Bagpipe music, and some historic dust

Detail, Tapestry depicting the Life of Christ, New School of Raphael 1523-1534, Vatican Museum

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.   Berthold Auerbach

1523-1534 tapestry, with bagpiper far right, Vatican Museum

In March, Rachael and I were two of 250 pilgrims traveling to Rome, Florence, Siena and Assisi from Seattle’s St. James Cathedral.  Our Cathedral Choir, along with our young women’s Jubilate!, performed frequently — and beautifully!  Mainstays of our choir have been familiar with me over the years, though mostly from afar since my Bagpipe Residency began back in 1990.  It was positively grand to spend time with my fellow Cathedral musicians!  Our choirs, soloists and organist performed at…

We stayed a block from Vatican City the last few days, taking advantage of visiting the Vatican Museums.  I was on the lookout for depicted pipers, almost missing this one.

Bagpipes have been around for a long time.  How long?  Don’t know personally (I wasn’t there).  I’m not one of the experts, but it seems that depictions of mouth-blown bagpipes date back to close to 1100 (in stone).  The earliest surviving bagpipes, however, are of the bellows-blown variety, according to Hugh Cheape, our most experienced expert on the subject.

But I would guess that depictions of native pipers will long outlive their instruments, claimed by dust, moisture and elements over time.  How about our music?  Our mouth-blown pipes were the electric guitars of their time, stirring hearts and minds just as all impassioned music does over time.   Our music is remembered at length I think, given the notes I find in the mail, and audiences I run into years after the performance has ended.

I listened, motionless and still; And, as I mounted up the hill, The music in my heart I bore, Long after it was heard no more.

–William Wordsworth


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