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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 further afield.

National Celtic Festival @ Portarlington

Report by Alan Parker

For over a decade over the Queen's Birthday long weekend, the spectacle that is the National Celtic Festival has descended on the sleepy seaside town of Portarlington - located around half an hour south of Geelong on the Bellarine Peninsula.

The three and a bit days of the official programme were crammed full of Celtic goodness, including lectures on Irish and Scottish history, Gaelic singing and speaking lessons, music workshops, and - of course - the great and varied bill of outstanding musical acts, both local, and well-travelled.

As well as the aural festivities, the accompanying market saw a swathe of stalls and vans selling jewellery, clothing and cosmetics, through a multitude of street food vendors with traditional Scottish food, through organic ice cream and Turkish bread.

Post-arrival on the Friday evening, the festivities were off to a solid start, with people beginning to pour in from out of town for a somewhat rainy registration. We (myself and Pat Lyons) were able to meet up with fellow piper (and phenomenal Irish Dancer) from Adelaide, Connor Hoy.

After a very nice dinner in the bistro (try the local mussels!) at the Grand Hotel, we were able to get our own registrations over with, and we staked out a spot in the "Wine Bar" Marquee and await the act which had us talking for many hours before-hand, said act of course being the John McSherry Trio (later to be plus one - but more on that later!).

During the wait, many familiar faces made their way past the bar, including fellow CPC regulars Matt Horsley and Merran Moir, as well as other friends from the Melbourne session Celtic scene.

The John McSherry Trio did not disappoint. John McSherry himself on pipes and whistle, Dónal O'Connor on Fiddle, and Melbourne boy Rob Hillman on guitar and vocals, with a cracking assortment of Irish, Spanish, Cape Breton and French tunes - the forty minute show was over in the blink of an eye leaving the audience gasping for more.

Luckily, once a few more shows and drinks were downed, we made our way over to the Grand Hotel where a number of sessions were already under way. Many of the overseas performers had gathered in the front room for a ripping session, which was very much a privilege to behold.


Whilst the tunes were flowing late into the night, our Connor Hoy treated us to a live set of dances along with the excellent tunes, which not only proved to be an impressive feat (or feet?), but also netted Connor an invitation to join the John McSherry Trio on the remainder of their Australian tour!

After seeing out the frivolities of the first night, the Celtic Piping Club sprung into action with a series of official events on the program.

Firstly, a concert on the deck of the tall ship Enterprize (not quite the starship, but almost as fun!) Merran, Geoff, Matt and Andrew played a selection of tunes to introduce the lucky crowds to Scottish and Irish piping.

Following the Enterprize gig, the Piping Club hosted a well-engaged audience at St. John's Church, where they were once again treated to a great variety of piping and other musical styles.

The concert kicked off with a demonstration of small pipes, and border pipes led by Merran (Moore SSP/Garvie BP) including the tunes "Ass in the Graveyard, The Soup Dragon, and Pete and Merran's 50th Party".

Andrew Teusner (Hart SSP) then threw some the power of the voice into the mix with stirring renditions of both "Loch Tay Boat Song" and the rousing Rabbie Burns classic "A Man's a Man for a' That".

After his pair of smashing songs, Andrew regrouped with Geoff (Moore SSP), Sarah Wade (Moore SSP) and Merran to play a further bracket en masse of smallpipe tunes, being "The Piper’s Weird" and "Lindisfarne".

Interspersed between each set, Geoff relayed history and information about the pipes, piping, along with an introduction of the tunes by their respective performers.

Once the first Piping Club sets were over, our first affiliated cameo from Duck Duck Goose - Sarah Wade on the smallpipes, and Jess Foot on the oboe - the duo "At home amongst the reeds" delighted us first with "Hornpipe in D" from Handel's Water Music Suite, followed by a diversion from the British Isles towards Scandinavia with a toe-tapping selection of traditional music from Sweden in the form of a bracket of Slängpolskas.

The end of Duck Duck Goose’s interlude neatly punctuated the end of the smallpipe collection, and the beginning of the Irish uilleann Piping, with Pat Lyons introducing many in the to the still widely unknown uilleann pipes, giving a talk on the origins of the uilleann pipes from the earlier style of “union pipes”, as well as the origins of his own Geoff Wooff Bb Harrington reproduction pipes.

With Pat’s first choice of tune, the crowd was then treated to the air “Na Connery’s” - the tune to the song of the same name, which has the honour of being one of (if not the) only traditional Irish song to mention Australia, or “New South Wales” as it was then known.

After this stirring air evaporated out of the room, Pat followed up with a masterful setting of the well-known piping reel“Salamanca” taken from the playing of the late Tommy Reck.

