Editor’s Notebook: Salonika Pipes & Drums/ Musicians & Covid/ Wedding Piper/ BB Story/ Readers’ Thanks

Folklorist Stuart Eydmann has forwarded this picture from a Russian publicaion of an British Army pipes & drums in Salonika, Greece, in 1905.

The Schotlandskyie (Scotsmen) must have been there as part of some Balkan action which pre-dates the Salonika Campaign of WW1. All information gratefully received.



I try to keep tabs on what is happening in the world of music with the view to informing pipers and pipe bands of what we should be doing re Covid-19.

My last reference to the pandemic and peformance mentioned our necessary change from the circle to the safer concert or orchestral formation and queried the possibility of infection-bearing droplets emanating from drones and chanters.

A survey by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra found that spray from woodwind and brass went about 50 centimetres from the player’s mouth and the flute 75 centimetres, but most of any aerosol, infected or otherwise, was retained in the instrument: trumpet, clarinet, oboe. I think it is reasonable to assume that the same would be the case for the bagpipe.

I quote from the article: ‘The goal of the experiment was to capture images of musicians’ breath escaping from their noses, in gaps between lips and reeds or mouthpieces, and from the other ends of their instruments. 

Oboeist showing the extend of breath escapiong from nose and mouth

‘A mix of oxygen and saline solution streamed through the tubes to increase visibility for the camera. So, inspired by a study exploring how droplets spread when patients use an inhaler, Fritz Sterz, a professor at the Vienna Medical University and expert in performing arts medicine, set up the aerosol experiment.

‘And lo and behold, we saw that not much was coming out at all. In fact, it was close to nothing,’ Sterz says. The droplets musicians released spread 50 centimetres around their mouth and nose, but almost none emerged through the end of the trumpet, bugle, clarinet, oboe or the bassoon.’

Using these findings the Austrian government sanctioned performances by their world famous band to social distanced audiences of 100 and the Salzburg Festival has gone ahead – indoors.

The current advice to pipe bands is not to practice even outdoors. But using orchestral/concert formation and keeping distanced why is this not possible? Six weeks of summer left in Scotland and not a pipe played – well hardly. Do not expect everything to be back to normal by 2021, not by a long way, and, as I say, I hope the G1 pipe majors and leading drummers meeting on Saturday can decide a formula to take us forward.

Read the full article on the Vienna Phil here.


Reader John Campbell, a nephew of James Campbell of Kilberry and sponsor of the Argyllshire Gathering Silver Medal, is looking for a piper for his daughter’s wedding.

John writes: ‘The games season has been decimated by viral events, including Oban which is a pity. There must be a lot of good pipers twiddling their thumbs with no competitions for the foreseeable future.

‘My eldest daughter had her wedding postponed until autumn next year – this bit of bad news was quickly followed by my second daughter announcing her engagement. Her wedding which is going to be on the small side is scheduled for this September at the Bridge of Earn. Do you know of any pipers local to Perth/Bridge of Earn who I might approach to play a tune or two at the wedding?’ Contact John here.


Reader Janette Montague has received this from a relative Jim Nelson now of Southampton, and has kindly passed it on to PP.

Jim wrote: ‘I was reminded yet again of the changes that have taken place in piping since my fingers were first introduced to the practice chanter way back in 1946/7. It also brought to mind an incident which happened about 1950 when I played in the Lesmahagow Boy’s Brigade band.

‘To raise funds, the band would take on Sunday afternoon engagements from the county council to play in the public parks of outlying villages. Well, one of those engagements was in Douglas and during the interval myself and two other youngsters went off to a far corner of the park and gave a rendition of The 12th Street Rag and other jazz type tunes – just for devilment.

‘Well, this hullabaloo must have caught the ear of uncle Archie Templeton who was the P/M and we were subjected to a lecture about how we had just debased the sanctity of Scotland’s national musical instrument. Such was the seriousness of this escapade that when our parents got to know about it, we were made to go and apologise.

‘I should mention that as far as I remember, the County Council paid the band £5 per two hour engagement and were it not for the fact that the bus owner (ex-Boy’s Brigade) supplied both bus and driver for a nominal sum we would have been out of pocket.’

  • Are you an ex-BB piper? Share your stories with the piping world by emailing Piping Press.

Readers’ thanks……’On behalf of many readers, I would like to thank Piping Press for your outstanding work to keep the piping (and drumming!) community informed, amused and entertained during these most difficult times with Covid-19.  

There has been an unprecedented curtailment of all piping activities throughout the world, and you have shown great commitment and creativity to maintain the interest of your readers. 

‘Not only has there been the usual daily feast of news, gossip, and information on Piping Press, but with great imagination you have organised painting, essay writing and tune composing competitions for everyone to participate in…. and it has been totally free. An amazing undertaking and achievement.  Well done!’ Ian Forbes.



2 thoughts on “Editor’s Notebook: Salonika Pipes & Drums/ Musicians & Covid/ Wedding Piper/ BB Story/ Readers’ Thanks

  1. Hard to offer anything constructive about your Salonika picture without knowing some background to it.
    The Balkans had their fair share of local conflicts around 1905 but the British army didn’t get dragged in until later.
    The uniform looks like Highland Light Infantry from that era (see below), and a quick Google suggests the HLI were in Egypt and Sudan 1902-1904 as part of the British occupation there.
    Is it possible they stopped off on the way home?
    https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/465770786435973757/
    https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/465770786434661958/

  2. Recent quote from Sir Simon Rattle about emissions from musical instruments: “try extinguishing a candle by playing a trumpet towards it…”

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