The following is the text for a bagpipe CD of the tunes my father played, along with ones I've learned or written since his death.
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My father, Stuart Carson Averill, gave up his tobacco pipe and took up the Great Highland Bagpipe when he turned 50 years old, in 1974. He had discovered, through his psychoanalysis, a need to reconnect to the best part of his childhood, which included his mother's brogue (when she spoke it) and her love of music. In an article published after his death in The Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, he wrote:
I had had a long interest in poetry and literature and in reading aloud to my children. We had long discussions at dinner time on politics, current events, and events in their school lives. During this time, I found myself reading aloud Robert Burns's poetry to my children. My analysis had already allowed me to be much more expressive of my affection and warmth toward my family. I found that I had a very good delivery of the Scots dialect used by Robert Burns in his poetry, having been told by a Scotsman that it was quite authentic, and knowing from recordings of readers of Burns that this was so. I did not think a lot about that, nor did I attempt to analyze it, taking it as some kind of given. Only later did I realize that it was part of getting back in touch with my beloved mother and away from my image of her as cold, depressed, and not very loving of boys and men, despite her great love, her generosity, and her loyalty to me all the years of her life. Later, some years after my analysis terminated, I learned to play the bagpipes and played for my mother, then in her 80s, who hiked her skirts a bit and danced the Highland Fling.
Though Stu played for his mother, and for all his family, neither I nor any of my siblings were living at home when he began the process of learning the pipes. So, although the pipes were part of Stu's sense of family, they were not part of the Averill family tradition. As for me, I had been away at college since 1967, and in 1974, when Stu began to play the pipes, I married Jeffrey Ann Goudie. Only years later would Jeffrey and I discover that we were both of the McPherson clan (she through the Goudies and I through the Carsons) and thus shared a tartan and a clan motto: "Touch Not the Cat but Aglove." "Aglove" means when claws are retracted, when we McPhersons are at peace. Anyway, my mother, Tucker Averill, was the family member who lived with this beginning piper, who patiently survived the early learning, the taking of the practice chanter everywhere--on vacations, to conference hotel rooms- -who heard the first strangled, struggling notes from the basement, and who encouraged, sometimes almost unwillingly, this fledgling bagpiper. To imagine Tucker's plight, remember that when Oscar Wilde first heard an experienced piper, he said, "Thank God there is no smell."
Outside the family, another person shared with Stu the learning of the pipes--the timing problems, the sour notes, the odd equipment, the transition from practice chanter to full pipes, the difficulty of a stiff reed, the exhaustion of being blown out. Bill Read was Stu's piping partner and friend of 22 years. They took up the pipes at the same time, had the same teacher, and stuck together all the way through. Bill Read knew Stu as a piper, and, both before and after Stu's death, Bill told me much about my father I would not have known. For example, at Stu's funeral, when Bill and I played pipes from the balcony of First Congregational Church before the service, Bill told me how much Stu suffered from performance anxiety. He was a nervous piper, Bill said, and it was true. Though he willingly performed at church talent shows, local weddings, funerals of family and friends, parades with his bagpipe band, he always had that jot of nerves. Of course, I do, too. Though I like to perform, who can help but be nervous at the prospect of creating that much sound? And yet he kept piping, and sharing his love for the music, and for all things Scottish.
As much as my father was willing to share the pipes, he was not an ambitious piper in terms of driving himself to improve technique, or to learn more and more tunes. He and Bill learned many tunes in their 22 years together, but when I borrowed Stu's pipes to play in the year after his death, I found in his bagpipe case a folder marked "Repertoire." The folder contained the sheet music for the fewer than twenty standard tunes that my father knew well and played comfortably. My purpose here is to play those tunes, to honor his music, his life, and to keep the tradition of them in the family. After all, I said that bagpiping was not part of the family tradition when my brothers and sister and I were living in the household. I moved back to Topeka in 1982, after the birth of Eleanor Goudie-Averill (who was serenaded by her grandfather within hours of her birth at the Holistic Birth and Growth Center with "Amazing Grace"). I thought I should have a musical instrument in my life, and was tempted with Stu's offer to buy me a practice chanter kit as a gift. I practiced with a tape, was fairly proficient, then gave it up before joining my father's bagpipe group, or attempting to make the transition to the Great Highland Bagpipe. Sometime after Stu's heart attack, though, I became interested again in learning, and practice chanted again. This time, John Snyder let us know that his pipes were for sale, and Stu bought them for $200. When and if I wanted to play, he told me, I could buy them from him. I quit one more time before I went all the way through the process of chanter proficiency, then transition to the pipe, played at first without drones, and then fully. I've been a piper now for over ten years. By now, I know Stu's repertoire, and have written and practiced other tunes since his death. They are part of my tradition, now, and I want to pass them along.