The end of Pat’s set once again marked another shift in pitch, this time to the flat piping of Matt Horsley on his Gleeson C flat pitched pipes. Matt introduced the audience to the regulators, and their use on the pipes in accompanying the melody with simple chords, rhythm, and counter melodies (the latter most being no small feat!).

Matt started his performance first unaccompanied with the traditional Air “An Sagairtín”, followed by “Annie Shaw’s Waltz”, a lovely traditional Australian tune in the bush tradition, which fits beautifully on the pipes and regulators - allowing Matt an opportunity to showcase his graceful mastery of the instrument.

Matt was then joined by the two other members of the recently formed trad group “Trioc”, Allan Evans on harp/whistle, and Cameron Hibbs on fiddle.

The triumvirate of trad. delivered a charming selection of tunes in “The Cloon Reel”, “Kitty in the Lane”, and “The Broken Pledge”, and in doing so showed many in the audience for the first time the diversity and versatility of the uilleann Pipes in matching with other instruments to create deep and rich sound that many other trad. instruments don’t always allow.

Following the musings of Trioc, it was time for me to take to the stage, and show the audience just what exactly the concert pitch pipes they’d all been warned about were, and their own origins in the music hall tradition from great pioneers of pipe making such as the Taylor Brothers, and Leo Rowsome.

[Ed - Speaking of Leo Rowsome, here's a little documentary about Leo Rowsome as told by his friends and family that you might enjoy vimeo.com/138848121]

Matt kindly remained on stage to join in a rendition of “The Frieze Britches”, the tune to which the song “Cúnla” was written, and made famous by 70s trad. super group Planxty.

Next up, Matt tagged out and I was kindly joined by Connor Hoy playing a practice set by Davy Spillane to share a pair of reels taught to us by Jack Brennan at the Koroit Lake School, those being “Rathlin Island” and “The Famous Ballymote”.

With the reels finished, it was time for one last air from me, which was the air to the love song “An Londubh is an Chéirseach”, which at least seemed well received!

Once the CPC roster was mostly finished, all of us - CPC and the audience - were treated to an up-close-and-personal segment of tunes from John McSherry and Rob Hillman, who blew us all away with a handful of cracking dance tunes selected from the concert line-up, as well as a jaw-dropping slow air solo from John.

Once the concert was more or less wrapped up, there was a final encore performance where the whole CPC group assembled on stage with John and Rob to play a set of reels which are mutually friendly on the uilleann and Scottish pipes, being “The Silver Spear”, “The Merry Blacksmith”, and “The Humours of Tulla”.

After generous applause from the audience, there was some light Q&A followed by opportunities to try the pipes, or to see a set up-close, and an informal session at the church.

The remainder of the night was filled the familiar concerts and sessions, with another front room session at the Grand open to all where the international and local musicians put on a show to behold, including an impromptu songs in both Irish and English led by Bernadette Morris and Gerry McKeague - the like of which was very special, and left a lump in many throat, as well as a few misty eyes around the room.

For those more inclined to relaxed social sessions, there were also top class sessions happening in the other common rooms of the Grand, and a gorgeous flute and fiddle session happening on the upstairs landing with an abundance of local talent pumping out the tunes.

The next day, somewhat rough around the edges, John McSherry hosted a brilliant piping workshop (plus some whistlers who tagged along) where he taught the tune “Tatter Jack Walsh”, but more importantly, focused on the technique and musicality of the tune, imparting an overload of information on the intricacies of the tune and the ornamentation which can be used to enhance the rhythm and the quality of the melody.

John was also kind enough to accommodate a hand full of whistle players, switching to whistle and teaching ornamentation and technique seamlessly between the two groups as he made his way around the room.

For the final night, there was a somewhat quieter vibe for the Irish musicians, with a few more concerts to squeeze in, then a cruisy session on the upstairs landing.

The Scottish musicians, however, kept a ceilidh going up well past midnight in the front room, with raucous dancing, fiddling, harping, and all manner of other shenanigans.

The beginning of the final day on Monday saw the usual packing and preparations to get on the road take place, but not before a final meal from the street food market (you must try the Highlander - Tatties, neeps, gravy, black pudding, all smothering a haggis pie in flaky pastry - Amazing!).

Whilst meandering around, there was a last chance to bump into friends - both new and old - and to say our goodbyes and “until next times”, before finally going our own separate ways home.

2016 was my first time at Portarlington (both the Festival, and the town itself), but definitely won’t be the last!

I would like to extend thanks on behalf of myself, as well as all of the Celtic Piping Club members to the friends and performers who joined with us in concerts and other activities to put on a great show and bring the craic to our audience.

