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Old 08-12-2016, 06:40 PM   #1
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Location: Glengarry County ON
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Default Starting a Small Pipe Session

I'm a community band GHB piper who also owns Scottish small pipes. I've asked around and there are others with small pipes scattered in the 4 pipe bands in the immediate area.

I've been considering starting a "gathering" of small pipers to have some fun and play our instruments and have a local beverage or two. Hopefully it would be possible.

Do any of you have any suggestions on how to successfully go about this?

Some of the questions I have concern

appropriate approach
meeting frequency

Assistance greatly appreciated.

Not too old to rock & roll; Pipe on!
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Old 08-13-2016, 06:01 AM   #2
Klondike Waldo
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Default Re: Starting a Small Pipe Session

Venue: I'd suggest starting with someplace you don't need to pay to use, but somewhat neutral territory rather than someone's home, in the events some people might find that awkward. ( though I used to attend a bluegrass jam in a private home regularly).

Approach: Direct approach with a few friends and friends- of friends , although I'm hoping Ron Schlie or Skye Richendorfer will chime in here as they have got some sessions going in their area.

Tunes/ Repertoire- The LBPS has a few books out which would certainly fit the bill- unison and ensemble ( duets, trios) arrangements.

Frequency: Monthly to start, to give time for guys to learn new tunes between sessions.

Something to think about ( Having participated in sessions in Irish pubs, bluegrass jams and Trad Jazz Jams on different instruments)- have the group agree on certain core principals- instrumentation- You might not want 30 or so bodhran players ( or a dozen dobros) showing up. Session etiquette- who leads, calls the tune going around in circle, how to end a tune, whether or not to use sheet music, etc.

Good luck
Slainte Leibh/ Slan Leat, Bob Cameron
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Old 08-13-2016, 08:05 AM   #3
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Default Re: Starting a Small Pipe Session

If it was me I'd probably prefer the first meeting to be in someone's home or some other "private" location (church or meeting hall maybe).

For the first meeting my idea would be to just get together and play some tunes. Then you can find out what everyone's levels are and that will give you an idea of the musical adventure you want to have. When I get together with my friend who plays harp we just play tunes that we know together, and we each play tunes for the other. When I hear something that catches my ear I get him to play it again and I record it.
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Old 08-14-2016, 09:13 AM   #4
John McCain
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Default Re: Starting a Small Pipe Session

I don't know if my experience will be helpful to you. Apologies in advance if it's not.

I found, in this area of Texas and when I lived in southern Maine, is that although both places had loads of band pipers with SSPs (and some of them very expensive, top end ones) it's impossible to get them to meet for a session. It's evidently pretty intimidating for some.

My suggestion, if you want to play traditional Scottish tunes in a session, is to open it to all relevant instruments and hope smallpipe players will show up.

I play, and am the benevolent organizer, of a local monthly session. In my area there are many Irish sessions so we play only scot/cape breton tunes. It's been going on for over 15 years. In that time, so nearly 200 meetings, I can recall 2 times there has been another SSP player.

We meet in a local business which is closed on a Sunday because the owner likes the session there. If that's unavailable we have access to a community arts center. We don't play in public. None of us are very interested in doing that mainly because we each play in public in other contexts.

As far as repertoire, most Scots fiddle session books are full of pipe tunes and often have the chords, too. LBPS books are OK. The Hamish Moore book is a treasure. Whatever catches a members fancy will be tried. Our group likes sets of tunes. We've even inspired a number of compositions from members.

We don't play marches, although more pipers would likely encourage more of those. The fiddlers (and everyone) loves Gordon Duncan tunes and the late Ian Hardie's tunes are a favorite, too. The Gunn Collection is a rich source for us as are the mostly unheard great tunes that the Scottish country dance music community are always writing.

We don't mind music stands or playing slowly for newer players or anything that would help everyone in the group succeed.

There really aren't any rules. Currently we have a percussion player who specializes in spoons and bones and we are extremely fortunate to have her.

If, as you stated, your goal is a SSP session, disregard the above. If you're successful, please let me know how you did it. I'd love to figure out how to have a SSP session here!

There's a tiny bit more info in the link in my signature line below.
"What we play is life." - Louis Armstrong

Last edited by Andrew Lenz; 08-17-2016 at 06:04 PM. Reason: Removed unnecessary block quote of entire first post in thread.
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Old 08-15-2016, 07:17 AM   #5
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Default Re: Starting a Small Pipe Session

Not directly SSP-related, but where I live the Irish music players have a dedicated "slow session" for enthusiastic but perhaps not overly experienced players. It's in a centrally located pub once a month and the organizers do a great job of sending out set lists along with sheet music well in advance, mostly well-known tunes that aren't too difficult, but there is occasionally a challenging one. The week before they also send round the playlist for the evening (which includes some of the new tunes as well as ones from previous sessions.) Playing with sheet music isn't frowned upon (some people need it) and all instruments are welcome.

If your goal is to assemble accomplished musicians this might not be an approach you'd use, but if your hope is to make people feel less intimidated by playing the SSP in sessions while they are still in the early stages of learning, it's not a bad way to run things. Having an experienced guitar or piano accompanist really helps as well, because it's a good way to make the sound full, and for the overall effect to be musical and pleasurable for both players and listeners (even if there are a few botched doublings).

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Old 08-17-2016, 04:51 PM   #6
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Default Re: Starting a Small Pipe Session

My Two Cents,
Our monthly sessions have fallen apart due to lack of participation. There were those of us that were dedicated to playing smallpipes and showed up on a regular basis, but some months only 2 or 3 of us showed up. Our leader tried very hard to get the local GHP players who owned smallpipes to show up. Many said they would try, but they never came. It's almost like they were ashamed to admit to their fellow GHP buddies that they enjoyed playing their smallpipes (Quote.."I only use them for practice") How sad
Our two smallpipe groups here in Syracuse and Rochester NY are a dedicated bunch of musicians who often travel back and forth between cities to practice and perform. My advice to you is to find ONE local piper willing to meet with you and form a group. Practice together often, select tunes you both enjoy, when your ready perform at a local open mic., senior center or church, anyplace.
Now your ready to spread the word about your Smallpipe group. Give yourselves a name!! Build your group one at a time. Look for brave smallpipers who are unashamed and enjoy playing their wee pipes for the fun of it!
Good Luck
Onondaga Piper

Last edited by RonSchlie; 08-17-2016 at 04:54 PM. Reason: spelling
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