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.


willow said...

Oh, wow! I must come back and read more of your blog when I have a bit more time. My husband has a set of pipes and took a few lessons. He can play two songs, which he does on holidays.

I admire anyone who can knit.

Thanks for stopping by and I'll be back again soon...

KPiep said...

Thank You for sharing your pictures once again! I love hearing about your pipes and the experiences you have playing them. And I totally agree - the chance to play in Scotland at an actual castle is well worth it! That's the sort of once-in-a-lifetime experience that the rest of us can only dream about~!

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous! And what fun!

Marie said...

How much fun to play in a castle and for a wedding to boot!

I didn't know the ladies also wore the kilts. But, it is eye-catching.

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