Q: How do I tell the difference between one piper and another?
A: First, listen to a sample of the music. It should be pleasing to the ear- the sound should be smooth, not high pitched and ear piercing. You can also ask the piper several questions like how long they have been performing and what 'grade' (see below) piper they are.
The governing body for competing pipers in the Eastern United States is called the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association. (Adam is a member of the music board of this association. With a name, he can tell you exactly which grade the piper is. If a piper is not graded, it's probably a good idea to continue your search.) This body has set guidelines by which pipers compete against one another. This is very helpful to you as a potential customer since it gives you a pre-set guideline to gauge if the musician is of a 'professional' quality.
There are six grades:
This is the entry-level grade and consists of beginner pipers. Many parade, police and fire bands fall under this category.
By this time the piper usually has at least a couple of years experience. The judging focus at this grade is correct finger technique and the ability to play simple tunes.
By now musical expression, timing, and bagpipe sound are gaining importance as well as accurate fingering technique. The piper has usually been playing for over four or five years.
All of the above are important in this grade but a higher degree of ability is required to be successful.
**This is the lowest grade suggested for a piper to be hired.**
This is the semi-professional grade. By this time the piper has usually been playing for over 8 years.
Open/ Professional Grade
To reach this level you have to have demonstrated a very high level of piping ability. These pipers are very hard to come by and may charge more than other pipers. However the cost is well worth it.
It is important to hire a professional-level musician. Aside from knowing the tunes, playing them well and handling the pressure of an audience, a piper needs to know how to adjust his or her pipes in adverse conditions, have back up pipes and equipment, etc.
You don't bury someone twice! If an inexperienced piper messes up at a funeral, there are no second chances; they will ruin the family's experience forever. The same theory applies with weddings.
No piper is better than a bad one!
Q: What do you wear when performing?
A: A traditional tartan (plaid) kilt, knee socks, gillie brouges (bagpiper shoes), shirt, tie, waist coat, jacket and hat. Check out some of my photos from past performances to get a good idea. In the event of extreme cold weather traditional tartan trews are worn. Trews are basically a "kilt trouser" and is the only acceptable alternative to a kilt.
Q: Can you perform outdoors in the winter months?
A: Yes, but depending on the temperature, playing time may be adjusted as the instrument can collect a lot of moisture during the winter months. It's important not to overplay in cold conditions as you could very well crack the pipes. Also, the traditional dress doesn't lend itself to being very warm and tartan trews (trousers) may be worn in place of a kilt.
Q: What if it rains? Will you still show up?
Q: How do your fees work?
Q: What if we only want one tune or or a quick 10-minute performance? Will the fee be less expensive?
Q: I've been researching other bagpipers and I've found a few whose fees are cheaper than yours. Why is the cost different?
Q: Can I hire a piper for a full one or two-hour performance or cocktail hour?
Q: What happens if you're ill the day of the event?
Q: What is the process for hiring you?
A: Yes, of course. It rains a lot in Scotland and Ireland. As long as it's not torrential, rain will not affect the performance.
A: Fees are 'flat rate' within a 1-hour (or so) radius of Boston or Lowell, MA. They include all performance and travel expenses
A: This is a tough answer, but in short; not usually. You're paying for time as well as experience. What many bagpipe lovers don't realize is the bagpipe has to be played in advance (warmed up) and kept tuned prior to playing as well as adequate travel time to arrive early and the amount of time between playing, etc. Just getting dressed can be a 30-minute procedure depending on the uniform. It's my experience that few performances (from top to bottom) are less than four hours total time.
A: Not all pipers are equal in ability. A piper with years of instruction and experience is likely to cost more than someone who just plays as their hobby- You get what you pay for! Some pipers will tell you they have "extensive experience" but don't go into much detail. In addition to being one (of only two Grade 1 Pipe Majors in the ENTIRE USA) I've assembled my qualifications, photos and most importantly, sound samples (of myself, not someone else) on this website. If you find that another piper has the same qualifications and whose fees are less expensive than mine then I will match their fee. It's YOUR special occasion; an important memory. You deserve the best
A: Yes, you can hire a piper for this time span, but you won't need it. With the pipes, less is more. Please consider the nature of the instrument. The pipes are a loud, commanding instrument that stops the action — it can be hard on the ears if played indoors for a long time. You'll want to use the bagpipe to embellish an event; not as background music (unless outdoors). Also, physically, you can't play the bagpipe continually like you would play a piano. Playing the bagpipe is usually done in short increments (fifteen to twenty minutes at a time). It is better to leave your audience wanting more- not having heard too much.
A: In the unlikely event that I am bed-striken, I will find a suitable replacement for no extra cost to you. You will have a piper no matter what!
A: Please inquire using the Contact link above or call 617.233.4359. If your date is available, you will be emailed or sent a contract, which requires a signature and $100.00 non-refundable retainer. Upon receipt, you'll be officially booked. You can also pay in-full at the time of booking if you wish. Because there is little advance notice for funerals, they do not require a contract or deposit. I do not except credit cards, but Paypal is a safe alternative.