Living Today The Salina Journal Sunday, January 19,1986 Page 21 Pipe dreams By CECILIA HARRIS _ StattWriter «J ohn Burchill often sneaks off to Salina's Oakdale Park where his addiction to his pipe won't bother his neighbors. The compulsion first afflicted him as a youngster. He idolized adults who used the pipes and longed for one of his own. Now 28, the avid piper has no intention of kicking the habit that brings him so much joy. Burchill's pipe fills the air not with smoke, but with music. His is the Great Highland bagpipe. "A lot of people get addicted (to playing the bagpipe); it's almost narcotic," he said. The piper, who has played for 10 years, often can be seen, and heard, practicing four or five hours a week. "It's an instrument that needs constant practice and main- • tenance. It requires constant attention — and cooperative neighbors. It is definitely an outdoor instrument." Music always has been a part of his life — he plays the baritone and trumpet and is learning the concertina and banjo. His greatest interest lies in uncommon instruments, such as his bagpipe. "It is one of the few instruments that has a colorful heritage and history." The bagpipe originated in a simplistic form in ancient Egypt, according to Burchill. Later, the instrument became more sophisticated with the addition of an animal skin bag and a blowpipe. Wandering minstrels played bagpipes throughout most of Europe during the Middle Ages. „ Burchill's Great Highland pipe was developed as an instrument ofwar by the early clans of Scotland. Used much like a bugle, bagpipes stirred the troops, and certain melodic phrases told the soldiers to charge or retreat. But when the English invaded Scotland in the 1700s, Burchill said the bagpipe was banned. It was perceived as a nationalistic symbol and one that rallied the Scots against their oppressor. Playing it was punishable by "lopping off the hands of the piper" or death. All of the music was burned. "It was almost a lost art," Burchill said, adding some pipers recalled the music from memory and the bagpipe eventually returned, The pipe still is used in the military in the United Kingdom. Pipers saw action as recently as the Korean War. In the United States there were several pipers in the 7th Cavalry of Kansas, he said. The cavalry's theme song, "Garryowen," is an old Irish pipe tune. The bagpipe is not legally classified as a musical instrument in the United States, however. Burchill said a bagpipe band , once spooked a horse during a parade in his hometown of Chicago, and the rider fell through a glass store window. The band was sued for damages and a judge, ruling the bagpipe was not a musical instrument, said the band was liable. The U.S. Air Force, once had a bagpipe band, but most pipe bands today are found on college campuses. They "got the biggest push in the U.S." when two played at the funeral of the late President ' John F. Kennedy, on national television, he said. Burchill's own passion for the bagpipe began with a 1971 family visit to the countries of his origin, Ireland and Scotland. He became intrigued by his heritage. While in Edinburgh, Scotland, Burchill saw the last public performance of a military pipe band and vividly remembers the old veterans standing proudly with their bagpipes. A few years later, he started lessons in Chicago and has been hooked on the pipe, and the Highlands of Scotland customs, since. A Scottish bagpipe doll and a photo of a band can be found in his office in the City-County Building where he is a court service officer. Although the bagpipe is not difficult to play, Burchill said les- sonsare important. "Trying to learn without proper instruction is like trying to blow up inner tubes with your lips. It's next to impossible." A beginner starts with a practice chanter, that part of the instrument on which the melody is played. The student later moves on to the bagpipe; the instrument costs around $350. People often equate the instrument with marches and hymns, but Burchill said there are many styles of bagpipe music including classical. Some scores are 40 minutes long. "Each song has a story to it and that makes it more interesting." While attending Kansas Wesleyan University, he continued to play the bagpipe but there were no bands in the area. Five years ago he helped organize the City of McPherson Pipe Band and now is (See Pipe, Page 22) Salinan John Burchill, 28, says constant practice and cooperative neighbors are essential to bagpipe playing. Quality of tone key to piano selection By The Associated Press When in the market for a piano, remember that a grand piano might be a necessity for Liberace, but it's not necessarily the best for everyone. Admittedly, grand pianos, which occupy from 4% to 9% feet front to back, are more responsive and more powerful than lesser instruments, obeying a rule of thumb that says the larger the piano, the better the tone. But if you're squeezed for space, buying a vertical model might make sense. Verticals stand 36 to 52 inches high and fit in a floor space about 5-by-2 feet. Upright pianos are at least 52 inches high. The dwarfs of the family are 36- to 37-inch high spinets. The industry calls the intervening sizes consolette (38 to 39 inches), console (40 to 43 inches), studio (45 inches) and professional (46 to 52 inches). The following will give you an idea of the price range available. • Top-of-the-line: These pianos include models from Steinway and Baldwin and some prestigious European names, such as Bechstein or Bosendorfer. Prices generally run $25,000 to $37,000 for concert grands. Top-level upright models settle in the $7,000 to $10,000 neighborhood. • Midrange: About a third of the pianos sold in the United States each year are made abroad, mainly in Japan and Korea. Imports increasingly occupy the moderate