Encouraging News for the Resumption of Piping in Schools and a Rule Change at Highland Funerals

Reports in the national press have indicated that face to face piping lessons can now be conducted in areas of Scotland where Level 2 covid restrictions and below are in place. This means that all areas of the country, with the current exceptions of Glasgow and Moray, can have piping classes in schools.

The Scottish edition of the London Times said children would be able to sing and play instruments together for the first time in over a year. The paper reports: ‘As restrictions are lifted in most of the country and Scotland moves into Level 2, a new regime to liberate performing arts has been outlined after discussions with the government.

‘It is understood that one-to-one instrument lessons — including wind, brass and bagpipes — for all ages will be allowed in Level 2. Ensembles are also likely to be allowed inside…’

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John Wallace, former Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, who has led the campaign for the re-instatement of health-giving music lessons is reported to have said: ‘I think we have all got worn down by the past year and I am just looking forward to a chink of light coming at the end of the tunnel.’

Blowing pipes has been considered a means by which droplets of contaminated moisture could be projected into the atmosphere and thus spread the disease. As a result band practices and face to face lessons have been banned and schools have had to make do with online lessons. Some piping tutors have been issued with electronic pipes as a stop gap.

In addition there have been various online projects aimed at trying to maintain interest during the shutdown with varying degrees of success. All tutors fought hard to maintain school pipe bands in the current climate. Some lessons have simply stopped as children lost interest.

Previous guidance published by the authorities stated: ‘It is our advice that young people should not engage in singing, or playing wind and brass instruments with other people.’

But Mr Wallace, convener of Scotland’s Music Education Partnership Group, opposed this from the start stating that the downside of not letting people sing and play their instruments was much greater than their chance of catching anything.

Recently school contact sports have resumed but music continued to be the subject of behind the scenes discussions. Mr Wallace said that other areas of life such as ‘having your nails done’ seemed to have been prioritised over ‘…. playing a musical instrument’.

He expressed concern that children who had not had the opportunity to start learning instruments might be ‘left behind’ adding that there was a window around the ages of six to eight where young people can learn more easily.

He said there had been ‘an incredible drop-off’ in the number of kids starting music. Mr Wallace hailed the reported breakthrough as ‘a really positive step in the right direction’.

If you are a teacher of piping in a Scottish school Piping Press recommends you contact your local education authority to confirm the latest guidance.

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In another development Highland Region has declared that pipers will no longer need worry about applying for permission before playing at funerals in the area. The Press & Journal newspaper reported:

‘….A draft rule suggesting that families planning to have a piper at their loved one’s funeral would need permission from Highland Council prompted widespread outrage. Former piper, Councillor Roddy Balfour [a member of the Northern Meeting Piping Committee] branded the proposal ‘petty and ridiculous’.

The proposal has now been dropped and new guidelines exclude any requirements for auch permission at crematoria or graveyards.

A Dingwall councillor, Mrs Margaret Paterson, said she had never had so many letters from pipers about the proposal. ‘Common swense has now prevailed,’ she said.

P/M Peter Grant piping at the funeral of HRH Prince Philip

Inverness councillor Duncan Macpherson said: ‘The playing of the pipes with their evocative tunes has long been a tradition of many Highland and military funerals.

‘The Black Watch famously played at the funeral of President Kennedy in November 1963. A Scottish piper played Flowers of the Forest at the recent funeral of HRH Prince Philip at Windsor.’

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