For some, the bagpipe’s combination of whines and drones is a little rough on the ears. But today we should all take some time to appreciate this unique musical instrument. After all, there are so few instruments that involve big pillows full of air and multiple pipes. And nothing says ‘parade’ like a big bunch of bagpipers. So if you see a bagpipe, give it a hug. You might just make beautiful music together.
A Brief History of Bagpipes
(with thanks and respects to the Balmoral School of bagpiping Pittsburgh PA )
Here are some facts regarding the history of bagpiping as well as its impact on the US: Reed instruments similar to the reeded pipes on a bagpipe have been found in the pyramids of ancient Egypt from 3000 BC, as well as, in several archeological sites that are much older.
During the late Middle Ages, bagpipes were common instruments, with more than 100 varieties throughout Europe.
During the baroque period, the French bagpipe called the musette de ceour was a favored court instrument, from which were derived the Northumbrian bagpipes.
Pipes were played by the Scots to signal the clansmen or soldiers and intimidate the enemy on the fields of battle. In 1746, after the Battle of Culloden, Piper Reid was executed for playing the bagpipe, labeled by the English an “instrument of war,” when out with the Jacobite army.
During World War I, more than 1,000 Scottish and Irish pipers were killed in battle or from wounds.
The first US bagpipe society was formed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1901.
There are more bagpipers in the US than ever before — over 10,000.
Alasdair Gillies, principal instructor of Balmoral School of Piping & Drumming, has won more competitions in Scotland than any piper in history.
Bagpipes are being learned today by a growing number of women, some of whom have won top competitions in Scotland.
Bagpipes have become increasingly popular in non-traditional genres of music, particularly rock and roll as well as heavy metal. Bands and musicians that have incorporated bagpipes into songs and albums include Paul McCartney, Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, The Darkness, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, Enter the Haggis and AC/DC.