My Newtilikilt causes a stir, but I am not refused service.

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.

World Piping Events and World Events

Even as I sit here comfortably at my computer, the storm in the UK over the alleged airplane bombing plot is hitting close to home.

We had no band practice this week, because 9 of my band (the Wasatch and District Pipe Band of Bountiful, Utah) were traveling to Scotland for the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow. My Pipe major mentioned to me that they were all flying into Manchester Friday and driving the remaining four hours or so to Glasgow. They will be glad they did not go through either of the London airports.

There are reports of pipers having to check their valuable old pipes without adequate protection, and not being reunited with them upon arrival in London. Uniforms have apparently gone astray in some cases. Even if their pipes and equipment arrive safely, the bands flying into London at the last minute still have to find their way to Glasgow. From what I read on the BBC news website, waiting for connecting flights is pretty much a lost cause, so last-minute van rentals would seem to be the order of the day.

It will be interesting to hear from my felllow band members how this all played out over there when they return. Also, whether all the upheaval had any effect on some of the top bands. (As I write, the finals of the Grade 1 Medley competition should be getting under way.)

I note from the list of competing bands that there are bands from countries like Oman and Pakistan at the Worlds. I wonder how easy it was for them to make their way to Glasgow?

Good luck to them all.

New Utilikilt!

To be correct you should wear a kilt.

But to be cool, you should wear a Utilikilt.

I got my first Utilikilt about 3 years ago at the end of a summer of nightly Ben and Jerry’s consumption. The kilt is for sure cool, but has never really fit me and finally I gave up the procrastination and called Seattle yesterday.

Speaking to the people at Utilikilts is always entertaining.

Nick (Utilikilt guy):
“What size do you need?”

Marc (Drive-by Guy):
“32 medium”

“Did you measure yourself like it says on the website?”

“No, I just subtracted 4 inches from my old Utilikilt”

“Four inches? Four inches? Jesus Christ man, you got a tapeworm or something?”

“I just stopped eating ice cream every night, and started playing the bagpipes.”

Nick told me well done and they’ll ship it tomorrow.

I will be cool once again.

Salt Lake Scots outdoor concert

Last week I saw one of the Salt Lake area bands, the Salt Lake Scots, play an open-air concert. The venue was Liberty Park in Salt Lake City – the park hosts a weekly concert series for musics and dance of the world during the summer.

Anyway, the Scots had to go on with only 6 pipers – the stage is so small their numbers were restricted. Despite this they seemed to settle into playing with a small group very well. The first couple of sets were a little ragged here and there but they soon found their groove, and the playing was excellent after that. I spoke to Jason Killpack (the Scots’ P/M) after the show and he pointed out a couple of times where they had made mistakes but I had thought they were intentional tune modifications. I guess they play confidently even when they go wrong!

The show was hosted competently and entertainingly by Drum Major (and piper) Jack Marinello, who always makes the Scots interesting to listen to. For me the highlight was, as always, their competition MSR. They have an excellent march (Bonnie Dunoon) which you don’t hear much, and a very tuneful Strathspey (The Caledonian Canal) and Reel (Captain Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree). It’s a nice set all round.

The band stayed afterwards for a meet and greet with interested audience members. It was a very pleasant evening and the Salt Lake Scots have once again represented piping with pride and excellence. Nice work guys.

My first paid Drive-by

Last Friday was my first paying gig as a piper. I have started the Drive-by Piping service as as alternative to the more involved piping service usually offered by pipers for weddings. Having piped for free for family and friends, I have come to a couple of conclusions regarding piping at social gatherings:

  • People love pipe music, especially the tunes they know (Scotland the Brave, Amazing Grace)
  • However, in many situations, there is a limit to how long people want to listen. They can’t really talk while the piper is playing. It’s just not background music.

My solution – a Drive-by Piping. I show up, hit them with about 15 minutes of tunes, including their favorites, and I’m done.

Friday evening I played a wedding. When I showed up at the reception everyone was relaxed and having a good time; they were completely receptive to what I had prepared. I had lined up about six or seven sets of tunes. During set four I began to see a little restlessness on the part of some of the guests. So I closed with Amazing Grace, bid them farewell and everyone was happy. The bride and groom thanked me profusely, many guests came up to me with compliments and I gave out several business cards.

So, Drive-by Piping number one was a great success. Keep watching and I will post some pictures.

I Am Proud to Play a Pipe!

Hello everyone, and welcome to PiperPride.

I am indeed proud to play the bagpipe. Few instruments can match its effect on listeners, but it’s also an incredible instrument to play. If you are a fellow piper, then you know what I am taking about; if you just like to listen, then I hope to convey to you some of the excitement I feel every time I pick up my pipes.

As this is my first post, here is a little information about me: I was born and grew up in England, but in 1995 I moved to Buffalo, New York, U.S.A. In November 2005 I moved again and I now live in the spectacular Salt Lake Valley, in Utah. I began piping while in Buffalo in 2003, so in many ways it still feels very new to me. I will write more on my path through piping in later posts.

The title of this post is taken from a piobaireachd (or ancient highland pipe tune) of the same name, and I chose it because it sums up nicely how I feel about this instrument. I have been a singer since I was a child. I have played the piano, the violin, the saxophone and the oboe, amongst other instruments. I have enjoyed all these, but none of them compares to the bagpipe.

The bagpipe is the instrument I am proud to play and I look forward to sharing that pride with you.