Thursday, December 11, 2008

Droning about what Pipers wear

Bagpipes are the only instrument I can think of that have a specific dress code. Of course we wear ordinary clothing when we practice, but for all performances or gigs most pipers wear a kilt. Our band uniform is composed of pieces of traditional Scottish dress.

Our band tartan is "The Flower of Scotland". There is a tune by that name which is considered by many to be the unofficial national anthem of Scotland. With its medley of blues and greens and hint of orange/red, I believe The Flower of Scotland tartan is indeed one of the loveliest tartans. It is a new tartan, not associated with a clan/family. Our woolen kilt hose are in a color called "Blue Lovat" and we wear Ancient Red flashes at the top of the hose. (I knitted a pair of kilt hose in cream wool but I only wear them when I am playing solo.) We wear a purse-like bag in the front which is called a sporran. It is secured with a chain that wraps behind us like a belt. The sporran is very handy for carrying bits and bobs we might need for our pipes, cash, and car keys. Our cap/bonnet is called a Glengarry and the lace up shoes are ghillie brogues. Ghillie brogues have no tongue and were designed so that water could drain out while the wearer tramped through the bogs. I'm not sure that actually works but it sounds logical. (The word "ghillie" comes from a word meaning "lad" or "servant".) The ghillies have special shoestrings that lace around the ankles, cross in back, twist and are tied on the front or side of the calf. Other uniform components are a white shirt, band tie, and belt. This dress is fairly typical of modern day pipers and I, for one, am glad that most pipe bands do not wear the military dress with tall fur hats and spats. I really believe the tall bonnet would cause me to topple over!

Heather and I traveled to Scotland a few years ago to play a wedding at Dundonald Castle. It isn't that they couldn't find pipers in Scotland, though. My Scottish friend was helping an American who was getting married in Scotland. They wanted a piper for their September castle wedding and we volunteered to do the job for free. How many American pipers have the opportunity to play a REAL wedding in a castle? It was an amazing trip. In the first photo we are practicing at the castle a day or two before the wedding. Our pipes sounded fantastic. It was as if the pipes knew they had come home.

At this time our band wore white hose with lovat blue flashes.
In the second photo we are inside the castle on the day of the wedding. That is Heather on the left and me, leaning for some weird reason, on the right.

The photographer asked us to climb up on a narrow stone wall that was part of the castle ruin. In my leather soled ghillies this was not an easy task! (I don't think he realized that I was over 50 at the time!) I named this photo "Mountain Goats" because we felt like goats climbing up a mountainside, only not as surefooted.

Then the photographer asked "the lassies" to play a tune! I really thought getting up on the wall was sufficient effort but I wasn't going to stand there idle while Heather played. In the last photo we are striking in our pipes to play a tune for the lovely bride and her groom. He is English but wore the kilt for the wedding. Her gown was a medieval style.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Two Pipers and Their Knittin'

This photo was taken by Kevin as we waited to tune for A Grace Family Christmas last week. Heather is starting a pair of mittens for her wee boy. I am about half way finished with a Fisherman's sweater for my youngest son. (Unfortunately I have used more than half the wool! )We have downtime at the performances, between stints of warming up and tuning our pipes.

I frogged the body of the sweater, which was nearly to the armpits. There was about 2 inches extra ease that could be eliminated and since I am cutting it close on yardage, that could make a difference. It only took me 3 days to get back to where I was.

Product review: A few months ago I bought the Knit Picks nickle Plated Options Set. These are sets where you get the needles tips and cords/wires/cables with various lengths. The tips screw into the cables. I wanted to have this set of needles for the occasions when I suddenly need a needle size that I don't commonly use. My usual sizes are #1, #2, #3, and #5. On this sweater I am using #7 so I used the Knit Picks Options for the body of the sweater. The first cable I used had a rough spot in it near where it joined the metal screw piece. On top of that I kept unscrewing the tip as I knit. I used the tiny tool to screw it in but the way I knit must have an effect on the torque, if that is the right word. Stopping quite frequently to screw the tip back in slowed me down considerably. I decided to use the second long cable that came with the kit. After knitting just a few rounds it broke out of the screw end. Sigh. So back to the faulty, rough cable. That one broke last night. My husband used epoxy to glue it in the hole so we will see how that goes. I cannot endorse this product. Apart from needles I bought in Denmark eons ago, Knit Picks are my favorite needles. So while I heartedly recommend their needles, I do not recommend the options sets.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Aye, Caledonia!

I have a yearning for Scotland. Perhaps that is obvious since I play the pipes. The last time I was in Scotland was in August 2005 when our band competed in the World Pipe Band Championship Games. I would love to go back soon but I don't think that will happen in the near future. Watching this short clip makes me want to book a flight right now! Scotland is celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns.

These photos were taken on the west coast of Scotland in Ayrshire when we visited in 2005. The land formation on the horizon is called "The Sleeping Warrior".

"Caledonia" is an ancient term, used by the Roman Empire for the northern part of Great Britain. It is used today as a poetic name for Scotland. You will hear it in songs about Scotland where it conjures up images of those misty mountains and shady glens.

It is a busy, busy week. The band is playing in a concert at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria. They ask us to play about every other year. It is a huge commitment. We have dress rehearsal tonight (Wednesday) and evening performances on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and a Sunday afternoon performance. The good news is that when we aren't tuning our pipes I can knit! Isn't it wonderful that knitting is so portable? On Sunday night we have our Small Group from church. On Saturday I'm having my annual Holiday Open House for my business. Time to get back to the rock pile.

Printer Friendly