Lament for the Common Piper
The tune I think, captures a feeling of complaint and morose protest. This wasn’t intended at the start of the process, but it turned out that way as things took shape. In that vein, I started thinking about the kind of things that one would complain about and it occurred to me that the very idea behind the Shasta Piping Society’s composition contest was to give unrecognized pipers as artists a chance to air their work in a meaningful context. The idea is actually a response to “lamenting” the general lack of this sort of opportunity in today’s piping culture, opportunities for "common" pipers to be heard.
Once upon a time, being the town or village piper was an actual role that was open for those musicians skilled and trained in the art of the piob mor. The common piper provided a functional service for communal gatherings, events, and notable occasions and was a respected (mostly) and acknowledged formal station in the community. Today, we don’t have a formal role of “piper” available to us in our towns and cities. The current scene of bagpipe competition has the “common” piper taking a back seat to a modern culture of celebrity that surrounds the elite few premier soloists or pipe bands. It often ignores the effort and artistry put forth by the scores of others who toil in their private corners to perfect their skills and musicianship but might not have the opportunity or proximity to achieve notoriety in the areas of solo and band play where all our eyes and ears seemed to be turned these days. Overlooked are the hundreds, if not thousands of competent and talented individuals who have little opportunity to ply their craft before a wider audience. The tune is a nod to the notion that there is honor and respect in being a common journeyman piper who sometimes is as much worth listening to, and has just as much to offer musically, than those at the top of the solo prize lists. The current art of Highland bagpipe relies on and is sustained by, the large global community of active and passionate common pipers out there who love the music and the instrument, but who also get little notice or recognition.