The Mugdock pipers always begin their rehearsals on the practice chanter. The practice chanter resembles a recorder, but has the same nine notes and fingerings as the bagpipe itself. It is quieter and takes less air, making focusing on embellishments and learning tunes more manageable. Between every couple of tunes, stories are told so that our lips can take respite. The group was having a discussion of how, when you are playing in a band, you never get to hear the sound of the collaborative effort.
Last night, Mr. Lynch, our 94-year-old pipe major shared a story of when his band marched in a parade. “I wasn’t able to play that day because I had a sore throat,” he reminisced. “So I went uptown to stand on a street corner to wait for the band to come along. Everyone was standing around, talking. They were having a good ol’ time. Then, from off in the distance, you could begin to hear a hum. I looked down the street and saw the pipers.” Cupping his hands around his head, he added, “Then crowd fell completely silent. They were entranced. The sound had captured all of their being.” As I watched, his eyes twinkled at the memory and he let out a bewildered chuckle, “It was amazing to watch how affected they were by the sound. It sent chills down my spine.”
In telling his story, Mr. Lynch reminded me of why I play the pipes. To me, the distinctive sound reverberates deep down into my soul. It captivates me and stirs my deepest emotions. The thought of, one day, having that power to affect others in such a way is gratifying.