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A community hub for Celtic piping in Australia

In this newsletter you'll find the latest news and reports about all that's happening in the world of Celtic Piping in Australia and around the world.

Talbot Piping Weekend 2015

(7-9 August)

Report by Colin MacDougall

For three years now the Celtic Piping Club has held its signature cauld wind weekend in Talbot, western Victoria. This year over 20 Celtic pipers took over Chesterfield House; once the gold rush era Bull and Mouth Hotel until the authorities stripped it of its licence: one of the cruellest and most severe punishments in Australia! Now it is an ideal place to talk about, learn about and experiment with bellows blown pipes; along with the inevitable companions of accordions, whistles and the odd guitar and mandolin.

Chesterfield House (photo: G. Jones)

Talbot, in western Victoria in Australia, was reached by the first European settlers in 1836. Settling near Mount Greenock, they bore the clearly Scottish names of Alexander McCallum, who had a sheep grazing lease for Dunach Forest; and Donald Cameron in nearby Clues. The first unofficial discovery of gold in the area was at on Hall and McNeill’s Glen Mona Run. In 1860 there were about 15000 gold diggers and families in the area, while today there are 269 people.

After settling in on Friday evening and getting help with tuning and maintaining pipes if necessary, most of us drifted to the local pub, past fascinating gold rush era buildings; many intricately restored.

Saturday started with a theory session led by Merran Moir. Fresh from a national music teacher’s conference, Merran led the smallpipers through singing, brain exercises and a fascinating tour of theory from Pythagoras to pipes. Meanwhile Pat Lyons led the Irish piping contingent in a workshop.

Before lunch, the Australian bagpipe maker Bill Hart shared some of his secrets of pipe and bellows making. From mop buckets to serviette rings; fence posts to fruit trees; guitar parts to artists’ brush stands; and garden equipment to home-made tools he showed us how to craft beautiful looking and sounding instruments.

After lunch he demonstrated a sets of bagpipes that he had made. As expected, there were various smallpipes, double-chanter pipes, border pipes and Northumbrian pipes. It was a little more unusual to see Swedish pipes and a Spanish Gaita. Or a walking stick with a built-in chanter. But it was really unusual to see life-size goats made into Czechoslovakian and Polish pipes, complete with heads and ornately carved horns. One exhibit was the only goat based pipes on record to have visited and left Ireland. More about goats later.

Some of Bill's pipes (photo: G. Jones)


Bill Hart demonstration some of the pipes he'd made (photo: G. Jones)
Bill demonstrating the goat pipes (photo: G. Jones)

Another set of goat pipes! (photo: G. Jones)

As in previous years we hastily put together a program for the Saturday Winter Soiree at Bryce’s Bistro. From 5 to 7pm there were tunes from the Irish flat [union] pipes, uilleann pipes, border pipes, smallpipes, concertina and accordion. The 25 or so guests were appreciative, danced and broke into a hearty rendition of Flower of Scotland to accompany Bill Hart’s Czechoslovakian inspired goat based pipes. We stayed on for a fantastic dinner, organised by the 17 year old chef. Eventually we made it back to Chesterfield House for some more tunes. The old Bull and Mouth would have been proud of many of the piping tales on offer through the night!

Pat Lyons playing a haunting air on the union pipes (photo: G. Jones)

Uilleann piping group performing at the soiree (photo: G. Jones)

Early Sunday morning Sarah Wade did a great job of injecting more healing theory into pipers after a big night out; this time discussing and demonstrating how to play pipes in sessions with other instruments: ideal to extend the fun and range of piping. Geoff Jones helped Sarah to demonstrate what did and did not work when playing combinations of instruments. More importantly, we were given practical tips about how to blend in with other instruments.

The third Talbot weekend was the greatest success yet and has become the signature event of our young club. Thanks to all the members and supporters for making this happen and the Celtic Piping Club looks forward to similar weekends in the future, as well as regular meetings in Melbourne and a presence at some of Australia’s music festivals.

In particular, thanks to Geoff Jones and Sarah Wade for organising and for Bill Hart and Pat Lyons for generously giving their time and expertise.


International Uilleann Piping Day

17 October
Did you know that a number of celebrated uilleann pipers used to play regularly in Melbourne during the 1800s & 1900s?

Na Píobairí Uilleann's International Uilleann Piping Day is a worldwide celebration of the uilleann pipes with events hosted across the globe.

Reinvigorate a piece of Melbourne's history as the uilleann pipes return to the Exford Hotel where renowned pipers of their time, Owen Cunningham and John Coughlan performed in the 1860s. Pat Lyons will present some his research in a potted history of uilleann piping in Melbourne.

The day will include workshops for beginners through to intermediate and advanced players, a potted history lecture of piping in Melbourne, a concert and a pipers’ session. This is the one piping event of the year not to be missed.

Food & drinks will be available to purchase at the venue. Entry is free, but bookings are requested to uilleann@celticpipingclub.com or 0409 513 473.

Although promoting the uilleann pipes, this day will be for all bellows-blown pipes. After all, 'uilleann' simply means 'elbow'. In fact, you don't even need to own a set of pipes - everyone is welcome. Come and join us for a friendly day of piping for pleasure.

1.30 pm - Doors open
2 pm - Workshop session 1 (beginners / newcomers)
3.15 pm - Potted history of uilleann piping in Melbourne
3.30 pm - Workshop session 2 (intermediate / advanced)
5 pm - Concert
6 pm - Session

Click the image to download a larger/printable version


Pop-up Piping Sessions & Other Events

17 October
International Uilleann Piping Day - Exford Hotel, cnr Russell St and Little Bourke St, Melbourne. Click here or see above for details.

31 Oct - 1 Nov
Maldon Folk Festival - pop-up piping session. Details tbc.

7-8 November
Beechworth Celtic Festival - pop-up piping session. Details tbc.

8-13 November
Boxwood New Zealand, Waipu

20-22 November
Boxwood Festival, Australia. Details tbc.

Regular Piping Sessions

Adelaide - Pipers Gathering

When: 1st Monday of each month (usually)
Where: Contact Jack for details.
Contact: Jack Brennan via brennanjack@optusnet.com.au

Brisbane - Irish Piping Sessions

When: 2nd & 4th Tuesday of each month
Where: Milton (Brisbane)
Contact: Malcolm McLaren on (07) 3820-2902 or email mrmclaren@bigpond.com

Brisbane - Smallpipe Sessions

When: First Tuesday of each month
Where: Milton (Brisbane)
Contact: Malcolm McLaren on (07) 3820-2902 or email mrmclaren@bigpond.com

Melbourne - Celtic Piping Session

When: 2nd Sunday of each most months (see below) 2pm - 5pm.
Where: Upstairs at the Lord Newry Hotel - 543 Brunswick Street, North Fitzroy.
Contact: us via email@celticpipingclub.com
Future session dates:
  • Sun 13 September
  • October - no session (IUPD on Saturday 17 Oct instead)
  • November - no session (pop-up sessions at Maldon & Beechworth instead)
  • Sun 13 December (focus: Traditional Scottish & Irish Christmas tunes)

NESSIE - North East Scottish Strings including Elbow Pipes

When: 2nd Sunday of each month
Where: North East Victoria
Contact: Kristen on (03) 5766 6282
Do you run a piping session or get to any folk sessions where pipers are welcome, or would like to write about a piping-related event? Click here to send us an email...we'd love to hear from you.

That's all for this newsletter.

Until next time...

Your friends in piping,

The Celtic Piping Club crew

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