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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

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!