When Bill and Stu were joined by enough other pipers in the Topeka area, they gave themselves a name, Pipers of the Plains. Each band has standard sets played in performances and parades. The 2/4s refer to two commonly played marches, 1. "Brown Haired Maiden" & 2. "High Road to Gerlach"
The 3/4s are also marches, but with the 3/4 tempo. Pipers of the Plains always combined 3. "Green Hills of Tyrol" & 4. "I See Mull"
Everyone, Scot or not, knows one pipe tune, and it's a difficult one to play, but every piper must know it--of course, it's 5. "Scotland the Brave" 6.
"Amazing Grace" is played on many occasions. I've mentioned its association with the birth of grandchildren, but Stu also played it at his mother's and brother's funerals, just as Bill Read and I played it at his funeral, at the church, and the Pipers of the Plains played it at his graveside ceremony at Mount Hope Cemetery.
On St. Patrick's Day, when Bill and Stu, and later the Pipers of the Plains, played for money and drinks, they needed to know at least one Irish standard. Although they always played "Scotland the Brave," jokingly calling it "Ireland the Brave," they also learned a standard Irish parade march, 7. "The Wearing of the Green."
And another fine parade march for any Celtic occasion, 8. "Rowan Tree."
As much as Stu loved to play the pipes, he was, as Bill Read later told me, an anxious performer. In 1995, Pipers of the Plains had swelled to six pipers and four drummers, just enough personnel to enter the Grade IV Pipe Band competition at the Kansas City Highland Games. We readied a medley. We practiced it for over six months. In 1996, just two months before Stu's death, we competed with our medley for the second time. Stu always felt we played them too much, especially the day of the competition, so much that he and other pipers would tire. On that June Saturday in Kansas City, he objected when Bill told us to play it one more time before competition. "No," said Stu, "I'll blow out." I agreed. Bill forced it, and although I could have played, I stood, silent, pipes at my side, eye to eye with my father. I wanted to support him. I want to share four of those medley tunes, played one after the other: 9. "Heyken's Serenade" is a march, 10. "Honey in the Bag" is a jig 11. "Highland Laddie" is a march, and 12. "Keel Row" is a dance tune known as a strathspey.
Two other tunes in the repertoire were often played on special occasions. 13. "Auld Lang Syne" for New Year's Eve, and 14. "Abide With Me" for church.
On the very last St. Patrick's Day that Stu played, March 17, 1996, he was very careful to save his strength and energy. He didn't imbibe any alcohol until the end of the day, when we were at Champion's Barbeque, and the bartender, in the spirit of the occasion, and probably high in spirits himself, offered us single-malt whisky, and we couldn't refuse. We drank a couple of shots, and while other members of the band were taking a break, my father came over to my side and said, "Let's play a couple together, the seconds." Seconds are harmony parts, and the band always designated them to me. Later, after Stu's death, I figured that he knew it might his last St. Patrick's Day. Even during the playing of the tunes, I knew it was a fine moment, one of our best in bagpiping together. So, I'll play them--they were part of our 1995 and 1996 Pipers of the Plains competition medley--back to back, 15. "Skye Boat Song" and 16. "Going Home" with seconds, as he and I did five months before his death.
For my 49th birthday, I bought shuttle pipes. They are pipes with a mellow, indoor sound, physically easier to play, though the fingering and tuning are the same as the Great Highland pipes. The shuttle pipes allow me to play with friends who play other instruments, to practice indoors more easily in winter and in the heat and rain of summer. I wish Stu had lived long enough to hear them, because I would have tried hard to convince him to buy the instrument. I look forward to years and years with them, and, when I'm in my 70s, and tire more easily, I'll still be having some ease of playing, a time with the bagpipes when I don't have to heave and sweat as though I'm wrestling a small pig. I'll play the shuttle pipes on some of the tunes that follow: tunes Stu was learning at the time of his death, and some favorites from my own repertoire.
I found the sheet music in his repertoire folder for two tunes Stu was just beginning to learn, but which the band never perfected enough to play together. Both are 6/8 marches, a kind of march not in the Pipers of the Plains repertoire. The first is 17. "O'Sullivan's March" and the second is 18. "Angus McKinnon."
After Stu's death, Pipers of the Plains took a break in competition, but on June 13, 1998, we competed again, with a medley of original tunes, all important to our particular band, and many to Stuart Averill. I'll play them as we played them, one after the other. They are: 19 "Alexander's Welcome"--a 2/4 march written by Steve Denny, upon the birth of Alexander Goudie-Averill in January of 1997.
20. "Kansas No More"--a slow aire written by Bill Read on the death of John Snyder, whose pipes Stu bought sensing that one day I would want to play. I wrote the seconds to this tune.
21. "Teacher on the Green"--a jig written by Bill Read for his fiddle teacher (now his wife).
22. "The Lament of the Piper's Son"--a slow aire written by Ric Averill, and played by him on the piano at our father's funeral. I wrote seconds for this one, too.
23. "The Stuart Averill"--a 3/4 march written by me sometime after Stu's death, to celebrate his 22-year relationship to the bagpipe, and his interest in convincing me to play them, as well.
