It may be a freakish 25 degrees in Southern Ontario today but I know summer is well and truly over. The leaves are turning colour (and filling my backyard awaiting my raking pleasure) and days – sadly – are so much shorter.
Time now for a bit of a piping break – and time to get back to these pages. There’s so much exciting stuff happening; so much to talk about. First: I must tell you a little about Italy and the world’s most enthusiastic bagpipers.
Last week I returned from 8 days in sunny Italia (I’ve nearly recovered from my “jetlag” – seemingly exacerbated when traveling in wine growing regions).
First, though, I have to say I’ve been fantastically lucky in my life to have traveled all over the world on a good few “piping trips” – but this one? One of the best ever.
OK, sure, Italy has other places at a distinct disadvantage: great food, great wine, exciting history, scenery that would bring a tear to a glass eye [thank you, Billy Connelly] and art and architecture that defies description. It was the people, though, that made this trip (cliché, maybe, but true).
Along with Roddy MacLeod , Alberto Massi and Stevie Kilbride I was invited by the Associazione Piper Italiani to participate in the Bagpipe Italian Group’s (BIG) 5th Gathering. This gathering of around 60 pipers was to occur in Tuscany, in a small village, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa. Sure, that’s no Roseneath (Scotland) or Embro (Ontario), but I figured I would struggle on and do what I could to make the most of it — and I think I did!
Duilio Vigliotti is the dynamo behind BIG and Associazione Piper Italiani. He is any organization’s dream: smart, energetic, creative, visionary, driven, positive – a real “good guy”. From what I can see it’s his foresight and organization that have brought a focus to much of the good that is happening in Italian piping. Yes, there’s great teaching happening thanks, especially, to the inexhaustible, Alberto Massi (any country or association would be well-advised to invite Alberto for a workshop or learning session – there is no one like him – and I mean that in the very best way) but for me, this time, it was the fresh, almost child-like joie de vivre, that fills the Italian piping scene – and make no mistake, there is a “scene”. It was all a real tonic for me.
Watching Duilio work reminds me how important our organizational volunteers really are for both the preservation and growth of our art. So often we – or me – take that for granted.
For attendees the Tuscany session was at once a weekend away and a learning opportunity – even a competition was included. But more than this: it was a “gathering”. A gathering of like-minded musicians, a gathering of friends. All keenly enthusiastic, all in proverbial ”sponge” mode, soaking up all that was to be learned. The atmosphere: relaxed, nurturing , collegial, fun. The focus on the instrument, on the music, on learning: intense, driven – a real thirst to move to the next level.
The Scots have given the world an awful lot. For many it’s David Hume and Adam Smith that spring to mind – or curling, or golf or whisky. But, my God, bagpipes! I just cannot get over the influence and effect of this instrument on people everywhere. What is it? I surely don’t know. But … I’ll aim to write more about Italian piping, Italian pipers and some of what I learned from my visit.
I assure you, I came away from Italy with far more than I left. M.
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