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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, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

As we enter the waning hours of the year I suppose some reflection is in order. The question was raised on another site and I echoed it here as to whether or not Piping was in a recession. I put together and posted a little survey. Judging from the responses I can only assume that Pipers are far too busy to take time to reply (read prosperity) or they can no longer afford their internet connection!

This got me thinking (very dangerous). There really are many different economies to consider. If you work for a large company you haven’t seen a raise, probably have experienced some manner of work furlough, and possibly a cut in wages and or benefits, all the while experiencing no cut in living expenses. This economy really sucks!

On the other hand, if you are self employed and you service a local need you are probably doing rather well. You have not experienced any reduction of income and so your purchasing power relative to your neighbor who is sweating out a “pink slip” in his next check has improved.

For example, you are the village Piper. People continue to die (sad but inevitable) and you are continuing to pipe them home. People are depressed about the current economy, but they continue to socialize at the pubs, one of the last amenities surrendered. So, you continue to get gigs there. Now your compensation may not always be in cash (maybe car repairs, meals, chickens, pigs, etc.) but you are still compensated.

Maybe we need to reorganize our society around the micro economy, rather than the macro economy and let the bankers and brokers eat each other.

Just my thoughts at the end of a rather remarkable year. Regardless, have a Happy and far more prosperous 2010.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

A peaceful Saturday

White Tanks Cemetery is frequently defamed by the media. It is a place where the poor often go as well as those who are “unknown” or "unclaimed". It is Maricopa County's "Potter's Field" and it is maintained and improved out of a very tight county budget, the landscaping lagging behind the burials by years.

But those resting here are not forgotten. All life is sacred and no passing should ever go unnoticed or unmourned. As you can see in the attached video, there are such humble markers as poor families can afford, and judging from the fresh flowers and arrangements I find there every Saturday these graves are visited frequently by loved ones.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Piping recession?

I read a post earlier this morning questioning whether or not piping was in a recession. Asking if the "Brave heart effect" is wearing off. I guess I was oblivious to the Brave Heart effect! Still it is a valid question in general. If "Paying the Piper" is an option, are we doing more or less than before the crash? In areas like funeral piping where cost is not usually a determining factor how are you doing? Wedding piping is a little more discretionary but still the cost of the piper is not a large percentage of the total cost (usually). Parties and special events may be impacted? And how are receipts from the ever popular pub crawling (not that we would ever cut back on the most fun item!), up or down? I've posted a a little questionnaire and hopefully we can all get some feedback.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Veteran's Day Parade

Well... it seems that on my last visit to the cemetery I managed give my right knee a pretty good twist. While it is bad enough to have to put up with the discomfort, I have now missed the Veteran's Day parade in Anthem yesterday, and will in all likelihood miss the Veteran's Day Parade in Tempe as well. El Zaribah Shrine is participating in both! I just cannot bring myself to pipe from a "float". It just doesn't seem right.

While getting old is better than the only known alternative, it is beginning to have some draw backs!

Monday, October 19, 2009

El Zaribah Shrine Ceremonial

Saturday I had the honor and pleasure of piping for the El Zaribah Shrine's fall class of 2009 initiation. Seventeen new nobles were brought into Shrinedom!

A hearty welcome to you all! There is much hard work ahead for you, but it will be the most rewarding work you can possibly imagine. As exemplified in the Arch Degree, the need is great. But just as great is the fellowship of good men doing great work.

Our Ceremonial was held at the Nautical Inn in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. This is the home of the London Bridge (sort of an oddity for a desert city). Google it, it is an interesting read.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Fallen

First of all I realize that it is usually a mistake to post anything "political" on this forum. However, that being said, I attended my first Patriot Guard Riders funeral today. It was very moving, for many reasons none the least of which was the tear filled expressions of thanks from the freinds and family.
The purpose of the PGR honor guard was to shield the family and loved ones of the deceased from the obscenities and insults of a group of Topeka "Christians".
Suddenly it occurred to me what a great honor these protestors were paying to the deceased. Captain Corey Jenkins gave his life to insure them the freedom to hurl insults and obscenities at his greiving family. Such was the value he placed on personal liberty.
Captain Jenkins, you are a far better man than I!

Monday, August 03, 2009

I’ve read the bios on so many pipers now and there seems be some very common threads. They fall into the one or more of these categories:

1.) I am the most experienced piper alive (at least in this area).

2.) I play at the highest level possible (as defined by those who should know).

3.) I am very competitive and have won many prestigious awards (surely you’ve heard of them).

4.) I have been playing most of my life (maybe even longer).

Wow, not much room there for anyone else!

Well, I thought I should write my bio.

