PP Editor’s Blog: Tying Bridles/ Florida Academy Sponsorship/ Brian Niven/ Structured Learning Vids

south florida logoPleased to announce that Wm. Sinclair & Co. are to sponsor the South Florida Pipe & Drum Academy. Thank you! I think it is a credit to the Academy that so many leading piping firms are willing to support it.

Wm Sinclair join RT Shepherd, D Naill & Co, McCallum Bagpipes, G1 Reeds and Pipe Dreams on our list of benefactors. The Academy runs from February 24 – 28 inclusive and is based at Boca Raton.

Organiser Noah Morrissette said: ‘We are thrilled to be able to gain the support of these prestigious firms. We know it will promote these firms among the bands and pipers in our area and in return help us raise standards via the Academy.’

Alastair Sinclair working at the lathe
Alastair Sinclair of Wm. Sinclair & Co.

Brian Niven with medals
Brian Niven with medals

Congratulations to Brian Niven, former P/Sgt of the World Championship winning Victoria Police Pipe Band on his recent award of the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to the pipe band movement and his community. The announcement was made as part of the country’s  Australia Day Honours.

Brian played with City of Melbourne Highland Pipe Band before serving with Victoria Police for many years, including the period as Pipe Sergeant when the Victoria Police Pipe Band won the Grade 1 Worlds in 1998. Brian was also the founding President of the Victorian Pipers Association, and is a former Vice Principal of Piping for Pipe Bands Victoria.

I think it is marvellous when a country recognises the lifetime of work people such as Brian have given to our music and the benefit that work brings to society. Well done Australia.

Videos to accompany the RSPBA’s Structured Learning Elementary Book are now live on the Association’s website. The 14 videos are free courtesy your PP Editor and take the beginner through all the basic movements in the book. Check them out here.

A few students have asked me to re-iterate the bridle tying procedure covered in our recent feature on cane drone reeds. Here it is :tying-cane-drone-reeds-picTake a long piece of hemp well waxed with black cobbler’s wax (the sticky stuff). Wind a strand or two round the reed at the correct position (1).  Wrap a further three or four strands round the original strands moving left (2).  Make a half hitch, slip it over the reed and tension the bridle as required (3).

Check the opening of the tongue. If it is  too wide apply more pressure by tightening the hemp. If it is too small relax pressure. Once the desired tension has been achieved, fix in place with another half hitch and cut off any loose ends.

Check bridles regularly for wear and movement. Replace as required.  With practice your skill will improve.

Drone tuning too far down?  – Shorten tongue by moving bridle, or trim open end of reed by 5mm.

Drone tuning too near top of tuning pin? – Put more hemp on end of reed to bring it out of reed seat or lengthen tongue by moving bridle.

Drone reed squealing (usually tenor drones)?  – Bridle is too tight; re-tie.

Drone reed stopping?  – Tongue lying too flat: spring very gently and / or insert hair.

Drone reed wet? – Blow out water through open end, wipe with tissue paper, and allow to dry at room temperature.

Reed leaking? – If leaking at tongue: replace; if leaking at sealing wax: re-seal; check if edges of tongue catching body of reed; inspect and remove with sharp knife.

Drone reed double toning in pipes? – Tongue too open: close by moving bridle.

Bass difficult to strike in? – Lengthen tongue by adjusting bridle and try moving top joint of bass drone higher up tuning pin.

Dr J David Hester has kindly alerted us to some interesting information he has posted about piobaireachd played at the 1829 competition held in Edinburgh by the Highland Society of Scotland. Read it here and check out our own feature on tunes from that era here.

Both lists show quite a range of pieces put forward by competitors, most of whom would not have been unable to read music and who would have learned their music by ear. The frailties of an oral tradition were manifest thereafter as emigration and dissipation continued in the piobaireachd heartland of the Highlands. The written collections of Angus MacKay, William Ross and later Glen and ultimately the Piobaireachd Society, thankfully arrested the slide and we are now in a very healthy place as regards depth of knowledge and interest.

Dr Hester will be at the Piobaireachd Society Conference delivering a paper entitled ‘Re-extending the tradition to recover our idiom’.