Having Fun = Great Bagpiping = Having Fun

One of the best times I ever had listening to celtic music was at a Fest Noz in St. Malo, Brittany. The informal gathering was all music and dance and the players on stage were having as much fun as the dancers on the floor. The music was brilliant. It’s hard to create that kind of atmosphere without people who genuinely have fun doing it.

Just watch these videos of Breton musicians Fabrice Lothode and Jean-Yves Cadoudal. Former champs of various Breton music competitions. These guys are having a blast, and making great music in the process.

You rarely see Highland pipers having fun like this. Why is that? We all love this piping and drumming thing but I think we take it all way too seriously when it comes to the music. In order to make great music, you have to be having fun too. Ken Eller has a recent post over at this blog about that very thing—making bagpipes fun, particularly for kids just starting out. The trick though, is how to keep that spirit going well into their piping careers and how do we, those of us in the midst of it, capture and keep it too?

There is actually quite a bit of research that attests to the value of play and fun in learning and brain development. Fun and play are essential to the learning brain in children and are just as important in the brains of adults. Play spurs creativity, relieves stress, and aids in memory retention and the acquisition of new skills and information. Fun is an important aspect in the general shaping of our adult minds.

We here in the USA don’t often (if ever) have crowds of people dancing to our piping most of the time, but surely there are ways to “play” when we play? Taking advantage of other, noncompetitive piping opportunities is certainly one way to do it. Take a glimpse of this video of Stuart Liddell and Alen Tully kickin’ it in the bar after the 2011 Metro Cup in Newark, New Jersey this past February.

That was just a couple of minutes of a session that was nearly two hours. Those two have created many moments just like this one to just play around and make music for the sheer pleasure of it. I’m convinced that the key to great bagpiping is having fun with the music on a regular basis. Are Liddell and Tully having fun at an informal session because they are great players or are they great players because they have fun at informal sessions? I tend to think it is the latter.

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