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Serving Those Who Have Served
      Piping at a National Cemetery is very different from a traditional cemetery, and as a piper who has performed at hundreds of services throughout Florida I can attest to that. There are 9 National Cemeteries in Florida (Barrancas (Pensacola), Bay Pines, Cape Canaveral, Florida (Bushnell), Jacksonville, Sarasota, South Florida (Lake Worth), St. Augustine, and Tallahassee. I have had the honor to pipe for Veterans and fallen servicemembers in Bay Pines, Bushnell, and Sarasota. The services have a maximum window  of 30 minutes and they tend to run very much on time, at least at the locations I have performed. 

      Now you might ask how is it different at Bay Pines, Bushnell or Sarasota versus any other cemetery. First there is a different respect and procedure at National Cemeteries, as it should be, and so being punctual is not good enough, you must be early as a piper. I arrive at least 30 minutes early, know how every branch does their ceremony and I know how the VFW and USMCL do their ceremonies. Every piper starts somewhere but at a veteran service is not where you want someone with little experience piping your loved ones final tune. 

      In addition to all that, I lower my prices for Veteran and Veteran Spouses services as a way to pay respect for what they have done for us. Also, I do not charge for fallen servicemember services as stated on my homepage. There is not much leeway for military services and I'm happy to explain in detail what I have found to be the best way to have bagpipes at those services. I do hope when that time eventually comes, you will consider me to be your piper for these services. It is a true honor for me, which I to not take lightly. An important item is to make sure you let me know your loved one served or they are a spouse of a servicemember, I do not require paperwork to confirm that status. This also applies to allied nations as I have performed for foreign veteran services.

​      For those I have piped for and those I will, thank you for allowing me to be a unique and special part of your life!
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St. Patrick's weekend is always a busy time for any piper worth his/her salt. Over the years I've played more locations than I want to think about, but one thing I feel needs to be resaid is etiquette when around those in kilts. Kilts are an important part of our culture and an expectation as a performer!

1. It's Called a kilt
Seems simple but it's called a kilt, not a skirt. Enough said haha
2. Don't ask for "Freebird"
You can play a lot of fun tunes on pipes, and  Synyrd is not on the list. AC/DC is though
3. Don't Ask What's Under the Kilt
There are many reasons you shouldn't ask but most importantly it's inappropriate.  You also might get an answer you weren't prepared for,
4. Don't Go Looking For Yourself
Seriously don't, again its not just inappropriate its also called sexual assault. I know that's very blunt but no man could do that to a women, so why is it ok for everyone to do that to us? Also I'm married
5. Ask About the Pipes and Uniform
We love sharing our culture and explaining the history of it and how it started in our lives. With it being such a unique instrument you'd be surprised all the history on how it has affected people in times of joy, sorrow, anger, grief, and surprise!
6. Food and Drink
I can't speak for everyone but I do my best not to eat before playing and during gigs as it causes more maintenance afterwards. I also just drink water for the same reason, so please don't be offended if we don't partake of your tasty treats. Believe me it's not personal, it just creates a lot for work for us to keep the instrument in top playing condition. I do accept haggis to-go :)
7. Enjoy The Music
We wouldn't be out playing if no one enjoyed it, so keep on enjoying it! Ask for tunes and see if you can stump a piper with some old ballad. I always enjoy playing more, when the people are enjoying it
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     Piping full time came about after I was married and my wife encouraged me to live the musicians dream and play full time. Not an easy nor financially stable position but a fulfilling one in deed! Now it has been 8 years, hundreds of events, and thousands of tunes played with some accolades here and there.
     Thank you for trusting me to be your piper for marriages, birthdays, surprise engagements, retirement parties, and of course funerals. It's been an honor to perform for so many veterans honoring their sacrifice of service to our country with a few tunes. I hope to be of service to you and hope you will continue to trust me with your most special of events!
Thank you!
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I joined St. Andrew's Pipe Band of Tampa Bay in 2004 as a snare drummer. This band has always had a special place in my heart as I imagine all do for the band they "cut their teeth" with. After being a member for several years, I left due to some creative differences. Fast forward and now in 2018, I have rejoined St. Andrew's as a bagpiper! There is something special about piping with a band and there isn't another band in the area I would join that is strictly a show band.

