Kevin Angus, of Farmington, spoke to Victor-Farmington Rotary Club about his longtime involvement with bagpipe music at a recent meeting.
The Schenectady native started at age 7 when he and his dad took lessons on how to play the bagpipe. By age 8, he was playing in a bagpipe band, and the passion has stayed with him over the years. He has marched with bagpipe bands in St. Patrick’s Day parades in New York, Boston and Chicago.
Angus gave a definition for bagpipe as “a bag and a pipe.” He then quoted Alfred Hitchcock’s comment on bagpipes: “I understand the inventor of bagpipes was inspired when he saw a man carrying an indignant, asthmatic pig under his arm. Unfortunately, the manmade sound never equaled the purity of the sound achieved by the pig.”
A form of the bagpipe can be found to have been in use for over 2,000 years. Although commonly thought of as a Celtic instrument, bagpipe usage can be found in other cultures, including Turkey, where it’s known as a tulum; Poland calls it slaski gajdy; and Italy, where it’s referred to as zampogna.
Modern bagpipes are more closely associated with Celtic countries such as the Galacia area of Spain, Brittany in France, Northumbria and border areas in the U.K., Scotland and Ireland. All have their own distinct type of bagpipes.
“You can create a lot of different music from one instrument,” Angus said.
Angus demonstrated various bagpipes associated with different countries and the music they produce. He explained how sound is produced by a bagpipe. Maintaining a sustained sound is a key element of the bagpipe. The most popular and common form of bagpipe in use today is the Highland bagpipe from Scotland, which utilizes three drone pipes. Two of the pipes are tenor pipes of varying sounds to counterbalance the third pipe, which produces a bass sound.
Angus answered questions from Rotarians such as the availability of scored music for bagpipes, where bagpipe lessons are available, local bagpipe organizations, the military history of the bagpipe in combat, fraternal and police bagpipe bands and cost. Many club members stayed after the regular meeting to hear him demonstrate popular bagpipe tunes and answer more questions.
Angus works as vice president for operations and client services for D4, a company based in Rochester that provides managed data and discovery services to law firms and corporations. He holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Union College in Schenectady.