Also, I’d like to acknowledge and thank the National Celtic Festival for generously hosting the Club, and extending the opportunity to take part in this fantastic event.

Finally, again on behalf of myself and the Club members, I’d like to especially thank Geoff Jones for applying and organising to have all of us so well looked after at the Festival, as well as with all the other events and gatherings the Club takes part in.

-Alan Parker.


Goldfields Piping Weekend 2016

19 - 21 August
The Celtic Piping Club is proud to host the 4th annual Goldfields Piping Weekend (formerly at Talbot) on 19-21 August 2016.

Held in the old gold mining town of Maryborough, the weekend will provide opportunities to get together with other pipers to play, learn and socialise.

The weekend is ideal for players of, or people interested in, the Scottish smallpipes, uilleann pipes, Northumbrian smallpipes or any other form of Celtic pipes. This includes both mouth-blown and bellows-blown instruments. Partners are also welcome.

The programme will include music and technical workshops, maintenance, demonstrations, meals, socialising and informal playing in a warm and inviting atmosphere. This year's guest is our very own Matthew Horsley.

Matt is a Melbourne-based multi-instrumentalist specialising in the uilleann pipes. In 2014, as the recipient of a JUMP mentoring grant, he travelled to Ireland to study with the renowned piper Mikie Smyth. His debut solo album Australian Waters was released in late 2015. He performs regularly as a soloist and with the bands 'Horsley & Williams Duo' and 'Trioc'. Matt's workshops will include ear learning, historical repertoire for bellows pipes, and regulator tuning and playing.

Visit our website to check out the full program or to book for this great weekend of piping. Just head to the 'Goldfields Piping Weekend 2016' under the Events page.


Important - Notice of Club Meeting

21 Aug 2016

As you know, the Celtic Piping Club is the hub for Australia’s Celtic piping community. We provide a network for people who play or are interested in the various types of Celtic pipes including uilleann pipes, Scottish smallpipes, Northumbrian pipes, Border pipes and other bellows- or mouth-blown pipes.

The Club was launched in June 2013 at the National Celtic Festival in Portarlington, Victoria. In the years prior to this there had been a number of ad hoc workshops presented at festivals, private homes and Celtic music schools. By 2013 there was such a keen interest amongst players that the Celtic Piping Club was established.

Since then, the Club has been involved in and hosted many workshops, concerts, residential weekends and sessions. We regularly receive enquiries to learn, play, buy/sell, and perform various pipes. We produce an email newsletter every month or so; which is circulated to 200+ subscribers, not to mention those who might see it on Facebook or Twitter. We've had almost 1,000 views of our YouTube videos and over 10,000 views of our website! Wow...in only a few short years.

To build on the great work so far, including furthering our presence interstate, it is proposed that the Celtic Piping Club becomes an incorporated association.

Becoming incorporated will establish official roles and memberships, giving members more opportunity to become formally involved. These roles will help to spread the work load and provide greater input and variety to Club activities.

Establishing paid memberships as part of becoming incorporated will help generate income for the now regular expenses (such as insurance), and also fund new ventures.

Notice of Meeting

An 'incorporation meeting' is to be held at the Goldfields Piping Weekend in Maryborough. Details as follows:

Date: Sunday 21 August 2016
Time: 10.00 am
Venue: Bristol House - Inkerman Street, Maryborough, Victoria

The proposed agenda will include a look back at the Club so far, discussion about becoming incorporated, election of a committee, adoption of the Rules.

We are seeking nominations for the following committee positions:

  • President
  • Vice-President
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
  • Ordinary Member(s) - 4 proposed

Nominations may be received prior, even if you cannot attend. See below for a nomination form. Nominations will also be welcome at the meeting.

For more information about the Celtic Piping Club, and the proposal to become incorporated, refer to these files. We look forward to seeing you at the meeting. This will be exciting progress for the Club!


New Acquisitions

The Celtic Piping Club are now the proud custodians of two sets of bagpipes - Leicestershire Smallpipe in D and Great English Pipe. Both were made by Julian Goodacre (Peebles, Scotland) about 5-6 years ago.

The Bowditch family have kindly given these pipes to the Club on a long-term loan, as no one in their family plays them any more.

They're both mouth-blown. One is tiny and one is huge (no prizes for guessing which is which!). They're both beautiful and are in good condition, but will need ongoing care like all pipes should.

The use of these pipes is yet to be decided, but it is likely that they could be loaned to pipers on a short-term basis. We'll let you know more about these pipes in the not too distant future.
Leicestershire Smallpipe

English Great Pipe

Boxwood Oz

11 - 13 November

Good news! Following the incredible interest from last year, Chris Norman (flute & smallpipes) and David Greenberg (Cape Breton fiddle & baroque violin) will be returning to Australia to run their second Boxwood Oz; a weekend of great music, friends and food.