     So what is a show band? its a band that does not compete and strictly does parades, events, kirkings, etc. Basically any event other than a competition, they doe exhibits at highland games, and the perk to this kind of band to me is the less stress of the situation. Every member goes and does their best, and they only compete against themselves and how they played previously. I left the competition circuit a while ago and doubt I will return but who knows. I look forward to learning some new tunes, gleaming some knowledge from pipers with decades of experience, and jus being apart of a band again.

      For those out there looking to play but not compete come on out and give a try. Snowbirds or yearlong residents, there is always a welcome play for you! Visit the band's website and be sure to check the calendar for practice dates (they actually update the calendar)! For those who remember how St. Andrew's use to sound, they have grown tremendously and I wouldn't waste my time if I didn't see the great progress this group has made and is working on making. Some fun and challenging tunes and of course the old classics!
www.standrewsband.com
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      Important moments in history are often memorialized in bagpipe tunes, sometime a jaunty march and to often an emotional dirge for someone lost. As a bagpiper, if can help to understand how to play pipe tunes by knowing the history behind it. Bagpipe music is very subjective on how it is stylized, which makes it very enjoyable as a musician. 
​      The Armistice of 1918 is an important part of world history and as such a WWI piper commemorated that time in a tune. G.S. McLennan, who is considered one of the top pipers period, served in the Great War with the Gordon Highlanders. He served gassing, and seeing things no one should be forced to. He wrote his famous 2/4 march shortly after the signing but debuted it in 1922 in Aberdeen, Scotland. I have quickly learned to love this tune and his style of writing music. I have learned this tune specifically of the time we are in.
​      I hope you go out and research tunes you enjoy and find some new information out about it. Don't take the title for granted as many tunes have alternate titles that shine a new light on its past. Sometime tunes where written for a competition, to memorialize a person or time and more than once it came out of a few too many drams of single malt. Knowing your history is important and if you'd like to learn more about G.S., visit this website his decedents created to honor him and teach others ​http://gsmclennan.co.uk/
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      As a member of the Clan Gunn Society of North America (CGSNA) and avid participant in the tent at highland games in Florida, I've been asked many times what place it there for clans today? Well, most importantly its a way to preserve our culture and learn our history! You also gain new friends and family who share your interest and appreciation for Scottish arts and culture. Plus, you have the opportunity to be apart of the clan parades at highland games and group tours that many clans coordinate to visit Scotland.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -George Santayana
      Your small yearly dues cover the cost of having a tent at games, administration costs, and displays to name a few but every officer position is a volunteer placement and they put much a good deal of their money and time into each event. As the Florida Branch Bagpiper for Clan Gunn, I volunteer my time to pipe events and it is a great benefit to have a shaded tent to rest and share in some good conversation! 
​      Next time you go to a games, stop by a tent and chat them up and if you don't know what clan you're from you can find great resources! As a dues paying member of CGSNA, I can without question speak of the benefits of it. My wife and I have made great friends, learned much, and even imparted some knowledge to others. A great honor for clans at highland games is to earn he clan of the year prize and be an honored clan at games. This year at the Dunedin Highland Games, Clan Gunn won Clan of the year and will be the honored clan next year at Dunedin! 
​      There are many highland games and celtic festivals around, so do some research and hit some up! It makes for a fun day and there are always many things to see and do. In a fast paced and ever changing society, I find a comfort in Scottish clan societies in the states as they ensure an important part of history isn't forgotten. Few places in the world haven't been affected by Scottish culture, near every former or current British colony has bagpipe bands, they brought there traditions and farming to the American Colonies, farmed and settle the Appalachian Mountains, and have served a vital part in the military.
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      Bagpipes have a very unique place in modern culture; as a remembrance of heritage, patriotism, and times past. They are  a piece of America's greatness and help make this country so unique! I challenge anyone to find an instrument that invokes so many emotions as bagpipes can. At one event I can see someone crying because it reminds them of their grandfather's funeral service with military honors, next to another cheering because of pride in their heritage t another cringing hoping it will stop soon. I

