Piobaireachd in the Park – An Educational Experience

By Kyla MacNeil, Leader, BCPA Education & Training subcommittee and
Band Manager, White Spot Pipe Band

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely presented challenges for piping and drumming, especially for our younger and less experienced musicians who need regular instruction to learn their music. Finding alternative ways to learn and keep the music going has become very important.

Starting in the spring when he was unable to meet with his students in person due to the pandemic, Hal Senyk has been conducting bi-weekly online group piobaireachd seminars for his White Spot Pipe Band students. Shaunna Hilder and some of her students have since joined in as well. These have been excellent learning opportunities for our young pipers! Hal says, “Without the pressure of impending competitions, it has been a chance to spend time with the kids broadening their overall knowledge of piobaireachd, including history, understanding style differences, canntaireachd, and broadening the repertoire to include tunes that don’t often make it to the competition lists.” Tunes covered to date include: Tulloch Ard, Weighing from Land (from the Campbell Canntaireachd), Salute on the Birth of Rory Mor MacLeod, A Flame of Wrath, Clan Campbell’s Gathering, and Struan Robertson’s Salute. The next tune the group will be studying is the Lament for the Son of King Aro.

Beginning in May, when the weather was pleasant enough to play outdoors, Hal and Shaunna invited some of their students out to a local park for Sunday afternoon socially distanced piobaireachd sessions. To date, the meeting has had about a dozen players from Grade 4 through Open come out to share their music. Because these meetings take place outdoors, the small group of pipers and attendees can ensure proper physical distancing. The pipers are responsible for tuning their own instruments, but if they do require assistance, an instructor following COVID-19 precautions is there to guide them without contact. Unfortunately, because of the need to keep group gatherings small, there has been no advertising of the piobaireachd sessions. If anyone is interested in attending a session, please contact Shaunna Hilder for more information.

Recently, the online bi-weekly seminars and Piobaireachd in the Park have been combined. The outdoor seminars are being run by both Hal and Shaunna.

Piobaireachd in the Park has been a wonderful way for some of BCPA’s young pipers to enjoy playing and learning about piobaireachd in a non-competitive setting and receive feedback and encouragement from fellow players and a few of BCPA’s more experienced pipers. The Piobaireachd in the Park group plans to continue their bi-weekly meetings through the summer. We’re hoping that the glorious summer weather keeps going!

BCPA encourages members and bands to share their approaches and experiences with continuing learning and teaching during these pandemic times. Please submit your stories to comments@archive.bcpipers.org so they can be reviewed for inclusion in articles on the BCPA communications channels and be inspirational for others trying to advance their piping and drumming during these times.