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.

Upper Potomac Piping Weekend Jan 17-19 2014

The Pipers Weekend offers 2-hour long classes at a variety of levels in Scottish smallpipes, border pipes, Northumbrian small pipes, Irish uilleann pipes, flute & whistle, bodhran and piper-friendly repertoire for mixed instruments in a variety of styles.

Private tutorials with staff members are available to enrolled students at the rate of $30/half hour lesson, as available. Sign up early to secure your spot.

A Friday night round-robin followed by sessions in 3 different repertoires, a Saturday night concert, late night jams and student-led mini-classes round out the offerings.

Interested? Check out the website for more information.

LBPS/APNA North American Workshop on Historic Lowland Pipe Tunes

By John Dally and Glenn Dreyer

Pete Stewart

Pete Stewart

The first North American workshop on Lowland piping with historian and Lowland piper Pete Stewart of Pencaitland, Scotland, was held November 8, 9 and 10, 2013 at the home of John Cunningham in Ballard, a neighborhood of Seattle, Washington State.  It was an indubitable success. Ten pipers attended, with about half coming from a Highland piping experience and the other half being Northumberland pipers who also play Scottish smallpipes or Lowland pipes.  All were enthusiastic about learning about Lowland pipe music, and Pete more than met their expectations.  Among the attendees was APNA Board of Directors member Barry Shears, who travelled all the way from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Other participants travelled from as far away as Portland, Oregon.  Pete gave an entertaining and inspiring house concert on the Saturday that was attended by about forty people, some pipers, but also fiddlers, singers and harpers, and Early Music enthusiasts.

During the two days of classes Pete covered many aspects of the Lowland piping traditions, emphasizing the essential rhythms of dance and song.  Pete delved deeply into “digging the dird.”  We gained important insights into tempi, time signatures, and the dances of the time when this music was commonplace.  Many of these things were completely new to participants.  Pete’s understanding of the context of Lowland piping of the 17th and 18th centuries is beyond deep, giving us a history of town pipers, their jobs and place in society.  We all came away with new perspectives on piping as a whole in Scotland at that time.  For many of us these insights brought on changes in our thinking that were as fundamental as the movement of tectonic plates.

House concert in Seattle

House concert in Seattle

Pete covered the important sources, including Skene, Dixon, Rook, Atkinson, and detailed many of the tunes which will appear in his forthcoming book, A Collection of the Choicest Tunes for the Lowland or Border Bagpipe.  The students were given copies of relative settings of tunes and links to sources on the internet.  In many piping workshops the approach is to teach a tune or two.  Pete’s method was to give the pipers a context and tools for seeking out and interpreting the music.  This fresh approach was well received by pipers, so much so, that before the end of the seminar we had made plans to form a monthly Lowland session in the area.

Vivian Hunter, Ralph Loomis and Nate Banton at the Connecticut workshop

Vivian Hunter, Ralph Loomis and Nate Banton at the Connecticut workshop

One week later, a one-day, east coast version of the workshop was held at Glenn Dreyer’s house in Quaker Hill, Connecticut. It was attended by seven pipers from the region who had all met in previous years at the annual Pipers’ Gathering in Vermont. Pete again worked from draft copies of his upcoming book.  Everyone one was playing Scottish smallpipes, which are more suited to group, indoor use that the louder border bagpipe.  Once again, Pete’s main goal was to explain how he approached figuring out the rhythms and tempo of Lowland dance music from the 17th and 18th Century. Since the Lowland piping tradition had essentially died out by the early 20th century, there are no recordings of even living memories of how pipers played these tunes. Using clues in the manuscripts, written descriptions of dance, and his forty years of experience playing traditional dance music, Pete led the group through a variety of time signatures and tune styles. Although only one day long, Pete packed in a large amount of information and left the group with draft copes of his new tune book to keep working on.

Sharing meals and beverages together that day further bonded the participants. In the evening, a few more musicians arrived, including a fiddler, harpist and guitar player from the local Scottish folk band Mystic Haggis. An informal ceilidh and jam session ensued, providing a fitting climax for an intense and very exciting day.

Pete and Glenn Pryor jamming at the ceilidh

Pete and Glenn Pryor jamming at the ceilidh

Special thanks go to Pete for making the trip in the first place, for being such a gracious, patient and thorough teacher, and for being so generous with his knowledge and time. Thanks also to John and Gerda Cunningham and Glenn and Wendy Dreyer for opening up their homes to the pipers on both coasts. APNA Board members John Dally, Michael Simone and Glenn Dreyer were responsible for the planning and executions of these events.

 And last, but not least, these workshops would not have been possible without the generous financial support of the Lowland and Border Pipers’ Society and the Celtic Arts Foundation, to which all participants are very grateful.


Lowland and Border Pipers’ Society here

Manuscripts and Tunes:

Henry Atkinson Fiddle Manuscript index. This is a fiddle MS from c. 1695 with some exceptional ‘bagpipe’ tunes. This page links to the FARNE website where the Manuscript is stored. The index lists the tunes alphabetically.

Robert Riddell’s A Collection of Scotch, Galwegian and Border Tunes 1794, index. The index to this unique publication links to Ross Anderson’s website where the MS is stored.

John Smith’s fiddle manuscript index. This link will download an index to the section of the Northumbrian Melodies Committee’s collection which contains John Smith’s tunes, originally dated 1750

The Rook Manuscript index. Upwards of 1260 airs selected by John Rook, 1840

Ross Anderson’s music pages.  A major source of early manuscripts, publications and recordings of all kinds of UK piping. Essential stuff.