Jun 21, 2009

An Interview Edward Channon, Piper and Author

Ballad of A Bagpiper - Edward ChannonEdward Channon, a resident of Portland Oregon, has been playing the bagpipes for 35 years. He has recently completed his first book:- The Ballad of A Bagpiper. The book details the humorous stories of things Edward has observed over the years at weddings, funerals, events and a myriad of other gatherings around the world. Edward will be appearing at the Left Coast Eisteddfod where he will be giving a presentation and demonstration of his piping skills and signing copies of his new book.

Edward Channon playing the BagpipesAmericymru: How and why did you start learning the bagpipes?

Edward: I didn’t start with the bagpipes when it comes to learning a musical instrument because both of my parents are classical pianists, I started playing the piano at age four. My father learned in Austria and my mother in the USA. However,my mother being of German/Scotch decent, made me practice the piano at least two times a day ,for about an hour each time. She always gave me that image that comes from being German discipline, thats my mum. If I got something wrong she would yell at me, striking me on the hands with a ruler or just stand behind me yelling ‘PRACTICE, PRACTICE , PRACTICE’ with a German accent ,looking like a Gestapo agent, which always scared the hell out of me!

My grandfather, who at that time was a Episcopal minister and loved classical music, also played the bagpipes. Since I was young he constantly told me how fun bagpipes were. So pulling me away from the piano he showed me the techniques in playing this weird looking and sounding instrument. Of course, I had to use smaller ones, his made me fall over because of its size and weight. He always joked that if you suck at playing the piano, you can’t pick it up and walk out, at least with the pipes you can walk out. Didn’t need to say more!

Americymru: You’ve written a book recently called Ballad of a Bagpiper How would you describe it?

Edward: Ballad of a Bagpiper is the first of its kind in this wonderful world of ours. At least, in the bagpipe world. It's about the funny things that have happened to me, really, and the things I saw at weddings, parties, military events, and even funerals over the many years I’ve been playing. It's not really a life story but more about small segments rather short stories of my life playing this instrument.

Americymru: Do you have a favorite humorous incident?

Edward: I once played for a funeral in England after a rain storm , so the ground was wet, muddy and just slippery typical Britain. Even though I was watching where I was walking, I also had to watch the funeral to get a sign from the minister or family that I had to stop playing, which I had been doing for a while. Walking and looking, walking and looking; finally I thought I saw the sign but it was false, so I kept playing but I didn’t see where I was walking and fell into a newly dug grave. Yes ,it was deep and it was full of water.

Another story, I was doing a benefit walking down the street ,leading runners in a charity run, so that as I walked the runners would run past me. I was sure that they heard me, how can you not hear the bagpipes being played, but I was being bumped and pushed as they ran by. I didn’t care, I was having fun. When I got to a corner, a few reporters came running out to ask runners questions, one of them came up to me to ask me something. I gave them that look like, ‘Ah hello! I’m playing, kind of hard to talk!’ I tried to tell them but I couldn’t and they ran off....... I’ve been in that situation a few times and each time I wonder if reporters ever get it!

Americymru: Where does your sense of humor come from?

Edward: I grew up watching British comedy shows like ‘Benny Hill’, ‘Monty Python’, ‘Dad’s Army’, ‘Are you being Served?’, ‘Man about the House’ and more. But the comedians Spike Mulligan, Peter Sellers and my father were great influences on me and how I look at the world. Not to be a critic about things but seeing the funny side of any situation.

Americymru: Would you say that Celtic music has been your biggest influence in play the bagpipes?

Edward: To tell the truth, no. Growing up I listened to Chopin, Bach, Mozart but going to primary school one day I heard a band called Def Leppard. That was it, I was hooked on rock. Since then heavy metal, classical, pop have been influences on me. I personally find Celtic music kind of boring if not played with passion and many don’t have it. Bagpipers are the same: if you don’t have the passion or the state of mind, then you shouldn’t be playing if it doesn’t come from the heart.

Americymru: You reference some bizarre events in your book. Can you elaborate on these?

Edward: Well I’ve played for a nudist wedding, a vampire wedding and so many more. I don’t want to give to much away. These are just a just a couple of weird or interesting events that I’ve done. Things that I guess a bagpiper probably wouldn't play for or be included in normally however they were interesting and weird, which made them fun to watch and be in.

Americymru: Do you have any book influences or writers you like?

Edward: That's a hard one, since I read all types of books and have since I was a kid. I love all genres but I would say my favorite is Jack Higgins. But I love Bernard Cornwell, Sergei Lukyanenko, Nigel Tranter to name a few.

Americymru: What kind of engagements do you play at?

Edward: Of course I’ve played for normal events like weddings to funerals, a number of these have been very usual in themselves, but I have also played for parties including a fraternity initiation parties, hen nights and stag night parties as well as birthday parties; business events, and even a Bar Mitzvah. However, it has never been about the money for me, I love what I do. It's all about the people I meet, the joy in helping them and the experience of doing it. But, of course in doing so I got into situations where I couldn’t leave or get out of!

Americymru: You’ve played for some celebrities and even royalty can you tell us more about that?

Edward: When playing for politicians and royalty, it is like entering different worlds. Politicians like it to make them look good no matter what, ‘Do it this way as long I look good’. While royalty like it done very specific, conservative and old ways ways, tradition all rules their thinking. ‘This is way we’ve done it for centuries,’ Celebrities such as movie or TV stars are really the most fun. ‘Just have fun!’ is what they’ve always tell me. Each person I play for holds a distinct memory for me, however, playing for Queen Elizabeth is kind of hard to remember as I was so young at the time. Princess Diana was one I remember as being the most elegant, because of her beauty and grace. Her loss was a terrible for Britain and the world. From Reagan to the local politician’s I remember as being stressful because I have to be careful what I say. I have a tendency to say the wrong thing at the worse time, getting the politician in trouble. I’m good at that, my wife would say.

Americymru: Any plans for a record deal or music CD of your own?

Edward: I do. I was recently approached by a record producer to set something up in the near future. Don’t know what type of CD it will be as I find the normal bagpipe CD kind of boring and over done. So, who knows, but as with this book it will be a first of its kind.

Americymru: Any other message for the members and readers of Americymru?

Edward: Just that this book will give everyone a good laugh and for those musicians out there remember that all things are possible if you have a sense of humor when you look at something. Humor I think brings out both the worse and the best in people you just have to figure what to do in that situation. Of course having humor can get you in trouble.... as you will see. hehe!!

Americymru: Any public appearances in the near future?

Edward: I do have many are coming up. The Scottish Highland Games in Gresham, Oregon I’ll be making an appearance there with Kathleen’s of Dublin. I also have a launch party at Kathleen’s of Dublin in Portland on 6 Aug. I will also have a launch party in Seattle on 30 July. I will be working with the Iron Mutt Coffee Company which has three cafe’s around Portland in doing signings, one this coming Saturday the 27th from 10-12 in Hillsboro. This is great place to bring your dog and get them high on caffeine. I’ll be in Seattle, Los Angles as well later in the summer. I believe I’ll be in Boston, London, England, New York, and Albuquerque, New Mexico as well. Then of course Americymru’s big event the third weekend of August which I hope shows the world the funny world of Celtic music.

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