price range. Models of note are Yamaha and Kawai. Overall, expect to pay from $7,000 to $15,000 at this level for grand pianos. Verticals fall between $4,000 and $6,000. • Economy: The list includes most Korean imports, namely such brands as Young Chang, Sojin and Samick, but add such American- made products as Kimball, Wurlitzer and Baldwin. Grands in this category range from $5,000 to $7,000 and verticals from less than $1,000 to $3,000. Very fine cabinetry often takes a piano into the price range of a larger or better instrument. Before you shop, decide how good a piano you need. Will an expensive grand also serve as an attractive piece of furniture in a large room? If the piano is for a beginner, maybe an instructor can help with your decision. "Select an instrument you've heard of and you will probably get a good deal and a company who will stand behind its name," Jack Krefting, veteran piano technician and consultant to several major manufacturers, told Changing Times. Be frank about how much you can afford to pay for an instrument and what use you plan for it. Ultimately, you'll have to judge the sound of pianos you are considering and balance price against quality of tone. To compare tone, have the salesperson strike a single note on one piano, then immediately strike the same note yourself on another you're considering; listen to several chords or a part of a composition in the same way. Also, depress the right pedal and hit every key separately. After you've selected a piano that looks, feels and sounds good to you, ask the dealer to have it tuned, then come back and listen to it again. It's important to consider feel, or the resistance of the keys. Stiff keys and uneven resistance across the keyboard may discourage a novice from practicing and playing. Piano keys should depress evenly, without sticking and with the same amount of pressure required on each key. Pedals and hammers shouldn't stick or squeak. When you shop, the salesperson will refer to its various parts: • Soundboard: This wooden panel amplifies the vibrations of the strings. Straight-grain solid spruce is used in the soundboard of many top-notch instruments, but some manufacturers use a laminated "sandwich" of spruce, with basswood or poplar as the middle layer. • Bridges: Strips of maple attached to the soundboard transmit vibrations from the strings to the soundboard. • Ribs, which run diagonally across the back or underside of the soundboard, help distribute the sound. • Plate: This cast-iron form is bolted to the piano frame and serves to anchor one end of each string. • Tuning pins and block: The other ends of the strings are wound on tuning pins set in the pin block — plies of hardwood attached to the plate. • Action: As the working end of the piano, it consists of about. 7,500 parts, including those that make the hammers strike the strings. Grand pianos, with a high-performance action, allow nine to 12 repetitions per second of a note. Verticals permit five to eight repetitions per second, okay for most amateurs and students. Spinet actions are similar to other verticals but are more time-consuming to remove for servicing. • Hammers: Hammers are precision-made wood pieces capped with one or two layers of top-grade mothproofed pure wool felt. Some Japanese and Korean hammers aren't as hard as domestic makes and are often treated with a lacquer solution to make their sound louder and brighter. • Pedals: Most pianists do fine with only two pedals: the sustaining pedal on the right and the soft pedal on the left. On some models a sostenuto pedal allows the pianist to sustain a note or chord while playing other notes. • Case: A polyester finish costs more than a lacquer coating—up to an additional $500—on the few domestic instruments that have it. The polyester finish resists spilled alcoholic drinks, cigarette bums and oily fingerprints. U.S. manufacturers say the lacquer finish not only matches other furniture in the home better, but is also more easily repaired and has a good track record of durability. Carefully compare warranties. Do both the manufacturer and the dealer warrant the piano? A reasonable warranty covers the instrument for five to 10 years but usually isn't transferrable. It probably won't cover tuning or action regulation, so make sure the dealer agrees to adjustments upon delivery. Can the dealer provide continuing professional service through its staff of trained technicians, preferable to service through a separate shop. Shop around at your bank or credit union and compare their financing terms with the dealer's terms. Finally, ask the salesperson to write down the identifying serial number of the piano you've examined. Because one piano is not necessarily just like another, you're entitled to the instrument you've seen and heard in the store. Shicoff worldwide opera star NEW YORK (AP) — Neil Shicoff is a man of surprises. An American tenor, well on his way to stardom, Shicoff came through the backstage door at the Metropolitan Opera House sporting a beard. Was he going to do Romeo like this? He grew the beard for '"Faust," which he sang recently in Germany. Though he likes himself with it, he acknowledges it has to go for Romeo. Meanwhile, it enables him to gad about incognito. Time magazine recently described Shicoff as "an American tenor with a big Italianate voice" in a review of his video performance as Rodolfo in Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme," filmed at Covent Garden. The video will be shown over the Arts and Entertainment Network this March. Italian opera-goers will be able to judge Shicoffs vocal abilities for themselves this coining June when he will make his debut at the famed La Scala in Milan, to many the top of the operatic mountain.
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