AC/DC for bagpipes!?

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This article states that that an organisation devoted to supporting traditional Scottish music raised almost TEN THOUSAND POUNDS to put together a book of sheet music detailing how to play AC/DC on bagpipes!

It is being put together in the memory of Scottish piper Gordon Duncan, a man described as an influence on the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and responsible for THIS incredible cover of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck:

Not sure if he was ever a Scottish wedding piper but thats the tune I want played at my wedding!

Gordon passed away in 2005 and this is the second such book put together since his death, commemorating 10 years. Amazingly the man played his tunes by ear so not a lot of them were written down.

Visit the Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust webpage here.

Listen to Thunderstruck HERE:

Until next time…

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Common questions about Bagpipes

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Do bagpipes come from Scotland or Ireland?
There are a variety of instruments known as bagpipes throughout Europe and even in parts of Asia, but in the British Isles, there are two main types, the Irish (Uillean or Elbow) and the Scottish(Great Highland or Small Border).

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Do the Irish play bagpipes?
Bagpipes are a class of musical instrument, aerophones, using enclosed reeds fed from a constant reservoir of air in the form of a bag. Though the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipe and Irish uilleann pipes have the greatest international visibility, bagpipes have been played for centuries throughout large parts of Ireland.
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What are the bagpipes made out of?
These are blown by mouth and the bags were traditionally made from the skin of a sheep; although currently leather, rubber or other synthetic materials are used. The pipes themselves were originally made of bone or ivory, but hardwood is the modern choice.

Films Featuring Bagpipes Part 1

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The bagpipes show up in a number of different films of all types of genres, be it comedy, drama, even sci-fi! Films as diverse as Braveheart, Army of Darkness, The Thirty Nine Steps and Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan at some point feature the pipes being blown. here are some of our favourite examples:

Braveheart (1995) Ooft, try being an English kid in a Scottish school in the mid to late 90s, everytime this Mel Gibson directed Oscar winner showed up on television the next day was pretty hard going. The bagpipes show up in the soundtrack and whilst the film is famously littered with historical inaccuracies (Primae Noctis? Not a real thing. Robert The Bruce? Good guy.) the pipers are not one of them.

Or maybe they are, I mean Mel Gibson was making up most of this as he was going right? Its still a pretty decent film though I’d say.

Hot Rod (2007) Hot Rod is a very funny, sadly mostly forgotten film starring two members of The Lonely Island and a few SNL alumni. Andy Samberg, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Will Arnett, Isla Fisher and Ian McShane all show up as part of a phenomenal cast in this comedy about a useless stuntman. One of the highlights of the movie occurs near the end where a riot breaks out to the tune of ‘You’re the Voice’ the 1986 John Farnham song. If you know the song you know it features bagpipes and a group of pipers show up in the scene! Its very funny and worth your time tracking down the film on Netflix.

Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness (1993) Considering the notorious nature of the first Evil Dead (one of the so called “video nasties” of the 1980s) Army of Darkness is a relatively light hearted adventure film. Directed by Spiderman director Sam Raimi the film sank without a trace at the box office upon its release before building a skid cult following over the years. The scene in question sees an army of the dead march towards battle with special effects reminiscent of the legendary special effects creator Ray Harryhausen. In it (possibly Scottish) skeletons can be seen playing bagpipes in a weird but striking visual. Check it out in the video below, another film well worth tracking down on Netflix:

Thats all for today but we’ll pop another blog up about bagpipes showing up in movies again over the next week or so.

Don’t silence the pipers!

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It was in the press over a week ago but the story of London Mayor Boris Johnson’s introduction of a new “code of conduct” for those playing bagpipes could be seen as a the first step to getting them banned from London entirely! Street musicians that create “piercing sounds like bagpipes” will be forced to move regularly or move to locations with “no flats, offices, shops or hotels.”

The new rules classify bagpipe music as a “repetitive loud sound” that can become annoying quickly which is pretty insulting to the performers. Further many London buskers see this as the first step to introducing a licensing scheme for busking.

Interestingly Alastair Campbell, of all people, has revealed himself to have been a bagpiping busker in his younger days. The former communications director at 10 Downing Street, the man that was a least part of the inspiration for Malcolm Tucker from the Thick of It, came out in protest and stated that he was “a great supporter of buskers in towns and cities.”

To silence the sound of Scottish pipers in London would be a great shame for the atmosphere and culture of the city A spokeswoman for the mayor of London stated: “Bagpipers are very welcome in London and we have many fantastic players. We also welcome feedback on the code of conduct.” So we will have to wait and see where this goes long term.

