2005 - The Revival Year
In late 2004, my wife and I started to do Scottish Country Dancing. Somewhat unwillingly, I agreed to try out the Surbiton and District Caledonian SCD club.
To my surprise, I was bowled over by it. The club secretary soon found out that I could play the pipes and I was immediately persuaded to play the haggis in at the Burns Night dinner and dance in January 2005. This I think was what prompted me to attend the National Piping Centre summer school later that year. I was put into a suitably humbling group in the initial grading (not much above a beginner) but that was probably justified. The teachers on the course were Chris Armstrong, Margaret Houlihan, Finlay MacDonald and Paul Warren. I learned a lot, made good progress and was fired with enthusiasm. So much so that I attended the Summer School every thereafter until its demise in 2015. During these years, I had many inspiring sessions with other members of the NPC teaching staff staff. In addition to the above mentioned, the ones I remember were John Mulhearn, Callum Beaumont, Alistair McLaren, Glenn Brown, Gavin Stoddart and just one lesson from Roddy Macleod, the Centre's principal who tried but failed to persuade me that I should take up playing the Pibroch.
In August 2015, with no school to attend, I arranged for a 3-day intensive course where I had a number of 1-on-1 lessons (mostly with Margaret, with a few from Claire ?? and one disastrous lesson with Finlay Johnson).
I also tried to find a teacher in London. Margaret put me in touch with a very good piper, Andrew Hall, who worked for Barclays in Canary Wharf, and who used to come to my office in Basinghall Street after hours to prepare me for competing in the Clasp (which to my regret, I never did). He taught me quite a lot about performing as well as working on my prospective competition pieces. He charged me almost nothing for his lessons. Perhaps because of this, the arrangement finally came to an end.
Another attempt at finding a tutor, at the suggestion of a Scottish dancing friend, Bob Harman, resulted in me visiting the London Regiment headquarters in Horseferry Road to take part in a "lesson" (three old soldiers, a couple of young boys and me). It was a complete waste of time.