Last night my family and I went to give some support to our local democratic senatorial candidate, Pete Ashdown. This week he is organizing a series of “honk and waves” at busy intersections in Salt Lake.
At last night’s honk and wave, it being Halloween, he suggested people come in costume. I figured if I was going to dress up, I could put on my kilt and bring my pipes to entertain the wavers and the honkers. In this Drive-by piping I would let others do the driving.
It was cold.
Actually, it was quite interesting. I figure if I’m going to make a go of piping for money, I need to be able to play outside and in all weather. The pipes stayed pretty much in tune, as long as I kept playing. I noticed the pitch sagged if I took a break between tunes of more than a couple of minutes. I also discovered that my birl finger went completely numb, as did my left thumb. Still, I was able to hit the main melody notes, and doublings, throws and grips seemed mostly unaffected.
Finally, I dicovered that playing the pipes blocks out the sound of car horns. Although Pete Ashdown and the wavers kept waving, I could no longer hear the honks they were responding to. That piece of information is probably not a big concern at funerals, but you never know.
Playing for the seniors went really well. I played three sets, took a break to take questions and then played a couple more sets – one on the smallpipes. I saw one guy step out of the room crying, which is normal for that kind of crowd. Older men particularly seem to get emotional at the sound of the pipes.
Later that evening, I was at a local park with the kids. I was still bekilt and my pipes were in the trunk. I figured I may as well take advantage of the situation, so I played the sun down for half an hour or so. A family stopped to listen. When I was done a small girl came up to me, pressed 20 cents into my hand and ran off.
Maybe I should check into busking licences.
Tomorrow I am scheduled for a senior moment.
Back in July I was a prize in a drawing at a family reunion. Actually, my piping was the prize, but you get the idea.
So, the family member who won me (my piping) is redeeming her prize tomorrow. She coordinates a monthly activity for a group of seniors in her town and tomorrow they get to experience a Drive-by Piping. This will be a senior-speed Drive-by, so it will last a little longer than usual. I am to play, talk a little and then play again. It’s all part of a hectic day for me (four activities back to back).
I’ll let you know how it goes…
When I play solo I wear the Macfie tartan. I am a Macfie.
Although I inherited my Finnish surname from my father’s family, my mother’s family is all scottish and the Macfies of Colonsay were her father’s ancestors.
The Macfies (or MacPhies and other variant spellings) lived on the Island of Colonsay until the early 17th century. After they were ejected from the island (following dark deeds and collusion with the pro-English King of Scotland by a so-called friend of the clan) the clan dispersed all over Scotland and many emigrated. There are now Macfies all over the World.
So now I am on a mission to find Macfie tunes and connections in piping. There is a piobaireachd called The Rout of the Macphees. I have a recording of Donald MacLeod playing it on the practice chanter. There is a 6/8 march called Donald Macphee’s March. Donald Macphee himself (prominent piper – mid 19th century) compiled a collection of tunes. Not sure if any are actually written by him.
So, the search goes on. If any Macfies out there read this and can help – Hello, and let me know!
OK, so I’ve been thinking of cool tunes to add to my Drive-by piping repertoire. Seems like people always smile when you play a tune they don’t expect to hear on the pipes.
The Pirate of Sainte Mary’s is a piper who busks, and he plays a version of the Star Wars theme. Sounds like it’s a hit with his audience.
I’d like to work up some punk standards on the pipes.
My tiny list so far:
I Fought the Law – The Clash
Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones (honestly, with three notes you can probably make anything by The Ramones work on pipes)
It’s early days yet – any suggestions? I’ll update the list soon….
With lightning speed, my new Utilikilt arrived from Seattle Thursday. Of course, I have worn it every day since. It might even be helping to scare up some business.
My kids persuaded me to take them to a gross fast food restaurant. The staff commented on my accent and my kilt, but did not ask me to leave. (Hey, Salt Lake City is the home of the Denny’s that made diversity training a national issue in cheap food chains.)
A nervous woman approached me. Had I scared her kids?
No – she wanted to know if, by chance my kilt was American (yes, 100%, I told her) and where did I get it? Since the kilt had arrived that day, it still had a handful of Utilikilt business cards in the pocket, so I gave her one. I also gave her a few of my Drive-by Piper cards. Turns out her friend is getting married soon and would “really like a piper at her wedding”.
Good things happen when you wear the kilt.