       Great Highland Bagpipes (GHB) are such a special instrument that has been in wars for hundreds of years, up to WWII leading soldiers to the fighting and even in the current fight against ISIS and terrorism, you have pipe bands, who are soldiers first, and musicians second) playing in an active warzone.
      The Royal Scots Dragoons Guards album, Spirit of the Glen was the first album recorded in an active war zone (Basra, Iraq) and you can hear that fact on the Flowers of the Forest track. One of my favorite albums and you can feel the emotions of those Cavalrymen in the music. Drum and Bugle has it's place in parade but bagpipes have stood the test of time in battlefields and civilian life. As an avid piper in Tampa Bay, I've played hundreds of events and I have seen a wide range of emotions and talked with those who have served with Scottish battalions with pipe bands, and heard them in wartime. Known many veterans and even an SAS officer who served in WWII and they all agree those pipers are crazy. I think we all have to be to some level as common side effects of the instrument is hearing loss, upper repertory illness (clean your bags guys), and a steady case of empty wallet syndrome.

​      Bagpipes are not for everyone, and I always say you either love'em or hate'em. Next time you hear the mournful bellows of the highland bagpipes and a piper in traditional garb, don't pretend to pop the bag or mess with the drones or the kilt, instead give the piper a smile or a head nod and maybe drop a few dollars his or her way. It's a costly instrument to maintain and don't forget the saying, "time to pay the piper!"

​      As much as you might not enjoy it, it could be making someone else's day. Also, as St. Patrick's Day comes, you can only play so many Irish tunes on Scottish pipes. And no, we cannot play ​Free Bird.
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Robert Burns
1759-1796
Probably Scotland's most famous poet, over 200 years later Robert Burns is beloved the world over. Though, during his life he was not as loved continually as he was thought to be a crown sympathizer at times. January 25th the world over, people hold dinners to celebrate his birth and read a few of his poems but being that are written in Scots it isn't so easy.

​One of the few times a year, bagpipers are guaranteed a job if they desire and the only gig all year I believe we are truly respected and welcomed by the harshest of music critics. I always enjoy piping in the haggis to A Man's A Man For A That ​and piping other loved tunes. Did you know that there is another day everyone recites a poem of his? It's New Years Day when people sing Auld Lang Syne​.

​The past couple years I have piped a private event in St. Petersburg, Florida and have enjoyed it as the hosts invite those without much knowledge of Rabbie, Scotland, bagpipes or haggis (which a lack of haggis knowledge is a good thing). Scotland's Favorite Son was an advocate of his history and preserving a small piece of it within his works. As in his poem, Scots Wae Hae:

Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;
Welcome to your gory bed,
         Or to victory!

Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour;
See approach proud Edward's power—
         Chains and slavery!

​Those are just two stanzas and you can see the rest online but you get a quick sense of what he is speaking of, especially if you've seen Braveheart (though a very historically inaccurate movie). Or here in Address to a Haggis:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

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100 Years later
      November 11th, 2018 on the 11th hour (signed at 0600) marks 100 years of the signing of the Armistice of Compiegne. This ended the Great War and there is a tune every bagpiper who has been playing for more than 5 years knows that commemorates this. As a bagpiper in Dunedin, a city with a rich bagpipe history, I enjoy learning about the tunes we play. Some are traditional folk songs, some happened one drunken night, and far too many commemorate the end of a war, battle, or the loss of a warrior.
      When the Battle's O'er is such a tune and the College of Piping trying to get pipers from all over the world to pipe this tune at the same time. I will be playing the City of Doral's Veteran's Day Parade in South Florida that day. I will play that tune several times that day and not out of repetition or tradition, but respect. We have warriors still in battle this very day all over the world. I am always honored to play for them and especially to pipe their branches march for them. 
​      In Tama Bay we have no shortage of military pride! With an Air Force Base, Coast Guard Airstation, Coast Guard Base, and many Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotillas. At MacDill AFB, you can find every branch and so we are blessed to have such a protection in our area. Always, take the time to thank a veteran, active duty personnel, police officer, firefighter, EMT, and all first responders as they selfishly sacrifice years of their life to protect ours.
​      Any bagpipers who haven't yet signed up, do so! Post photos, video clips, and encourage your city to do something to celebrate if they don't. Next year will be an even of importance to get the kids out and learn some of our history! I've been fortunate to know and speak to some WWI veterans and take time and instead of Googling accounts for school papers, go to the local VFW and hear it directly. 

​Bagpipers sign up here:  100 Years of Remembrance
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