May 04, 2020

Pittsburgh Piping Society Zooms session with almost 50 attending

Pittsburgh Piping Society member Dan Bell performs on Scottish smallpipes for the nearly 50 who joined on Zoom.

The Pittsburgh Piping Society was restarted a few years ago by Andrew Carlisle, Palmer Shonk and Nick Hudson, local players meeting regularly to trade tunes and stories over beverages. Despite the coronavirus shutdown, the organization has persevered, holding a surprisingly effective meeting over Zoom.

On May 1st, the Pittsburgh Piping Society held its first-ever “virtual” meeting via the popular online platform. Shonk and Carlisle organized the night to bring members together to enjoy each other’s company and hear live music.

Pittsburgh has been a hotbed of Highland piping and pipe band activity in the United States for a long time. Local university Carnegie Mellon formalized its piping degree program in the 1980s, bringing in piobaireachd guru Jimmy McIntosh to create and teach the curriculum. After McIntosh came the legendary Alasdair Gillies, and in 2010 the renowned Carlisle of Northern Ireland has headed its degree and pipe band programs. The region has produced quality and even world-class players.

“We hope that other piping societies and clubs around the world can use online platforms to experience live music to keep folks going during this tough time,” Shonk says. “At its peak, the number of participants logged in was 47. We had eight performers on the night, with each person playing a short selection or two on either Highland pipes or Scottish smallpipes for approximately five minutes.”

It wasn’t all Pittsburgh area pipers joining the online meeting. Players from Florida, Texas, South Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland and New York logged into the session.

Steven MacDonald, who’s originally from Broughty Ferry, Scotland, and a graduate of the Bachelor of Music program at Carnegie Mellon University, specializing in bagpipe performance, played “A Flame of Wrath for Patrick Caogach” from his parents’ home in Orlando, Florida. MacDonald plans to return to the university to complete a Master’s degree in music composition.

The Pittsburgh Piping Society is planning to continue as the group celebrates its sixth year. The group is considering using Zoom for “live” recitals during its regular in-person meetings, once things are back to normal and social distancing isn’t required.

Resurrected in 2015, the Pittsburgh Piping Society originally started in 1898, is the first known organized member-based piping association in the United States. The PPS predates the Scottish Piping Society of London (1932), the Scottish Pipers Association (1920), and the Piobaireachd Society (1904).



Pittsburgh pipers tune in to PBS
January 29, 2015

Carlisle lands Pittsburgh piping job
June 30, 2010





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