Military services are some of if not the most important events I pipe at for many reasons. I have had the unfortunate honor to pipe for too many fallen soldier and first responder services and with that comes a great understand of how the military runs their services. A side effect of hiring a pipe with little or no experience doing military services and ceremonies is that they can gum up the works fast. All branches have a very specific way of doing things and not every branch does it exactly the same way. Everyone needs to get experience some way but that piper needs to go in with an understanding of military procedures and different denominations laws. There are some denominations where I cannot play inside the sanctuary, some only can play hymns and some I cannot even play inside the building.
If you have a need for a bagpiper I would be honored to perform for your service or ceremony and I promise it will be done with the greatest amount of respect and honor. As I have on the home page I do not ask for payment playing for fallen soldier or fallen first responders memorial services. I am available for last minute gigs as not many pipers are and have done gigs with just hours notice on a Monday. So please consider me for your next bagpiper.
Have you asked yourself this question or thought someone was crazy for asking this question? Though it might sound like an opening line for a cheesy joke it is a good questions I get off and on piping weddings, public concerts, memorials and other event. It always comes to 3 questions for the right answer, inside or outside, drummer or drummers as well, and budget.
Inside or Outside?
This is a huge factor and that is why it is the first to address where the location is. Piping inside amplifies the sound and even large churches and event centers one bagpiper fills it up. I have done multiple pipers and drummers indoors and I will only do that as an option with big building, not the local Elks hall. It's a courtesy to the musicians and the patrons and I normally want to be hired again and not be ran out of the building for making everyone deaf. Outside the sound dissipates greatly and that is when multiple musicians would be beneficial but not always necessary. I've played beach weddings, and they always have crazy wind going and I've never had anyone not hear me lol. A bonus to several bagpipers that play well together is the great effect of all that sound and the opportunity of harmonies in the music.
Drummer(s) as well?
Just like having several pipers, having drummer(s) can be a great effect to add to the event. The standard math I use is in most settings 1 piper and 1 drummer is better than 2 pipers (not always the case like funerals) and you can have just 1 drummer for up to 4 pipers in my opinion before it gets very lost in the mix. Then bigger and bigger you add more a bass drummer, more snare drummers and for the big events and flare tenor drummers. With all those musicians we are talking a big group of minimum of a dozen. There are many other things to do but I haven't had to book a full pipe band... yet.
Budget is always an issue when talking 1 piper or a full band and I'd like to share a few truthful secrets if you'd like to read. Booking pipers and drummer is not like going to Sam's Club and the more you get the better the deal. Every musician spends years working on the craft and thousands on their instruments (except drummers and spend hundreds on sticks), thousands and thousands of hours practicing and studying and subjecting family and friends to the horrors of listening to the learning of the instrument. I always do my best to be fair with cost but I need to make a living and eat once in a while.
As one might imagine the bagpipes are a temperamental instrument that have to rhyme nor reason to there action at times. In Florida with everything from high humidity, scorching temperatures, hurricanes, sun showers and yes snow storms (the pan handle) bagpipes can act up. Thankfully I do not live in the pan handle so no snow to worry about but everything else is enough. With modern technology the live of a bagpiper is easier for tuning and general performance but there will always be variables in the instrument is you care about good tune. They make synthetic bagpipes, chanters and all reeds but I will never go to the way of the synthetic chanter reed.
I have a challenge at every event to be in tune and everything to stay in tune. There are sometimes when I know the instrument will go out of tune because of some variables (playing from inside to outside, long periods of the instrument sitting and cooling down, or the worse in my opinion when someone bumps into them and something moves). As a avid player in Florida I do a lot of preventative measures and maintenance to keep things tight and performing well as well as playing on my own time to keep it all set well. I couldn't imagine the amount of time I put into just one wedding with practice, maintenance (instrument and uniform), studying new tunes to add to the repertoire and working to make me a greater musician.
For the people who may not know add to the fact the instrument is not cheap and you can't just go into Guitar Center or Sam Ash and pick one up for $99.99 like a guitar. My set of Duncan Soutar pipes are handmade by Duncan Soutar himself in Scotland and all my chanters and reeds are made in Scotland as well because those are the makers I enjoy and are familiar with. There are many great American and Canadian makers just I prefer what I prefer. I will not get into the cost of them but lets say I have spent less when buying a car. This is my joy and I get to ministry though it which is a great blessing! So when you go to hire your next piper (hopefully me :) ) remember the reason live music costs more than a DJ is because the musicians has spent their life learning and growing into a professional musician. It is a special skill and effect that cannot be reproduced and should be respected.
I recently piped at a funeral in terrible weather down in St. Petersburg. It was pouring down when I left so I grabbed my rain coat to keep me dry because there isn't any protection made for pipes. I had many people ask me at the graveside if the pipes would be damaged and its a yes and no answer. Obviously if I left them sitting in the rain they would be trashed (has that happen a few years ago at a fallen soldier event when there just wasn't any covering for me.
The pipes I play are Scottish pipes made in Scotland and if you know anything about Scotland it rains... a lot! The instrument can handle rain as long as I get them dried off ASAP and keep rain from getting inside the instrument best as I can. The times I play in the rain the pipes always need to play better in general or maybe its just me. If anything it almost feels like I'm back in Scotland in the Highland piping.
Bagpipes survive a lot during war time so I figure Florida in summer when the temperate and humidity are the same number and the rain is falling hard and fast they can handle it. I bagpipe rain or shine for every event I've played and have never not piped for any reason (though I probably should have the one time). I have confidence that my Duncan Soutar pipes are make fantastically and God will protect them and myself. That is not to say they will be perfectly in tune as that is difficult enough without the rain but they will play.