I just spent a fabulous weekend playing and teaching tunes to a very bright group of players at the Celtic Arts Foundation smallpipe/reelpipe program in a forest camp inside the town of Bellingham WA. It was a pleasure to meet Fred Morrison and hear him give some amazing performances of his original tunes, especially the “Kansas City Hornpipe” from his new album. I loved how powerfully and with such abandon he played. I’ll use a phrase I’m borrowing from him and say he was really “knocking sparks off it”.
We had a Friday night meet up for registration, a house concert overlooking a beautiful view of the water that night and then the next day, 7 hours of instruction in small classes of no more than 8 students and two night sessions. Sunday was a lighter day, just 3 hours of classes, a jam session and then a blast of a concert at the Skagit Brewery Bar.
I was continuing a theme from the Pipers Gathering in Vt and trying to encourage folks to think of themselves as public performers, cast in the role of town pipers to the local community, our job being to bring good tunes to the people around us, whether that’s from a stage or in the living room. I brought a quiver of tunes that would be practical and interesting towards that goal. We started the weekend with a reminder exercise on making a first and last impression with the pipes and how to use tuning to intrigue the listener. I’m hoping to continue that theme at my next teaching weekend this January at the Upper Potomac Pipers Weekend.
I felt hugely lucky to share a stage and give this workshop alongside Fred. He was a lion of a performer and tirelessly generous in trying to inspire and encourage the players there. I learned a lot from him and am taking a couple of things home:
-“rhythm is the window to the soul of the tune” a quote from the Saturday presentation on how to prepare for a gig.
-leave your inner judge in the practice room.
-take a stand for the music you really love.
I’m coming home this weekend feeling stronger than ever, ready to work harder, play with more heart.
The organizers of the Celtic Arts Foundation made this beautiful weekend possible and I am profoundly grateful to have been invited, There’s talk of some sort of bagpipe excursion coming out of this… Stay tuned….