Category Archives: uillean piping

Twist of Hemp Week 18

On Dreaming.

Often times, one must simply make a commitment to something.  Sometimes these commitments are small, such as making one’s bed each day,, eating more kale,  or promising to go for a long walk every day ~even without a dog. (to be fair, these can add up to big things in the long run.)  But other times, these commitments are larger ones.  Such as adopting a pet, becoming a parent, or…. investing in a new musical instrument.

Today I sent an email off to a renowned Uillean pipes maker in Ireland to acquire a “half-set” of pipes later this year, hopefully when I go to Ireland for my artist’s residency.  The maker is someone recommended to me by my teacher, dear friend and fellow musician Cathy whom I trust whole-heartedly.  I guess this means I am diving full on into this piping stuff.  I will continue to play the set I have on loan here, with all it’s quirks, and hope for the best with the new set when I pick it up in the fall.  Praying I don’t drive everyone crazy with my practicing as I go.

In the meantime, St. Patrick’s day is coming.  There are gigs to play with friend-musicians I am so fortunate to know and play with.  A number of years ago, this would have felt like a pipe-dream of its own, really.  So I have faith that with a bit of work, maybe my own “pipe dream” may come true and I’ll learn enough to play this wild new instrument along with others once more…. in the meantime, it is nice merely to grow and learn with a new project.  I have some large canvases I plan to paint on as well.  Big, new terrifying territory.  But, like music, I am diving in.  It’s the only way.

What are you doing these days that scares you?

ps.  The above is week 18 of my little drawing series with John Joe Badger.  While I was away teaching in Guatemala, I did manage to make a drawing each week, though sharing wasn’t as manageable.  Here are week 16 and 17…..

Week 16 ~ In which John Joe Badger feels the warm breezes of a land far from home and practices a few tunes on the rooftops
Week 17 ~ JJB was thrilled to hear about the cessation of the badger cull in the UK. This is good news indeed.

For Sale (twist of hemp, wk 15)

As much as John Joe Badger loves his borrowed practice set, even with all of its idiosyncrasies (and don’t all sets have their idiosyncrasies?), he’s begun to consider the acquisition of a practice set of his own.  Perhaps even a “half set”, which would surely complicate matters.

John Joe consults his latest issue of Piper’s Weekly……

Where does an average badger of modest means even begin to look for such a set?  Does he go for a freshly made set of pipes?  Or a well loved set, which might come along with adopted issues.  Who are the best makers?  Does he seek a maker near to him and to his climactic locale?  Or does he dare contact one of the makers in Ireland….?  These are the questions that keep our dear John Joe awake at night these days.

These, and the humidity levels (or lack thereof) here in late winter.

 

 

On traveling and coming home

John Joe Badger hasn’t been much of a piper these last few days.  He has traveled many miles to visit different forests than his own.  He thoroughly enjoyed the company of his friends from other places.  But he missed his musical practice and the comforts of his very own hut.

We shall brew a cup of tea to nurse this head cold, often a side effect of getting out into the world at large.  And perhaps we will coax the pipes out of their slumber a bit in the coming days.  What do you like best about traveling, and about coming back home….?

ALCHEMY ~ Twist of Hemp, week 10

Piping is tricky.  Most days it seems like an impossible task.  We hear the playing of one of the greats, and we think, “there is absolutely no way I’ll ever even get one note which has the magic of that…..” but we honk away and carry on anyway, the attempt at puzzling it all out being one of the reasons for it all.

Like so many things in this strange life, the beauty of playing any musical instrument is in the process of capturing the seemingly incapturable, and of occasionally being granted a glimpse of it.  Much of the time, it is like turning lead to gold.  Impossible.  But we keep trying.

 

Cran Central Station – Twist of Hemp week 9

The pipers are learning a new march this quarter, their fingers attempt the gymnastics of a classic pipers move, The Cran.  They bubble and dwiddle, sparkle and dribble, deedle and didle and work their way toward the classic cran and that “stuttering warble.”

Carry on pipers!!  Carry on John Joe!  The world needs your music.

 

 

 

Dawn of a new year ~twisted hemp week 8

It is the dawning of a new year, nay – a NEW DECADE!!!!!  With this comes the courage to try new things, to meet new friends and learn to trust more in the old friends we have.

John Joe Badger is keen as ever, and maybe more so, to continue his journey into this new and exciting chapter of his playing.  What will you do this next, new year to challenge yourself?  With whom shall you share these times?

Old friends or familiar, known tunes or new, let this next year and new decade be one of brave new adventures into the challenging and unknown of what you love most.

Bliain nua shona duit, mo chairde.  We will see you in 2020.

Floating on Air(s) ~twisted hemp, week 7

It is the eve of Christmas.  There are parties to attend with fellow creatures, many feasts to enjoy, gifts and food to share.  John Joe is careful to capture solitude amidst this holiday chaos.

Along the way, while practice may fall wayward, John Joe Badger takes some time to listen. Playing is important, yes, but the real trick to learning is the listening.  So between parties and other such social mayhem, put on a favorite record of your favorite player, playing your favorite tunes.  It is yet another way of learning.

Merry Christmas season to all.  May you find light returning to you in whatever form it takes.

The Staredown ~Twisted Hemp, week 6

Pipes are nigh on impossible to keep in tune.  Especially in winter!  John Joe, and so many like him, take to more magical ways of dealing with temperamental reeds…..

Like a good, long stare.  That should do it, yes?  Yes.

*I have heard it said that the great Liam O’Flynn would do this on occasion when a reed was acting up.  He would remove it from the chanter, take a long hard look at it, and then put it gently back into place without saying a word.  Miraculously, the reed would then be in tune.  But of course it would.  No reed would misbehave long for Liam O’Flynn.*

 

 

The Dryness of Winter – A Twist of Hemp

~A TWIST OF HEMP – humidity~

….. in which we deal with dryness.  It is far too cold in the woodshed for John Joe Badger to practice his pipes.  He must bring the noise making inside where it is warm and dry.  Dry, yes.  Winter is dry.  And the pipes find themselves leaking air in all directions.  What is John Joe to do???  Well, he shores up leaky connections on his borrowed practice set with a twist of hemp thread, made sticky with a bit of beeswax.  He puts a full kettle on the stove top to boil.  These two things may help get John Joe through these trying, leaky, dry times.  For today at least……

John Joe’s struggles are my own.  I practice the pipes as much as I can, when I can find time alone in the house.  They are loud!  And not yet pleasant.  (For others at least.) The dryness that comes with a “forced air” heating arrangement is mitigated a bit with cool mist humidification and of course, putting the kettle on as much as possible.  It does help.  And so does the bit of hemp and beeswax.  It all feels very old fashioned.  It’s testing parts of my brain and motor memory which need the exercise!  I may never get to the point of playing this contraption out in the world.  But who knows?  I will say that I already have next week’s John Joe drawing idea in mind.  And it involves flying curses.  Til tuesday…..

Keep on playing!