“I am a piper who plays for the joy of playing. I leave and always will leave competition to athletes, businessmen etc. and of course to many bagpipers. I have no idea what level I play at I only know that it brings me great joy, and if you enjoy hearing me play I will be happy to play for you as well. I will not play for anyone who has not already heard me play, and I will only play for such a person at thier request. I do believe that if my piping is advertised, promoted, and whored out like a business the joy will leave and I can’t bear to think of that. I also believe the joy is contagious and infects those who hear me. So it is my mission to protect the joy my piping brings, and share with those who so desire. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Sunday, July 05, 2009

A passing

I parted with an old friend this past week. I closed my Ebay store. for over a decade I have been importing and selling bagpipes, harps, bodhrans, sporrans, pins, brooches, etc. With the recent economic meltdown I had a horrible holiday sales season, and with our moving, and starting a new company there just wasn't time. I sadly put the remaining inventory in storage and vowed to re-open upon retirement.

Now I will focus on my own piping with what free time I have! Things are beginning to settle down and I have actually found time to play again. I discovered that horses (the neighbor has four) have a fine appreciation for piping, which of course is what you would expect from such a noble beast! And, as I have told you before, my dogs love to sing along. All in all it is quite a spectacle.

While the neighbors themselves have yet to express their opinion on piping, at least they have not shown up at the door with pitch forks and torches!

All things considered life is getting back to a pretty good place. :-)


Thursday, July 02, 2009

A "New Day"

Arrrgh... We are finally moved out of the old digs and into the new. It's a "Horse Property" about a mile north of the old location. No horses, but lots of construction equipment, and now after almost a month I can get back to my pipes!

Tonight they really punished me! After four weeks without touching them my lips and cheeks "blew out" in no time at all. Its going to take a little time to get it back I'm afraid. But hey, its Summer, parties, parades, camping , a few weddings, a GREAT time to be a piper (but then any time is a great time to be a piper if you think about it.)

Enough rest, back to the pipes you slackard! Blow, blow your lips off! Swear you'll never leave them alone so long again! :-)



Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Extended absence!

Wow, it has been a while. A lot has happened and is happening. The Family is lauching a new business venture, a construction company, and all hands have turned to. Doesn't have anything to do with piping, but it sure sucks up every available minute. My poor pipes are sitting over in the corner chair giving me a very baleful look. I've got to get my act together though as there are parades just around the corner, and a wedding coming up, not to mention several birthdays..... it is bad to be a slacker!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Breast Cancer Relay

The local pub (Joe’s Grotto) participated in a 12 hour Breast Cancer Relay May 1st. The enthusiasm was such that the pub patrons, headed by Kellee, a survivor, actually signed up two full teams of participants. Initially, they had asked me to Pipe the two teams around the course, a task I would have been honored to perform. Sadly, organizers got in the way. Regardless, there still was an entire Kilted contingent from the pub. Let me be perfectly clear, this was an event the pub was participating in, not hosting.

By the time you are my age you can not help but have been touched in some way by the tragedy of this awful disease. It is wonderful to be able in some small way to contribute to the fight against this bane.

So Jan, Liz, Tori, Kellee, here’s to you ladies and to your good health. You beat it and God willing so will many others!


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dear Mr. McGee:

First: Good website!

I am of Scot/Irish descent and there are questions I have and would like answered. I'm having a difficult time getting the proper history about my heritage
...why are the bagpipes played at funerals? I can't find the answer to where they started, why it is done, and when was the origination. …..where I might learn more about the tradition of playing the pipes at funerals? It is a wonderful thing..."piping someone Home"...

Thanks for your help.
Judith Bingham

Dear Ms. Bingham, I wish there were some beautiful story or even some glorious tale I could regale you with explaining why Pipes are played at funerals. The truth though is a little sad and certainly a blemish on our history.

It would seem that when the Irish and Scotts were "displaced" by the Land Clearances of the early nineteenth century many immigrated to our shores. Like most new arrivals they were less than welcome. There was great resentment against them and employment was extremely difficult to find. "No Irish Need Apply" was a sign found in almost every window. The exceptions of course were those jobs considered dangerous or not desirable, such as police officer or fire fighter.

And so it was that our fore fathers gravitated to these occupations no one else wanted. These were and remain occupations which engender a strong sense of comradeship and when coupled with a common heritage the bonding is doubly strong. They are also professions with a tragically high mortality rate. And so it was that when one of these brothers fell he was honored by his comrades in a traditional manner, which in this instance included "Piping the departed home". The soul wrenching skirl of the Pipes touched all who heard it and in a very short time they became associated with funeral services in general. From there the Pipes have gravitated to Honor Guards of every sort.