Boxwood Festival Australia
Friday 11 - Sunday 13 November 2016
Queenscliff, Victoria
Full accommodation and meals included

Save the date in your diary now.
Further details, including how to register, coming soon.


Update Your Profile

Yes, you have a profile, it may be just your name and email address to receive this newsletter, but can include so much more should you wish.

The Celtic Piping Club receives several enquiries each month from people all around Australia asking about buying, learning and playing various pipes, as well as for performances such as weddings.

We have a number of pipers 'on the books' that we can call upon to fulfil these enquiries, but we can always do with more.

If you're interested in helping us or just want to check out your profile, click this link https://celticpipingclub.us7.list-manage.com/profile?u=4d50d35364c1bef812167e406&id=2940247a8c&e=[UNIQID]&c=ae2019f985 to view or edit your information. We don't ask for all of your private details, but are interested in your pipes and piping, and other musical interests, including if you offer tuition.

Privacy Statement
Your privacy is important to us. We do not collect or record personal information other than information you choose to provide. We will not disclose your personal information to a third party without your consent, unless we are required to do so by law.

Uilleann Pipes Half Set - Made by Ian Mackenzie

Great condition, but will need some TLC as they've not been played for 20+ years. Includes some tutorial & music books.

Price: $1,600 *PRICE REDUCED*
Contact: Kieran Sharp - Paddington, NSW
Ph: 0438 950 403

Uilleann Pipes Full Set - Made by Adrian Jeffries

Blackwood, box mounts and chrome metal work. Set is totally airtight and reeds play fine. Located in Sydney.

Price: $6,000 ono
Contact: Andrew Mckay - NSW
Ph: 0433 012 069
Email: andrew.n.mckay@gmail.com

Uilleann Pipes Half Set - Made by David Daye

The chanter is one of David's penny chanters made of brass (not wood), and covered in a layer of black Delrin. The chanter is fully keyed (4 keys) and is playing very well with some tape over a couple of holes, with a great reed. There is also a spare reed included.
The drones are made from Delrin and brass. The brass on the drones is scuffed and scratched but they're playing great. 2 of the drones have Ezee-drone reeds, while the smallest has David's original metal and plastic drone reed. The other two original metal/plastic drone reeds are included with the set. The drones are playing steadily and well.
The main stock is covered with a wood looking finish but possibly made of plastic/brass. The main stock is not suitable for regulators, it cannot be upgraded to a full set. It's a very nicely playing half set though.
The bellows are great, they have a really good range of movement and good capacity, and it's nice and airtight.
The bag has been seasoned as it's completely airtight and working really well.
Also thrown in is a popping strap from Kelleher Trad.
The set also comes with the original "instruction manual" from David, with some good maintenance tips.
A hard case is also included. The set originally cost US$1800 (~AU$2350).

Price: $1,500 + postage
Contact: Tom Stafford (SA)
Email: tomstafford@outlook.com

Please email your personal (not commercial) classified ad to us at email@celticpipingclub.com for your free listing.

Gig Guide

Please email us to let us know about your upcoming Celtic piping gigs...listings are free.


Pop-up Piping Sessions & Other Events

19-21 Aug 2016
Goldfields Piping Weekend (formerly Talbot)
Details above - click here for bookings

16-18 Sep 2016
Turning Wave Festival - Yass

Details coming soon

11-13 Nov 2016
Boxwood Australia
Details coming soon

Regular Piping Sessions

Adelaide - Pipers Gathering

When: 1st Monday of each month (usually)
Where: Contact Jack for details.
Contact: Jack Brennan via 

Brisbane - Irish Piping Sessions

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

Brisbane - Smallpipe Sessions

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

Melbourne - Celtic Piping Sessions

When: 2nd Sunday of each most months (see below) 2pm - 5pm.
Where: Upstairs at the Exford Hotel 
- 199 Russell Street (cnr Little Bourke), Melbourne.
Contact: us via
Future session dates:
  • Sun 11 Sep
  • Sun 9 Oct *TENTATIVE - IUPD on Sat 15 Oct*
  • Sun 11 Dec

NESSIE - North East Scottish Strings including Elbow Pipes

When: 2nd Sunday of each month
Where: North East Victoria
Contact: Kristen on (03) 5766 6282
That's all for this newsletter Like Celtic Piping Club newsletter #38 on Facebook

Until next time...happy piping!

Your friends in piping,

The Celtic Piping Club crew

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