I recently thought it would be cool if there was a place to go and listen and play some piobaireachd without having to wait for a Highland games to roll around.
I decided to do something about it, and created the Atlanta Piobaireachd Listening Club. We met last week for the first time and had a fantastic evening. I led the evening off by playing “Clan Campbell’s Gathering”. We heard six piobaireachds in total, and we can’t wait for the next meeting in February (right now we’re bi-monthly). It can come to your neighborhood too, here’s how.
Start Your Own Piobaireachd Listening Club
Step 1. Decide that you’re going to grasp this opportunity and make the world a little better. This is probably the hardest step to take, because you’re making a commitment and putting yourself out there a bit. The good news is that the rest is relatively easy. Since you’re in charge, you get to determine how often to meet. Monthly sounds great in theory, but can be daunting especially to start. I decided bi-monthly was doable. Quarterly is an option as well. If you opt for less often, say once or twice per year, it is hard to get traction and build a following to grow your club. Regular (not too regular) meetings bring people back and give new people an opportunity to join.
Step 2. Identify a venue or venues. The church where North Georgia Pipes & Drums rehearses was very accommodating, and was happy to host our meetings. If you have a local Celtic Hall, lodge or other civic meeting space near you, consider those options. Your venue should have a large playing room with a decent warm up room to minimize downtime between performances. If your local pub has a back room available that could also be a viable option. It may bring in more folks if you can sit with a pint or wee dram and enjoy the performances, which may not be possible in other settings.
Step 3. Pice a date and notify your audience. First, determine who might want to attend. Local pipers and band members are the most obvious choices. But consider the local St. Andrews Society chapter, Burns Club, session musicians, church congregants, etc. You don’t necessarily have to play to enjoy a good listen. Contacting your audience has never been easier. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media provide excellent means. Accept the fact that you will likely start small and grow mainly by word of mouth.
Step 4. Manage the event. So you should keep a list of people willing to perform, and try to organize them to keep some semblance of order. You may have too many people to fit, or you may not have enough. You can let players play a second tune, you can open the stage to other types of music, you can end early. It’s up to you. Be sure to clean up the venue after your event so that you are welcomed back. Use social media to discuss the evening and promote the next session.
Step 5. Repeat!
Make the club work the way you want it to. Have guest performers, guest speakers, charge admission, free admission, etc. As your club develops, you may form a committee to share the responsibilities, or you can continue to run it on your own. The Atlanta Piobaireachd Listening Club will meet again in February, and with luck we’ll have a few more in attendance and performing. I hope one comes to your town too!