It goes without saying that this is the most solemn act a Piper can perform, escorting the Fallen to the Gates.

Warmest regards, Michael McGee

Saturday, March 21, 2009

El Zaribah Shrine

Late yesterday afternoon was the spring equinox. The gray cold grip of Winter gave way to the new life of Spring, life once again returning to the World.
Today, the first full day of this season of re-birth I was privileged to Pipe for the new Nobles of El Zaribah Shrine. New Nobles stepping forward from our Masonic ranks, to carry on our work, and the work of all who have gone before.
Nobles of the El Zaribah Spring Class of 2009, we salute you!


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Yet another St. Patty's :-)

Well, Saint Patty’s day 2009 has come and gone. A brief five days and evenings of parties, pubs, and suds. Now the public demand for pipers will return to normal (near zero). Try pub crawling with your pipes for the next 51 weeks and you are more apt to incur bodily harm than free drinks. Still for a glorious 120 hours the public could not get enough of us! If you had a particularly unique experience or captured that once in lifetime photo share it with the world. Send it to gopiper.com and we’ll post it with everyone else’s. Or leave it here as a comment and I’ll “cut and paste” it over for you. Keep the party alive!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tune it D*#mn it!

I'm not much in favor of "Cutting and Pasting" Blog Posts but Nate over at keydetpiper.com has posted a very good blog. Rather than commenting on "tutored" versus "self-trained" pipers he focuses on the primary problem with many self-trained pipers. ie. They don't TUNE THIER INSTRUMENT. Listen up lads, no one would tolerate a guitarist who was seriously out of tune.

Here follows a re-print of Nate's post. Its a very good read.

"As much as I hate to admit it, not everyone likes bagpipes. Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but there are people dislike or even outright hate bagpipes. Just do a search for “I hate bagpipes” and you’ll find a plethora of sites devoted to the hating of the instrument I love.

I have this theory that goes like this: “If you don’t like the bagpipes, you’ve probably never heard them played correctly.” I will be the first to admit that listening to bad bagpipes is a terrible experience. The best way I’ve found to describe it is sushi. Good sushi is a wonderful dining experience, but bad sushi will have you in the bathroom retching your guts out. Bad bagpipes have a similar effect.

The problem is that most people don’t have an opportunity to hear good piping. If someone only hears pipes that sound like this, or this, or this, there’s no wonder the instrument has a bad reputation. Those performances have all the musicality and tonal quality of banging pots and pans together, and most people would recognize that it isn’t really music.

So the question is how to expose the general populace to better piping. It doesn’t have to be top-notch playing, but it should be close to in tune with correctly-played embellishments and some sense of rhythm. I offer a two-part solution.

First, if you are a decent player, play often in the public eye (or ear). I play outside all the time when the weather is nice, and your local park is a great place to get some playing in while exposing the non-piping public to decent playing. The more they hear good piping, the better off everyone will be.

Second, educate the poor pipers that most people usually end up hearing. Once a piper learns how to tune his or her pipes, the result is much more pleasant on the ears. I think the problem with a lot of the buskers and street bands is that they haven’t been taught properly in the first place, so they themselves don’t really know how the pipes are supposed to sound.

There’s my recommendation for how to improve the pipes’ public image: better pipers should play more where the public can hear them, and we should all work together to improve ourselves and our peers as pipers."

Monday, February 09, 2009

elegant solution

I had just gone into the garage to begin my practice session when once again my base drone reed found its way out of the drone and into the bag ( a non-zippered hide bag). My son who was working on another project asked for a quick definition of some of the explicatives that followed and what was the cause. Now he is a rather fine mechanic and when I explained the situation he came up with a most elegant solution. He went over to his tool box and took out a set of taps. He then “threaded” all my reed seats, in both the drones and the chanter. I doubt I will ever drop another reed! Thanks son!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Macnish Distillery Pipe Band Volume 3

It is always good to start the new year off with something pleasant, something to look back on and smile. In a previous post back on December 11, 2008 I told you about sending my kitchen pipes back to Jim at Scott’s Highland Services, LTD. Well they came back, totally restored and in great working order. I spent the evening annoying the family and dogs... just had a wonderful time. When my lips finally gave out I spent some time listening to the new CD Jim sent me, the "Macnish Distillery Pipe Band Volume 3". Now I don't sound all that great, but the CD, well that's another story. This is a GREAT CD. The band is based in St. Thomas, Ontario and has successfully competed for over three decades throughout Canada, The US and Scottland. They have recently changed their name back to the "St. Thomas Police Pipe Band", a name they had previously carried for many years. Get a copy, you will be delighted. Now, where is that dog hiding?