Count me in as someone who has been overcome by the beauty and the power of the 'pipes.
Although I think it's a bit overboard to use them alongside sporting events. I must have listened
to the music used in this feature fifty times.
NOVEMBER 1998 4:05
It's a musical instrument that is either despised or loved, as we learn from
members of the Rochester Scottish Pipe Band... with HAROLD MARKUM, JANICE BLUE, KENNETH JACKMAN and TOM McCALL.
It's one of those clear-cut issues. People either love the bagpipes or can't
stand the music. People either can't enough of the 'pipes... or, can't help making
jokes about it.
MARKUM: It sounds nice- at a distance. The wife says they sound nice at a distance...
some place like North Dakota.
17-year bagpipe player Harold Markum switched over from the saxophone and
clarinet back in high school. But it doesn't bother him when folks joke about
his musical instrument of choice.
MARKUM: I have no problem with it. Everyone doesn't like to fly. Everyone doesn't
like maple walnut ice cream. Everyone doesn't like the 'pipes. But I think most
people like the sound of them. You take any piper or a couple of pipers, have them play
on a nice summer evening and let me tell ya, you have cars stopping and people listening.
I mean, it is a pretty instrument. We think it is.
BLUE: The first time I told somebody I was taking "piping" lessons, they thought
I was gonna be a plumber.
Janice Blue has been playing the bagpipes for five years, drawn to what she terms
the most beautiful sound she can think of. But playing has its handicaps.
BLUE: I tell people I don't know why I take up an instrument that is hard to play.
And then you're doing it in the summer in the heat with like ten pounds of cloth on you.
The kilt is something like seven to nine yards of cloth. It's a hot thing.. but it's
FLYNN: Are you proud to be a bagpiper?
BLUE: Oh, I am so proud. I really am. This a life dream to be playing bagpipes.
Referred to as a "technique-type" of instrument, players blow through a hollow stick
into a bag. The air comes out through long, tube-like pieces called drones. Finger holes
on another piece- the chanter- allow the playing of up to nine notes. And pressing the
arm on the bag produces that steady tone, that hum, that background sound. Even after
playing for 45 years, Kenneth Jackman says he's still trying to get the hang of it.
JACKMAN: The volume is all the same. We can't turn down the volume as you can with most
instruments. And also, they don't stop like most wind instruments do. And so, the
pipes are always going. And the way that you separate notes are actually with grace notes-
which are just small little brief notes between the major theme notes. It's like any other
instrument. It takes a long time to master it and also helps to find groups in the area who have
the expertise- so that you can improve.
It's the only musical instrument declared a weapon of war. Back in the 1700s, Scottish
armies rallied for battle to the sound of the 'pipes. Bagpipers suffered casualties
heading the troops into the fighting. With bagpipe music urging the troops on, the tone
rising above the din of battle, the 'pipes were said to be worth a hundred guns. Its
unique sound draws out a range of feeling and emotion. Glasglow, Scotland-area native
and 30-year veteran pipe player, Tom McCall-
McCALL: It's the only instrument I know where you can play at funerals, you can play at
weddings, you can play at a head table. Or you can stand in the corner and play by
yourself. And I've seen people cry and get very emotional and get choked up. I've seen
people really bright and cheery and dancing because of the tunes you can play on the
bagpipes. Complete sadness to complete happiness. It runs the full gamut, just because of
the sound of the instrument. It gets right into your heart- it really does.
The Rochester Scottish Pipe Band, an area tradition for eight decades, celebrates its
Celtic heritage tonight with a program entitled "Scotland in Concert," at the Theatre on the Ridge. Bill Flynn, WXXI News.
- aired nationally