Now on a lighter note lets leave you with some of Peter Capaldi’s best rants.

The Unipiper returns!

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Remember the Unipiper? The viral video bagpiper with a panache for dressing up as characters such as Darth Vader, whilst playing bagpipes and riding a unicycle? We spoke about him a couple of weeks ago in a blog post that can be found here. He’s back again, keeping Portland weird, and taking advantage of the hype surrounding the upcoming ‘Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens’ (Christmas can’t come soon enough!) In this video he can be found dressed as the BB-8 Droid from the trailer, you know this guy:

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Here the Unipiper is found in the same car park from previous videos, with “Keep Portland Weird” in the background. As ever he has flames coming out of his bagpipes which is as impressive as ever (how does he do that?) It’s also pretty impressive how he manages to keep balanced on a glorified beach ball for the entire video. Pretty sure most of us would end up falling over by the end of the minute long video.

Check it out here:

We would love to know if anyone does any videos like this a bit closer to home, a Scottish Piper doing something a wee bit creative like this feels like a viral video hit n the making! Let us know in the comments if you’ve seen anyone else perform a routine like this that you’ve enjoyed, till then #MayTheFourthBeWithYou.

5 modern(ish) songs covered on Bagpipes

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So you’ve hired a piper for your wedding or event but you’re worried that you’re not going to know any of the music. You don’t mind a few classics but you’d like a few numbers with a bit more of a modern spin on them, worry not! Help is at hand as we offer an exhaustive exploration of modern(ish) chart hits covered on the bagpipes.

Taylor Swift – Shake it off

Not sure what makes this guy the “Official” Taylor Swift bagpipe cover artist (hint: his imagination) but here he is covering this insanely catchy hit from last year. Looking at the guys youtube page few pop starlets escape a cover, your mileage may vary to how successful you find it but theres no doubt he’s putting a unique spin on some of your favourite tracks. Such as…

Katy Perry- Dark Horse

What, no Firework?

Pharrell Williams – Happy

This guys Batman mask is giving us happy flashbacks to the unicycling, fire breathing, Darth Vader that was mentioned here a few weeks ago. You know, this guy:

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(Happy #StarWarsDay everyone!)

Whilst visually he can’t compete with the guy keeping Portland weird he makes a good try of it and at least its a cover of the Pharrell hit from the last couple of years we actually like (i.e. not Blurred Lines.)

John Legend – All of Me

This guy wins points for performing this right next to the Clyde in the centre of Glasgow, we like a hometown boy. Big fans of the original and this cover is well worth a listen if you get the chance!

Metallica – Enter Sandman

Ok this one’s a bit of a cheat, being that the song is coming up to it’s 25th anniversary (way to make us feel old passage of time!) but this is pretty cool. The band are called Dudeldrum, they’re from Russia and their musical genre is described as Bagpipe Folk by Youtube, not the kind of band you come across everyday!

Of course if none of these acts are doing it for you maybe its best to stick with the classics. The Elite Bands piper Stuart is available for all sorts of events and functions and can be found here: http://www.elitebands.co.uk/scottish-piper

Whilst he may not cover Metallica or Taylor Swift he adds a touch of class whatever the occasion.

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The Garden of Cosmic Speculation

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Spent a cold but very worthwhile Sunday wandering around the Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Dumfries, south of Glasgow. The garden is private but usually opens on one day each year through Scotland’s Gardens Scheme and raises money for Maggie’s Centres, a cancer care charity named for Maggie Keswick Jencks, the late wife of  the gardens designer Charles Jencks. Yesterday hundreds of people braved a very wet and chilly Sunday afternoon to come down and have a wander around. Why is the place such a big deal? Check out some of these pictures:

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Pretty incredible right?

It’s easily one of the most beautiful and unique places I’ve seen in Scotland (which is saying something) and the hours flew by exploring the 30 or so acres of the garden.

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There was also some musical entertainment to be found including a local choir and (probably unsurprising based on the theme of the blog on Scottish wedding pipers) a group of young pipers entertaining the crowds of people that had come down for the day. It was a wonderful experience walking around the garden to the tune of Amazing Grace by the group of pipers, unfortunately I didn’t get a recording (although I noticed a few others in the crowd that were recording.) If I find a recording I’ll make sure to post it onto the blog sooner rather than later.

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For more information about the Garden of Cosmic Speculation you can head here http://www.charlesjencks.com/#!the-garden-of-cosmic-speculation or here http://www.scotlandsgardens.org/gardens/garden/6f8a52d7-f7b0-45c2-91fc-999e00d2ac95

For more information on the charity Maggie’s Centres head here: https://www.maggiescentres.org