School's bagpipe lessons hit right note

THE sound of bagpipes is not necessarily one you would expect to echo through the Suffolk countryside.

Craig Robinson

THE sound of bagpipes is not necessarily one you would expect to echo through the Suffolk countryside.

But the traditional Scottish instrument can often be heard from one of the county's most prestigious schools.

Pupils at Orwell Park in Nacton, near Ipswich, are offered the chance to learn the bagpipes alongside the more usual cellos, violins and pianos.

And as Sunday is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns it is a perfect excuse for the youngsters to develop their musical talent.

The lessons at Orwell Park are taught by Rod Caird, who is originally from Dundee but now lives in Henley, near Ipswich, and has been playing the bagpipes for 45 years.

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“The students absolutely love it,” he said. “It's one of those things that if you are enthusiastic, committed and put in the practice then you can really make good progress.

“I was taught when I was at school and there are not many others outside of Scotland that actually do it - so it's pretty rare.”

Mr Caird, 60, a TV producer with the History Channel, said there was a healthy bagpipe scene in the local area.

“I'm a member of the Ipswich Piping Society and every Tuesday night there are a group of 15 of us who get together,” he said. “I think you'd be surprised at how many pipers there are in this area.”

Mr Caird said he was contacted by Orwell Park's director of music, Martin O'Brien, after a pupil said they wanted to learn the bagpipes instead of the more traditional orchestral instruments.

Mr O'Brien said: “Around four years ago one of our students requested bagpipe lessons. I'm always keen to expand the music lessons we offer beyond that of the standard orchestral instruments - such as the piano and violin - so I was only too pleased.

“I didn't have any contact details for a bagpipe teacher but I stumbled across Rod and he has been fantastic ever since.

“The pupils really enjoy it and we now make bagpipes a feature of our concerts. The pupils start off on a smaller instrument called a Chanter and then progress to the bagpipes proper when they are ready.”

Mr O'Brien said they currently have six pupils aged between seven and 10 learning the bagpipes.

Bagpipes factfile:-

� A bagpipe consists of an air supply, a bag, a chanter (melody pipe) and usually a drone.

� Actual examples of bagpipes from before the 18th century are extremely rare - but a number of paintings, engravings and manuscripts survive charting their spread form the late 1500s.

� The best known type of bagpipe is the Scottish Great Highland Bagpipe .

� However they have historically been found throughout Europe, in Northern Africa, the Persian Gulf and the Caucasus.

� Other types include the Irish Uilleann pipes, the Northumbrian smallpipes, the Balkan Gaida, the Turkish Tulum and the Hungarian Duda.

� There is no reliable estimate as to the number of bagpipe players worldwide - although the number just playing the Great Highland bagpipes is thought to be between ten and fifty thousand.