Since Stu's death, I've been writing more tunes. Since Alexander had one, I wrote one for Eleanor Goudie-Averill. It tries to capture her dancing spirit and fine outlook on life. She titled it, 24. "Who Waits for Silver Divas?"
To celebrate my love for and my relationship with Jeffrey Ann Goudie, and to further our union bound by our mutual McPherson Clan membership, I wrote 25. "Aglove" and dedicate it to my wife, who has always been supportive, if not appreciative, of my piping.
And for another person always supportive but not always appreciative of piping, my mother, I wrote a tune. I thought of the tune Tucker used to play on the piano, one of her favorites, "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning." I wondered if it might translate to the pipes. It did, and here is what I've retitled 26. "Beautiful Day" for Tucker Averill.
Our family has a close association with an old hymn that converts well to the bagpipes, "Morning has Broken." Larry Rosen and his brothers heard it as sung by Cat Stephens, when they were together for the last time, and it was played at Larry Rosen's funeral, then again at the funerals for Laura Elizabeth Rosen and Stuart Averill. I've re- arranged the hymn, and retitled it 27. "Full Evening." The original tune is embedded in the middle of this tribute to the Rosen family.
Recently, I've been playing tunes close to my heart, expanding my repertoire as a bagpiper. 28. "Rocking the Baby" is something I've spent a great deal of time doing, with the birth, just five months after Stu's death, of Alexander Goudie-Averill. It's a fine, rocking jig.
I've been trying to learn other kinds of bagpipe tunes. So, here's my attempt at a hornpipe, 29. "The Kitchen Piper."
I tend to be the Piper of the Plains who does the pre-parade duty of travelling to various offices with the Irish committee, drumming and piping up interest in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. This means that I play all through the Shawnee County Courthouse (even occasionally interrupting the courtroom of that fine judge Eric Rosen), and then going to city offices, and then ending up at the State Capitol. I love heading into the governor's office and playing my Kansas favorite, 29. "Home on the Range."
I want to end this tribute by playing the 30. "Stuart Averill" again, because the band didn't learn it all. I wrote it with Stu in mind, that it would be a tune he could have mastered on the pipes. Since his death, 6 new pipers have joined the Pipers of the Plains, and they all tried hard to get up to speed for the 1998 Kansas City Highland games, so we left out the quick part of "The Stuart Averill." Here is the tune, quick part and all, as I wish he'd lived to learn it himself. For he would have mastered it, as he did so much of his life. He was a dedicated piper, and he drove me out into the country, to Steve Denny's house, for the usual Wednesday night practice on August 7, 1996. We tuned, played less time than usual and left. "That was a good practice," he told me on the way home, "short and sweet. Not a lot of messing around." He played well, too, that night before his death, and the last notes from his pipe were true ones. As I blow into the same pipe bag he blew into all those 22 years, I hope for true notes, and for the continued tradition of piping in my family. Who knows where this music will find another heart? Stu's colleague, Kathryn Zerbe, introduced his Menninger Bulletin article with some fine final words: "Who will ever forget Stu's glowing recitations of ancient Scottish toasts, bagpipe melodies, and his beloved poetry of Robert Burns? Through his eyes and words, we came to know a bit of the grandeur of Scotland, and of the Scotsman." As the Averill who took up the pipes, who learned his tunes, I play these tunes as a tribute, as a remembering, so that we might not forget at least one area of his life that stirred his heart, and ours.
This CD was recorded at Steve Lerner's house, using his studio. He did all the recording, mixing, editing, and I couldn't have done Stu's Repertoire without him. Thanks also to the Pipers of the Plains, for hours of support and instruction and fellowship. For more information about this CD, please contact Tom Averill/ 628 SW Webster/ Topeka, KS 66606/ (785) 354-7451/ email@example.com Although I don't put a copyright on this project, individual tunes played here are copyrighted--please research that before using this CD for anything but personal enjoyment.
Tunes and Times:Who Waits for Silver Divas? (1:24)
Brown Haired Maiden & High Road to Gerlach (1:24)
Green Hills of Tyrol & I See Mull (2:16)
Scotland the Brave (1:20)
Amazing Grace (3:20)
Wearing of the Green (1:16)
Rowan Tree (1:33)
Heyken's Serenade (:48)
Honey in the Bag (1:06)
Highland Laddie (:56)
Keel Row (:58)
Auld Lang Syne (1:16)
Abide With Me (1:33)
Skye Boat Song (1:42)
Going Home (1:10)
O'Sullivan's March (:56)
Angus McKinnon (2:20)
Kansas No More
Teacher on the Green
Lament of the Piper's Son
The Stuart Averill (4:46)
Beautiful Day (2:21)
Full Evening (1:20)
Rocking the Baby (1:04)
The Kitchen Piper (1:40)
Home on the Range (:54)
The Stuart Averill (1:20)
Total time: 41 minutes
You may listen to Scotland the Brave or Skye Boat Song.
I will be adding other aspects of my bagpiping and relationship with Scottish culture as time permits. If you have any comments about this page, please contact:
Washburn University of Topeka
Topeka, KS 66621
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