Hire the Band
Since more people are using Pipers at weddings, funerals, and other special occasions, we have included some “Tips” for you to consider before making your call to a Solo Piper, and/or to the Pipe & Drum Band. These “Tips” have at their source, almost twenty years of Piping experience and we hope you will find them a valuable source of information in planning a wedding, funeral, or other occasion.
Generally, these are played by Solo Pipers. It is vitally important that the Piper be given as much notice as possible prior to the date and time of the service. If you wish a Piper to play at your service or at the service of a loved one at some future time, I would suggest you consider the following:
1. Inform your family, let there be no doubt of your request. Supply two or three of them with the information on where to contact a Piper when that time comes. Let those you inform choose among them one person who will make the initial Piper contact, so that the Piper will not be fielding multiple calls for the same service. It is less confusing and time-wise, more expedient. Apart from telling your family members, it is always prudent to inform the funeral home of your request. In fact, your Funeral Home Director can make the initial Piper contact for you. There are advantages to letting your Funeral Director make the initial contact, but it's okay if a member of the family or family friend does it. Other parties that would need to be informed of your request are of course those who will be conducting the service, such as your Pastor, Rabbi, or Priest.
2. As I mentioned before, there are advantages to allowing the Funeral Services Director to make the Piper contact for you. You would need to contact the Director and make him/her aware of your request and to include it in your service package. Then, once the Director is notified of your passing, he/she will review your request and make the contact. The Director, as your advocate, will notify a Piper and by doing so, will take the burden of the initial Piper contact, set-up, directions, time and place, and other such matters away from the family. Plus, the Director can also be the one the Piper will be taking cues from during the service, relieving the family and friends from tackling this obligation. Using this route, the only things that you would need to do is to first inform the Funeral Director of your request and provide for the Piper's compensation, which can be given directly to the Director to give to the Piper, or passed along by a family member or family friend the day of the service.
3. In the event a Piper cannot be secured at the time of the service, there are other ways that your memory, or the memory of a loved one can be honored. It is standard practice in many churches that people are allowed to place flowers in memory of deceased family and friends. Consider asking the Piper to play during a worship service. Most churches welcome the opportunity and if an announcement is made ahead of time, your tribute may be received by a host of listeners. Funeral Protocol for Pipers
A Piper can play at anytime during the church service and/or at the graveside. The most requested time during the church service is at the recessional of the body. It is important that the Piper arrive at the church early and can secure a vacant room as far away as possible from the Sanctuary to change and to tune in. The Piper takes the lead position, proceeding in front of the funeral party, playing as he exits the church and continues to play until the body is secured in the hearse. Until it is the Piper's time to play, he/she will usually stay concealed. This ensures a memorable effect on part of those attending and does not distract from the service during its course.
At graveside, the most requested time for the Piper to play is after the last prayer. Sometimes the Piper will play as the body is taken from the hearse and processed to the site and will continue to play until all the funeral party is in place, and other times, the Piper will play at both. It is important for the Piper to get to the site ahead of the funeral party so tuning and site inspection can be done. The Piper will usually stand at some distance from the site area and must rely on a cue from someone (usually the Funeral Director) as to when to begin playing.
The most requested tune at funerals is, of course, Amazing Grace. Many Pipers usually reserve that noble standard for the very last tune. Also, there is the walk-away effect, where when playing the last verse, the Piper will literally walk away, creating a fading sound.
The thing to remember when planning a wedding with a Bagpiper is what type of “effect” you want the Piper to create for you. Believe it or not, weddings can be the most stressful events a Piper will play. That is why Pipers charge a bit more than they do at most other occasions, with the exception of one or two. There are usually other considerations involved such as videos, pictures, intricate timing details, rehearsals, more dialogue, and receptions.
The “Formal” effect is where a Piper will play during the wedding ceremony. Again, the Piper will remain concealed until the time to play. The most requested time for the Piper to play at a wedding is during the recessional, at which point the Bride and Groom will make their exit with the Piper following behind. Now, the Piper can go before the Bride and Groom, but with the Piper behind them, they can recess at their own speed. Once the Piper is outside the building, the pipes will be silenced and the organist can retire the rest of the wedding party. On rare occasions, I have received the double honor of “Piping” the Bride down the aisle. I usually lead the Bride in, so as to “announce” her arrival. She will follow about five paces behind. I would warn those planning a wedding not to put the Piper in a stationary position up front near the altar or in a balcony (when he/she is piping in the bride) unless you have someone motioning the congregation to stand when the Bride makes her entrance. If you don’t, then you will have the Bride almost to the front before anyone knows she is coming down the aisle. By the Piper leading five paces in front of the Bride, the people will hear the Pipes, turn around and see the Bride following behind, and will rise to their feet.
Paying the Piper is usually done during the course of, or after the event. Personally, I think that works quite well given that there is always the remote possibility of a Piper falling ill and having to tag another Piper. So just wait until the occasion, unless of course, the Piper you select requires a down payment of some type. Usually down payments are lost if the event is cancelled, since the Piper has already spent time and effort in planning as well as possibly having rejected other opportunities for that time period. Payment made by cash or check is fine, and if payment cannot be made during the time of the event, it is usually okay to mail it to the Piper. However, it is both good business and prudent to check with the Piper to see if that would be satisfactory, to which I think most would accept. Fees have mileage, performance time, overnight accommodations (if any), and meals factored into them. There is some slight variation in fees between Pipers, but most are within accepted ranges and all Pipers will be more than willing to give you an amount for services.
Requesting Tunes for Services and Occasions
Most Pipers will take requests and are more than willing to suggest some tunes for your service or occasion. For those not familiar with the Great Highland Bagpipes, it is a one octave instrument with nine notes, from Low G to High A. This prohibits us from being able to play many tunes with notes and movements outside of that range. Sometimes I have someone ask me about a certain song they heard on the radio and want to know if I can play it. They will tell me that it had bagpipes on it. Upon further research, I find the song to have been played on a keyboard with a bagpipe sound synthesized on it. Clearly out of range for a Bagpipe. If you have a request, please feel free to give it, but be mindful that it may or may not can be applied to the range of the Great Highland Bagpipes.
Booking a Piper
Check out the “Band Member” page and note the location of a Piper near you. This will help defray the mileage cost and travel expense. Once the contact is made, verify that the date is available and if not, if a recommendation of another Piper can be made. If you desire a Piper at your wedding, you should notify the Piper as soon as possible. Some notifications are made a year in advance. If you wait to a few months or weeks before your wedding to try and secure a Piper, you may be out of luck. By booking early, even a previously booked Piper may have opportunity to contact another Piper who may not already be booked. But the later you wait, the greater the chance will be of all Pipers being booked somewhere.
Funerals are different. Due to the short time notice usually given to Pipers (no more than three days if we’re lucky) and many funerals occurring on weekdays when there are work conflicts and school is in session, we go into overdrive to try and honor these request by polling “available” Pipers. I would suggest that you contact the Piper nearest the place where the event or the service will be held (Consult the Band Members Page) and start there.