Pacific Northwest Northumbrian Piping Group 2013 Activities and 2014 Plans


by Paul Hickey

The Pacific Northwest Northumbrian Piping Group has been meeting monthly since 1998 near Tacoma, located in the Puget Sound region of Washington State. Dedicated members travel significant distances to attend the sessions. Gail Gibbard, for example, drives 175 miles one way from Portland, Oregon. Every few months, Bob McFarland either drives his car or takes a plane 500 miles one way from Boise, Idaho. John Dally takes a ferry boat from Vashon Island, and has to time his session departure to not miss the last boat back to the island. Several pipers live reasonably close and can drive the distance from their homes to the session in about one hour or less. On occasion, we’ve been honored to have guests from other countries join us – such as Ian and Hilary Richardson from England.


Once a year we hold a weekend workshop that draws pipers from distant parts of the USA and Canada. Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to have had such excellent instructors as Pauline Cato, Andy May, Rob Say, Ian Lawther, and Dick Hensold to unlock the mysteries of Northumbrian piping for those of us trying to master the instrument far from the tradition’s cradle.


In addition to monthly sessions, we occasionally perform in public. We typically play at the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle during the last weekend in May. Shortly after last year’s performance we found a video of us piping at the festival on YouTube. We held our July 2013 session in a vendor booth at the Tacoma Highland Games. The music and instruments attracted quite a bit of attention as few people were familiar with the sweet sound of the Northumbrian smallpipes. We’ve been invited back to perform on stage at the 2014 games in June.


We held our August 2013 session at Point Defiance Park, a 284 hectare city park in the north end of Tacoma overlooking Puget Sound. The sounds of the pipes drew curious onlookers to our picnic site to listen, watch, and inquire about the instrument and our small group.


A couple years ago we began to incorporate technology into our sessions and annual weekend workshops. We now use a laptop computer and projector to display tunes on a large screen, and with the increasing costs to bring instructors from England, we’ve begun discussing the logistics of testing Skype technology to virtually transport an instructor to a future weekend workshop. If anyone is interested in collaborating with us on this project we would enjoy hearing from you.


We also have a Facebook presence in the form of a group page, which you can access by searching for Pacific Northwest Northumbrian Smallpipers.  Although there is potential for the group to use the site for discussion, we use it almost exclusively as a bulletin board for our events.


In 2014 we’ve begun our sixteenth year of monthly gatherings to play tunes and share laughs. And when the rains finally subside and the weather begins to warm up we plan to once again take our instruments and music outside into public venues to pipe traditional tunes from northeast England.

Florida Smallpiping School 2014

H Moore A SSP full set small cropped

Do you want to improve your smallpiping? Do you want to escape the Winter ‘Blaws”? Would you like to participate in session playing? Then make plans to attend the Florida Smallpiping School in Hudson, Florida at the end of February. The school is an annual event held at the home of Maeve and Al deHetre located about a half hour from Tampa. The school is designed as a four day immersion program covering all aspects of piping from technique and repertory to basic pipe care and maintenance. Following a very successful Master’s class in reel playing last year, this year’s focus will be on the various forms of the Strathspey. There will be sessions open to everyone each evening during the school.
This will be the 10th year for Barry Shears instructing Scottish Smallpipes at the Florida School and there will be a little surprise for all those attending.

When: February 27,28 and March 1, 2
Where: Hudson, Florida
Instructor: Barry Shears
Tuition: $350. Day classes available on a modified fee scale.
For additional information contact Maeve at:
For a sample of Barry playing the SSP see here

2014 Vermont Bellowspipe School

VermontThe 2014 School Will Feature Iain MacInnes, Fin Moore, and Alasdair White

July 28 – August 1, 2014 Huntington, Vermont

The Vermont Bellows Pipe School now includes Scottish fiddle, step dance and whistle instruction

Now in its 26th year, our school celebrates the step dance music traditions of Scotland as played on Scottish small pipes, border pipes, fiddle and whistles. Musicality, repertoire and rhythm are our focus, as opposed to technicality and ornamentation (although these are not ignored entirely). All workshops are oriented toward aural learning (taught “by ear”)

The school is in a new location for the third year year: in Huntington Vermont, about 7 miles south of the former location. Those who have come in the past can expect the same communal, family style accommodations.  New students can expect a warm welcome.

for 2014, we will welcome instructors Iain MacInnes, Fin Moore, and Fiddler Alasdair White

The Details:

Dates: July 28 – August 1, 2014
Location: 830 Taft Road, Huntington, VT
Venue: A small farm in rural Vermont with many horses, three border collies and a very large cat. Classes will take place in and around the house, porches and barn.

Tuition: $525. A deposit of $200 is requested by May 1st. Space is limited.
Scholarships: May be available.  Please send a statement of need and we will award scholarships if funding allows.

Accommodations:  Tent camping is permitted on site.   There are several B&Bs and hotels in nearby Richmond and Williston. Contact us for suggestions.

Meals: Evening meals are communal.  Please plan to arrange your own breakfast and lunch. Most participants pack a picnic cooler.  There is a small grocery/deli 5 minutes away and several restaurants and a larger grocery 15 minutes away. You will have access to the kitchen at the farm.