1 John Edmond | Encore…We’ll tell you more June 2018

The Phantom Piper in the sky?
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John Edmond Newsletter

Encore…We’ll tell you more June 2018


Dear Friends, Rhodies and Countrymen,

The Phantom Piper in the sky?
What is it about this strange tartan octopus-like and weird sounding instrument that makes people all over the world either love or hate it?

The Scottish and Irish regiments have fought all over the world for Britain since 1633 and 1684 respectively. Most of these regiments had their own pipers and pipe bands some of which are still active today. Standing unarmed in the front line, their pipers have fearlessly played and inspired soldiers into battle. As John Edmond sums it up in his song:

“They heard him in the American independence war and he was heard in battle in Spain’s peninsula, Napoleon’s armies also heard him in their time and the Balaclava Russians when they fought the thin red line. In India when Lucknow was besieged and freed again and Zulu warriors heard in on an African plain He was heard in Egypt and down to Sudan, in the Boer war battles and in Afghanistan. At the battle of the Somme where the poppies now grow free, again at the landings at Dunkirk and Normandy. On the Barren Rocks of Aden, Tyrol and Gibraltar from Korea to Palestine and on the island of Malta. Wherever he came from wherever he has been, he’s sometimes been heard but never been seen. Wherever kilted warriors have been sent to fight and die. There will always be a phantom piper in the sky”!

Bagpipes have been part of the Edmond family for several generations. Although John started as a drummer in the CBC Pretoria pipe band and became a South African champion in 1954, he went on to bagpipes and played for the Light Horse Regiment pipe band and once in Transvaal Scottish uniform on SATV way back in 1979. He has now passed the family pipes on to his youngest son John Ross who plays at various functions from time to time. Nothing like keeping the family traditions going….John’s grandson Brogan is the lead drummer for a Transvaal Scottish pipe band today. John has written several bagpipe pieces over the years like The Penhalonga Piper which was recorded by the famous Mackenzie's Pipes and Strings in Scotland. Other compositions for pipes were The Whistling Troopie, Greyfriar’s Bobby, Skottie en die Boeremeisie in duet with concertina and recorded and performed on TV by Tommy Oliver and now The Phantom Piper in the Sky.



Some early history on the bagpipes.
The French Musette can be seen as a logical explanation for the evolution or refinement of the instrument into a number of examples of chamber pipes (i.e. those that operate via the use of bellows rather than the traditional bags as a reservoir). Examples of different forms of such chamber pipes can be found throughout Ireland, France, and England. The Northumbrian region of England has been a "hotbed" for bagpipe evolution. It has not only witnessed the emergence of its indigenous shuttle pipes, but also its own small pipes, half longs and great war-gathering pipes. Likewise, Ireland has experienced the evolution of its own Uillean (chamber/bellows pipe) and war pipe (Brian Boru). The evidence exists to substantiate the belief that pipes may have been common throughout the remainder of Britain prior to their emergence upon the Scottish landscape. Nevertheless, there is no question that the Bagpipe was very popular throughout England. Middle Ages Pre-Reformation churches reveal carvings of bagpipes. 

The truth is that the first piper had no idea where Scotland was and that he was probably playing something that looked more like a stuffed dog than a Scottish bagpipe.


The pipes, which most people today are familiar with, are the Scottish Highland Bagpipes. These pipes have three drones that come out the top of the bag which produce a constant sound, a single chanter with the nine notes of the pipe scale are played one, and a bag made of sheep or elk skin which the piper presses with his arm when he wants to take a breath. This is what makes pipe music free from pauses. The Highland Pipes are only one of the over thirty different kinds of bagpipes that have appeared throughout the world. The Spanish, French, Italians, Germans, Hungarians, Czechoslovakians, Tunisians, Indians, Greeks, and a myriad of other cultures have developed bagpipes of their own. These bagpipes have any number of drones, up to eight coming out of the top, bottom, or side of the bag. Among the more famous bagpipes outside the British Isles is the Spanish Galicia which is like the Scottish bagpipe as far as the bag and air supply, but only have one drone. Although the existence of the bagpipes before the first century is thought to be documented by the Greek playwright Aristophanes in his work The Acharnians where he wrote, "You pipers who are here from Thebes, with bone pipes blow the posterior of a dog," there is no solid indication until the first century when a very famous piper came to rule Rome. Nero considered himself a good piper as well as many other things. He even had the bagpipes put on a coin. This was one of the first positive references to the bagpipes. Nero also used bagpipes to inspire his troops before battle, though at that time they were generally recognized as peasant entertainment.

When they arrived in Scotland, they quickly became a part of Scottish life. Every town would hire a bagpiper, usually out of special taxes from the wealthy families in the area, who would pipe for townspeople on all occasions. In some places, the piper would play in churches in place of an organ. As time went on, the bagpipes in the British Isles evolved and various types of pipes and piping were developed. Marches, strathspeys, hornpipes, and reels were perfected and played on the Highland Bagpipes, the Lowland Bagpipes, the Northumbria pipes, and the Irish Union pipes.
The Scottish people have made the bagpipes one of the outstanding parts of their culture. In many songs, stories, and poems, the Scots have celebrated their pipes, and unlike many other cultures, they have kept the pipes alive as part of their musical tradition. But still, if you don't have a great Uncle Fergus from Ayr who played the Lowland pipes, you might have an Uncle Garcia from Madrid who played the Gaita.

Well, folks, that’s it for the month of June! But Don’t forget our Aviation concert on Saturday 14th July 2018.05.14 Tickets available from Computicket check our website for more detail.