PICTOU – The sound of bagpipes will soon fill the air around Pictou’s waterfront.
Piping on the waterfront
Robbie MacInnis, pipe major of Na Gasigich Pipes and Drums,will beproviding a free three-week introductory course from June 30 to July 18 in Highland bagpipes and drumming to 20 youth.
The goal of the society is to offer the course with no financial obligations from the student.
MacInnis noted that in the five years that courses have been offered, the classes have usually been at full capacity.
“Right now we’re at around 13 youth in the course so far,” he said. “I’m sure we'll have a full slate of students this summer.”
The course will be taught outside at the Hector Heritage Quay in full view of visitors and to passersby on the street. MacInnis noted the result is always positive when tourists come through.
“Were teaching living heritage, perpetuating and promoting the history of the Scots.”
The course isn’t just for locals. MacInnis noted one family from New England that had visited Pictou County for three days. After only three days of courses, he received an email six months later from their parents saying the boys had joined a pipe band in Boston.
During the Royal Visit of Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, MacInnis and some of his summer students played ‘Scots Wha Hae’ for them on the quay.
“The impressive part is Prince Charles recognized the tune they were playing. He said to me as he was leaving, “You keep an eye on these young people and I want to see them marching next time I’m here.’”
The society believes that after completing the three-week course, students will have the ambition, skill sets and passion to continue their studies, hopefully joining a local community band.
“We started this because the pipe and drum bands in the county were dying,” said MacInnis. “The Heatherbells were on the brink of closing, Dunvegan in Westville and Balmoral in Stellarton had collapsed.”
The solution was to draw the youth back into the traditions through summer courses. In the last four years, around 63 students went through the program. MacInnis noted that while Na Gasigich runs the program, the benefit to them is to see the youth playing again.
“Hopefully, 10 or 15 years later, they’ll join us when they’re old enough. But certainly the Heatherbells get some of the players.”
Still, some misconceptions endure about pipe and drums bands, including one that holds piping is for girls.
“We’ve had a positive response with the Heatherbells in making it a co-ed band. In fact, we’ve got eight boys playing in the 15-member band.”
The primary responsibility of each student is to attend every class, each day and to practise the skills they have learned. Students should arrive at the Hector Quay by 8:50 a.m. and can be picked up at 11 a.m. Parents are welcome to stay and watch the ongoing instruction from experienced pipers, drummers and youth instructors.
Students are lent a practice chanter and a drum pad and sticks. They attend two 45-minute classes each morning, Monday to Friday, commencing at 9 to 10:45 a.m.
Each student receives a personal Instruction Manual consisting of: history of pipes and drums (historically, locally, nationally and internationally); musical theory as it relates to each instrument; basics of tone and tuning; instrument maintenance; history, identification and proper wearing of Highland dress (civilian and military orders); and fingering techniques and drum rudiments.
The society is also looking into running a course for adults for the week of Aug. 11.
Any questions or to enrol please contact Robbie MacInnis at 485-5340 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn