by Nick Williams
When I was ten my mother was insistent that I play an instrument. Tried violin, guitar, and even a short stint in chorus. Nothing seemed to suit me . Then one evening my mom threw a crazy party and her friend Bob Penland brought his pipes. The sound touched my soul. This was what I wanted to play. It was the most amazing sound. Now, grant you, the instrument has to be in the hands of a competent player. Bagpipes can sound awful if you are not properly trained and your instrument has to be given the attention as though it is your wife if you want it not to argue with you!. I fell in love with the pipes. Let's just say the practices in the living room as I was learning would clear the house, and the immediate neighborhood.
Years later I was walking on Furman's Campus and thought this place would be a great location for a highland games, the view of Paris Mountain in the background, the close location to my house. Seven years ago Dee and I, over some fajitas, decided to do it. Let's bring the Scottish Highlands to Greenville. Be careful, be verrryy careful, what you say around Dee Benedict. She will make things happen. We have never looked back. I hope you enjoy the Piping and Drumming competitions and the sounds captures your soul as it has me.
Saturday, May 25th at Furman University!
The Games are proud to host the EUSPBA Sanction Pipe Band and Solo Competition for Grades Three, Four and Five.
These pipers are among the finest in the country. During competition play, you’ll see circles of them at various spots around the Games. Each drone – the long black pipes resting on the piper’s shoulder – has to be tuned to the other two drones and to the chanter, and then each set of pipes has to be perfectly tuned to the pipe major and then to every other set of pipes in the bands, and – well, it is extremely precise stuff, and that’s before they play the first note! The pipes are incredibly difficult instruments to play, and these guys and girls make it look easy. And sound wonderful.
Watch the competition circles. The only person allowed to move, except the bass drummer, is the pipe major. He/she will be tapping his/her foot for the beat, which changes several times during the competition set as they move from one type of tune to the next. And no sheet music to play from, because they don’t have enough hands -- it’s all in their heads, hands and feet. They are all terrific musicians and you are invited to pick a favorite band.
As thrilling as the massed pipe bands (some 300+ strong) and the pipe band competitions are, we also offer you the chance to experience a different type of pipe music. Long before pipe music was codified and written down for organized band playing, the lone piper in the wild Highlands learned haunting melodies from his father and his grandfather. You can hear some of these ancient tunes under the trees near the Cherrydale mansion.
Our solo pipers and drummers practice all year for these competitions – most, we hope, have understanding spouses – and it is a pleasure to listen to them strut their stuff.
For more information, email: