Lees launch reedmaking business, music library with novel new approach
Acclaimed Vancouver-based piper Jack Lee has launched a new reedmaking business with his three sons that takes a unique approach to online sales. Lee & Sons Bagpipes went live on the evening of December 17, 2010, offering their own make of chanter reeds, as well as a “Music Library” of almost 1,000 tunes from Jack Lee’s personal archives compiled over the last 30 years.
Lee, the Pipe-Sergeant of the Grade 1 Simon Frasier University Pipe Band and the winner of multitudes of the biggest prizes in solo piping, said that he has been developing and refining the chanter reed for the last two years, to the point of now launching the business with his sons, Andrew, Colin and John.
“It has been a long-held dream of mine to work with my sons in a bagpipe business,” Jack Lee commented. “It is a family business and we are all enjoying being part of it. We have worked through and tested many, many [reed] options. We wanted the reed to be one that I would play myself in big contests plus one that pipers and pipe bands would enjoy playing. We think we have done that.”
He said that Andrew Lee’s professional abilities as a computer numerical control (CNC) machinist has aided with the design and implementation of the products, which are for now limited only to chanter reeds.
The Lees have tied in an online digital archive of recordings and manuscripts that Jack Lee compiled over the years as a result of his diligent recording of his own playing to help prepare for competitions. More than 800 pieces of light music and more than 120 piobaireachds are offered on the site, ranging from $3 for each piece of light music to $5 for each piobaireachd.
And for every tune purchased, 50 per cent can be applied to reed orders if used within 30 days. Each tune comprises an MP3 sound file of Lee playing it and written scores in both Acrobat PDF and Bagpipe Music Writer formats.
It has been rumoured that the company will eventually enter the chanter and bagpipe-making market, which might be logical given the family’s CNC expertise. CNC manufacturing has helped some bagpipe companies to automate their business, with the ability to mass-produce precision-made instruments. The advent of CNC manufacturing has also resulted in the a counter-resurgence in popularity of purely hand-made “bespoke” Highland pipes, often priced at a substantial premium with wait times at times longer than a year.
“We have long-range plans, which we think are interesting but prefer to talk for now about our near-term plans,” Jack Lee said when asked about what may be on the horizon for the business. “We want to produce excellent pipe chanter reeds that people enjoy playing in both solos and bands. It is a competitive market and we wish all of our competitors well. I contacted most of the major reedmakers already to let them know we were getting into the business as I wanted them to hear it from me first. The difference is that our reeds are designed, made and tested but us. They are the type of reed that I would play myself.”
Jack Lee’s brother, Terry, Pipe-Major of SFU and proprietor of the large Tartantown Highland wear, bagpipes and pipe band drums business said that Lee & Sons Bagpipes is not part of Tartantown.
It is not yet known if or when the six-time World Champions SFU will deploy the new reeds.