Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The bagpipe is the emblematic and national musical instrument of Scotland. The very first trace of bagpipe may bring us back to 1000 BC in Asia Minor. This instrument is one of the oldest in the mankind and was widely spread through Asia and Europe. The real history of the bagpipe is hard to trace back because there are a lot of different theories and legends about it. But the two more plausible hypotheses are that it was imported to Scotland either by the Roman Empire or by the Irish.

Belonging to the wind instruments, a bagpipe is made of a bag, a chanter and one or more drones. The bag, which is most of the time made of leather, receives the airflow. The chanter is the melody pipe as such and the drone is a cylindrical tube from which the airflow escapes. Playing the bagpipe needs some physical qualities, namely power of the lungs and development of the muscles around the mouth.

Two phenomena can explain the expansion of bagpipes in Scotland: the division in clans and the introduction of Scottish pipers in the army. On the one hand, each Scottish clan had its own official piper (bagpipes player) during the medieval period. And on the other hand, British Army recruited pipers in the Scottish troops under the reign of Queen Victoria. They were then the only professional bagpipes players in the world and reached a high level of skill. The number of pipers increased as well.

Established in 1843 by Queen Elizabeth, the Piper to the Sovereign’s duty is to play bagpipes at 9am under the Sovereign’s window for fifteen minutes. The current one is PM (Pipe Major) Derek Potter, from the Royal Scots Dragoons Guards.

The most famous bagpipes tunes are Amazing Grace, Flowers of Scotland and Scotland The Brave.

Through the world, the Great Highland Bagpipe is the best known Scottish bagpipe and the most played. This instrument is a very important symbol of Scotland as well as of Celtic international music.

By Julien Leclercq and Elisa Venturi

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