Friday, January 7, 2011

Piping festival will have concert and workshops - | News, sports, jobs, community information for Martinsburg - The Journal

SHEPHERDSTOWN - Joanie Blanton and the Upper Potomac Dulcimer Festival ventured into new territory a few years ago with the Piper's Weekend, a mid-winter festival and workshops for anyone who loves hearing a bagpipe.

The tradition continues this weekend with the fourth Squeeze the Bag! Piper's Weekend at Shepherd University. The event will include a feature concert with a variety of bellows-blown bagpipes: the Scottish smallpipe, smaller cousin of the great highland pipes; the Irish uilleann pipes; Northumbrian smallpipes; and the border pipes, which are played in the border region between Scotland and England.

"I hope the weather holds," Blanton said, "because I have folks coming from New Hampshire, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, and even one gentleman coming from Afghanistan."

Classes for a variety of skill levels cover Scottish small pipes, border pipes, Northumbrian small pipes and uilleann pipes. Also included are flute/whistles and a piper-friendly repertoire for mixed instruments in a variety of styles. A Friday night round-robin session, Saturday concert, late-night jams and student-led mini-classes round out the offerings.

Teachers are renowned musicians including Jerry O'Sullivan, Bob Mitchell, Ian Lawther, Chris Norman and Timothy Cummings.

High-quality border and Scottish smallpipes provided by Nate Banton Bagpipes will be available for the weekend for a rental fee of $40. Advance reservation is needed.

Blanton said the repertoire comes from Scotland, Ireland and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. She said Cape Breton music is freer than standard Scottish music, stemming from a military background with the larger highland pipes.

Norman will teach flute and whistle classes during the weekend and repertoire from his native Cape Breton. Blanton said he is hailed as one of the finest flute players of our time. He has toured extensively with the trio Helicon and Skyedance and now performs mainly with his own Chris Norman Ensemble.

O'Sullivan has been widely hailed as America's premier uilleann piper. He has played with a varied group of singers and musicians including the Boston Pops, Dolly Parton and the Colorado and Nashville Symphony orchestras. He also played on a Grammy-winning album, "Celtic Solstice," by Paul Winter in 1999. O'Sullivan is also widely recorded on the tin whistle, the low whistle, the Highland bagpipes and the Scottish smallpipes.

Cummings grew up in East Tennessee, where he started learning the pipes at age 8. With advanced studies in composition, music theory and education and piping, he has a rare grasp of arranging and composing music for the pipes.

"Tim has southern Appalachian and gospel in his repertoire, some of which he adapted for pipes," Blanton said. "He arranges music suitable for pipes that no one else does."

Cummings performed with and arranged for the highly competitive New Zealand-based Manawatu Scottish Pipe Band, has been artist-in-residence at the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada (Summerside, Prince Edward Island), and currently resides in Vermont where he works as a teacher, arranger, performer and composer of piping and Celtic- related music.

Lawther hails from southeastern England but now lives in the U.S. His family was from the Northumberland area of Britain, and Scotland. He plays the traditional highland pipes, Northumbrian pipes named for his ancestral region, Scottish smallpipes, uilleann and border pipes, concertina, whistles and flute. He has been a session musician in the Washington, D.C., area, and teaches all around at workshops and festivals. He will be teaching both Northumbrian and border pipes workshops during the weekend.

Mitchell returns to host the weekend. He is recognized as a successful solo competitor in the U.S. and Canada. In 2004 he earned a Master/Apprentice Award by the Maryland Commission of the Traditional Arts. He's worked for 20 years at the Maryland Renaissance Festival and has performed with a number of D.C.-area bands including Iona and Jennifer Cutting's Ocean Orchestra. Although his greatest area of expertise is highland piping, he also plays the Scottish smallpipes and border pipes.

A piper's round robin is set Friday, which is a combination of an open mic, jam session and show-and-tell. No mass producers of these instruments exist, so all pipers are curious about other players' pipes, or who made them. Blanton said this evening allows novices and professionals to share information.

Saturday and Sunday daytime sessions are divided into two-hour workshops, allowing for breaks for meals, or private lessons. Saturday evening is the formal concert at Reynolds Hall. Following is a jam session at the student center.

More information on registration and tickets is available at 304-263-2531 or

Piping festival will have concert and workshops - | News, sports, jobs, community information for Martinsburg - The Journal

No comments: