Volume XV Number 1 - January 2005


SO the holidaze have come and gone, Partanen's freezing his arse off in Cheneyland, and it was COLD in Virginia...didn't get any snow in the Washington area, but just about everyone else did in the northeast and through the midwest. I had forgotten what playing in 32 degree weather was like - you can have it! Playing in Arlington on Boxing Day, my fingers got so cold I couldn't feel the chanter, so I had to stop midway through my tune at Pug's grave - btw by the time they get all his details right, he'll have had THREE headstones. Looks good though, and he's in great company - just a few plots away lies a Sergeant-Major of the Corps. Cousin John from Norfolk was there with me, and we took our own little tour around the cemetary grounds - lots of famous names on those stones. Also went in the Custis-Lee mansion on the grounds and saw the guard changing at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Having a car pass made it really easy, as the walk would have been killing my knees....

One incredible sight was tour buses and tourists on a Sunday, many from Japan, most heading to the Kennedy gravesite. It is almost impossible to describe the sense of dignity that abides in the cemetary - we saw an entire section of graves decorated with wreaths - over a thousand of them, each wreath identical, probably sponsored by an organisation, but no sign of who put them there as an anonymous tribute to those who have given their lives for their country.

SO now for the bad news - the New Year has arrived, and, unfortunately, with the new year comes a rise in prices. As the pound now hovers around $2.00, and there will be a general rise in my costs for EVERYTHING in the next couple of months, I will be revamping our price structure for virtually everything on the site. Only a few items will not go up; I hope to keep the CD prices where they are, and our own products like garters and some of the silver pieces will remain the same, but virtually everything imported WILL go up in price. Sorry, but that's the way it's going to be. we don't anticipate a drop in the pound in the forseeable future, so, get used to it, people! Things are NOT going to get cheaper....

Black Part tells me he'll have a column for me as soon as he gets his computer up and running - until he buys a house he's stuck with 'no fixed address,' so we'll have to be impatient, or patient, or whatever!

BTW this marks our EIGHTH year on the web - we couldn't have done it without all the input from Mark Maggi back in the beginning, and help from others since then. We're looking forward to 2005 being a GOOD YEAR for all of us, and we wish the same to you!

Just a reminder, we'll be playing at the annual All Saints Burns Concert here in San Leandro on the fifteenth, at All Saints Episcopal Church. Hope to see some of you there.


Some months back I was handed a bunch of reeds and asked if I'd evaluate them in a few chanters.  This is risky, because every piper has his, or her own opinions about what are good reeds, and which of these good reeds work in various chanters.  Many may disagree with the following evaluations, but perhaps some out there may gain something useful from them.   Six reed makers products were tried:  Harris, Apps, Elliot, Ross, Warnock, and Gilmore. Four chanters were tried:  Naill, Kintail, Gibson, and MacCallum.  I regret not having the opportunity to include Shepard and Sinclair chanters.  

The Harris reeds worked well in the Naill, Kintail, and Gibson, but were only fair in the MacCallum. 

The Apps reeds were fair in the Naill, but worked well in the Kintail and Gibson chanters. Apps reeds in the McCallum chanter are not recommended. 

The Elliot reeds worked well in the Naill, Kintail, and Gibson, but were only fair in the McCallum. 

The Ross reeds were excellent in the Naill and Gibson chanters, but worked well in the Kintail, and were only fair in the McCallum chanter. 

The Warnock reeds were excellent in the Naill, Kintail, and Gibson chanters, and worked well in the McCallum chanter. 

The Gilmore reeds worked well in the Gibson chanter, but were only fair in the Naill, Kintail, and McCallum chanters.  

Some additional insights on the terminology:  By excellent, I mean very little had to be done with the reed, and little or no tape was required on the chanter.  By worked well, I mean that some reed manipulation was required, and some taping was required.  By fair, I mean that quite a lot of reed manipulation wwas required, and a lot of taping was required on the chanter, but that the reed could be made to work in that particular chanter. By not recommended, I mean that even with a lot of reed manipulation and a lot of taping on the chanter, no reasonable tone could be found: too much work.  Try a different reed or chanter.  

I played each reed and chanter combination for about a week.  No guesses are made as to how long each reed, in whatever chanter would last longer, or the longest.  The evaluations were made each day to come up with the above.  None of the reeds were moistened with saliva.  I found long ago that saliva, with its mix of protiens and germs, attacks reeds, and drastically shortens their life.  Clean, cold tap water was used to moisten the reeds as required.  No reed will play to its optimum tone without some moisture.  Reed manipulation was restricted to light pinches at the base of the cane, near the staple.  No shaving or trimming was done.   Personally, I've found that no reed out of the box is ready to play.  For the past 10 years I've played long bladed Warnocks, and Megarity-Ross reeds.  Both usually come with a pronounced shoulder on them, which I lightly sand down to keep the F's from going flat. I play a Naill chanter from the mid-90's, and also have  Kintail 2000, and now a Gibson. By using only clean, cold tap water to moisten the reed, and keeping manipulation to a bare minimum I can get a few good months from these reeds.  I'm about out of my secret supply of Megarity-Ross reeds, so trying out the Ross reeds, now that Stevie's back in Scotland was very valuable to me.  Keep up the good work Andy!  And do I get a couple of free reeds for the plug?   John Eric Partanen, PhD

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