The Lowland and Borders Piping Society

The Lowland and Borders Piping Society

I’ve hovered around this group since I started playing Borderpipes a few years ago. I’ve been to a couple of their events and I’ve got a few of the publications and discs. It’s a worthy cause and mostly I have had a bit of a laugh, played some tunes and enjoyed myself regardless. I have however been pretty fed up with seeing the same faces in the pictures at every event, a bunch of middle age small pipers and the fact that the forum, dead as it was is now a Facebook thing. That is something I will not do, no matter how much it might spite my face.

Is anyone here an active or hovering member of the LBPS? Does it really promote borderpipes? I’m not sure myself. None of the teaching events, and there were only 2 until the college of piping thing started includes borderpipes anymore. None of the regulars at any of the LBPS events, play borderpipes. Is it really just a smallpipers club for a few retired folk and borderpipes for the odd professional, tolerated as just that?

Re: The Lowland and Borders Piping Society

Hi Steve,
Yes, I know where you are coming from - i’m a distant member, haven’t been for quite a while.
Sign up for ‘Feis Rois’ tuition feisrois.org - bank holiday weekend end May in Ullapool, it’s a blast!, there are loads of other tuition days scattered around (like Highland Tradition ‘19 - search facebook) - all steered at learning tunes in a style suitable for sessions rather than the pipe band. Although classes are never border pipes - a class of border pipes would be harsh - the tuition is usually always on smallpipes out of necessity, but most attendants are borderpipers and the tutors are always top class - Gary West, Finn Moore, Stephen Blake, Fred Morrison, Angus McKenzie, Calum McCrimmon to a name but a few..

Re: The Lowland and Borders Piping Society

There are, I believe, a few members of said society who also frequent these discussions from time to time.
I sense from the phrases "a bunch of middle aged small pipers" and "a smallpipers club for a few retired folk" that you are not particularly enamoured with said society. However, I am quite bucked to find that people can be middle aged and retired (I assume one doesn’t need to be a piper to qualify but I am retired).
Regarding the type of pipes played, I don’t think there is any rule of the LBPS saying you have to play border pipes. Some might choose small pipes because they are quieter and don’t disturb the neighbours.

I would second jakethepeg’s recommendation for Fèis Rois Inbheach, though it’s the bank holiday weekend at the beginning of May. Great pipers abound.

Re: The Lowland and Borders Piping Society

Hmm. I don’t think it would be unfair to say the LBPS has a little bit of an identity crisis, because really the gap between Scottish music and what the NPS do is not all that big. In addition, it tends to attract the kind of person who likes to disagree with received wisdom and so you do tend to have the thing of a society of men with beards who can’t stand each other.

What are Border pipes *for*? Playing GHB repertoire in a civilised fashion? Does that need a society?

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Re: The Lowland and Borders Piping Society

> the gap between Scottish music and what the NPS do is not all that big.

> What are Border pipes *for*? Playing GHB repertoire in a civilised fashion? Does that need a society?

I’d imagine that these two lines are the crux of the issue. A "Lowland and Borders" club would presumably be more focused on the music of that area, distinct from the highland traditions. But my understanding of smallpipes is that they are very often just what you say in that second line, a way to play GHB rep in polite society.

I’ll leave it to the Scotsmen and those who study them to argue over just how far into the music of the Highlands a Lowland piper can be without having to rethink their label, but I’ll say that the vast majority of SSP and border pipers I’ve met have been highland pipers as well.

Re: The Lowland and Borders Piping Society

I get the comments regarding the potential harshness of borderpipes. They are a beast at times and yep a room full of beginners could be quite a challenge. I had the pleasure of attending a class a few years back organised by the LBPS ( when they still attempted such things ) that was just that really even though there were only 4 students.

I don’t really see the borderpipe as a way of playing highland pipe repertoire for the neighbours though, the availability of a pretty full suite of accidentals gives the potential to be so much more than that. Matt Seattle I know has attempted to organise an event in recent years but I gather that just didn’t take off due to numbers, my feeling was that such a short duration event in such a remote location probably didn’t help much in the respect.

Perhaps Calum there is no need for a society as you suggest, but then is there a need for any art, music or social groups anyway? Society is just a collection of individuals after all, to take a Thatcherite view of things. Not that I’d necessarily take that position myself.

There are perhaps not many borderpipers out there in the great scheme of things but those that are in my experience are just not getting to or participating in the LBPS set up, there are plenty of young players doing stuff way beyond the pipe band repertoire just not being attracted to or represented by the society.

Maybe there’s just not a critical mass to tip borderpiping into a more active part of the society, perhaps though they should be a little more honest about what they actually are now and have been for quite sometime. A smallpipe society.

Re: The Lowland and Borders Piping Society

The situation is that the majority of players of both Border pipes and Scottish smallpipes are from a GHB background. A small proportion, who are not, are more interested in playing Border pipe music, which has a much older literate tradition than GHB music and is different in character, particularly its variation sets on dance tunes and airs.

LBPS at present thinks of itself as a “broad church”. There IS space for Border music and Border pipes, but they are minority interests within the Society. I’m not content with this situation myself – and I don’t hide it! – which is why, after leaving and rejoining LBPS more than once, I chose to become more involved, am a current Committee member, and have instigated 3-monthly social sessions in the Borders which have been well attended.

You don’t have to be on FaceBook to know what’s going on with LBPS, the website lists all events, but there is a great variety of discussions on the LBPS FaceBook forum if you’re interested.
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NB: Out of the list of a half dozen “borderpipers” given above only two, to my knowledge, have any acquaintance with Border pipe music. They’re all great players, no argument – but not Border pipers.
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Pedantic footnote:
The Lowland and Border Pipers’ Society, not “The Lowland and Borders Piping Society”
Border pipes (capital B) not “borderpipes”
Border pipers (capital B) not “borderpipers”

Re: The Lowland and Borders Piping Society

I’d have thought there might have been some cross over and interest in Northumbrian Piping?

The repertoire, that is, as I realise that the instruments are quite different.

Re: The Lowland and Borders Piping Society

There is in my limited knowledge of such things a cross over with the tradition of the "half long" pipe tradition of Northumberland. Trouble is such pipes are very loud when compared with their Northumbrian small pipe cousins. Not a lot of room to play both together and the broader and different natural range of the smallpipe probably wouldn’t help much either when it comes down to the grass roots sets of your hobby players. From what I understand of the Northumbrian piping scene they have suffered quite a chasm over the years with 2 differing factions committed in their differing ways to 2 very different ideas of what is "acceptable" within the tradition. I find it a little hard to believe I could rock up with a set of Dixon tunes, a few Scots favourites, the odd Irish session classic and get much of a reception sadly.