the GHBs we see today were very dis-similar. I'll bet the music was also.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

St. Patty's Day at the Celtic Curtain

Kevin invited me to busk me bagpipe at his pub (The Celtic Curtain) for St. Patty's day. I was there from Three in the afternoon until Ten in the evening with my son Evan (directly behind the buxxum young wench). Ev is learning to play the bagpipe, but he sings an absolutely outstanding repertoire of Celtic songs. Most are drinking songs although he also does many ballads, and a lot of music made popular by the Wolftones. His infectious personality quickly captures any crowd and sucks them into the party. We spent some time outside on the side walk to chum in patrons, but most of the time was spent inside. By 8 pm almost everyone was well fed with Kevin's outstanding fare, and well, pretty well into their cups. By request I closed my last set of the evening with Amazing Grace (remember most of the Celts here were "Celts for a day"), and as I looked around the room at 200 drunken Celts and Celtic Wannabes singing along at the top of their lungs I knew it was time to "get out of Dodge".

an error in judgement

It would appear that I made a critical error in judgement Thursday night. Rather than risking inclimate weather and driving up North to paint on the cottage, I elected to stay home and dry. Had I gone North I would have been working in a small house, painting interior walls, making minor repairs, hanging pictures, etc., and just maybe been able to squeeze in a little time for piping.

Instead, I stayed home in a large house, dinking with the lawn, making minor repairs, hanging pictures, etc. and was able to squeeze in a little time for playing my bagpipes. Hmmmm.... Well, there is always today.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A truly sweaty day

I was planning to head to the high country today to work on my bungalow. However, the monsoon rolled into Arizona last night with a vengance. Today there is storm activity forcast for the entire state so I stayed home.

The humidity makes going outside unpleasant so I am pretty much staying inside. And while it gives me a chance to play my bagpipes, niether the wife nor dogs are particularly happy about the whole thing!