Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat – September 24-27, 2015

This post is a quick blurb about the Spanish Peaks Piping Retreat held in Walsenburg/La Veta/Gardner, CO (Colorado). This retreat his held as part of the Spanish Peaks International Celtic Music Festival.

First, a bit about last year’s festival and piping workshops:

I attend the SPICMF last year where I attended an all day workshop on Saturday with Will Woodson of hybrid border/uilleann pipe fame. I learned a lot from Will: instrument maintenance, reed manipulation, bellows technique, melodic articulation and variation of style, and a few tunes. In addition to the workshop, there were evening concerts which were spectacular; Ireland’s Full Set was a real treat to hear Friday night and the instructor’s concert Saturday night was great too. I say instructorS because there were workshops for just about everything other celtic instrument during the weekend also.

This year is going to be even better! From a piper’s perspective anyway. Here is the official piping retreat schedule. What follows focuses on the highland style instruments, info on the uilleann pipe workshops with Jerry O’Sullivan (!!!) can be found here.

Starting Thursday, internationally acclaimed musician Carlos Nunez gets things started with a multi-instrumental workshop focusing on the music of Galicia. Later that day there’s the first concert of SPICMF.

Friday sees the start of the piping retreat (with a focus on bellows blown type pipes: smallpipes, shuttle pipes, border pipes, etc; mouthblown versions of traditionally bellows blown instruments are welcome too). The primary instructor for the piping workshop this year is Fin Moore, Hamish Moore‘s son. Hamish and Fin have probably the most famous bellows blown pipe making firm on Earth. I understand Angus MacKenzie of the Scottish band Daimh (“dive”, I think) might be milling about as well. Carlos will stop by the piping workshops before heading off to prepare for his concert Friday night. Carlos played a concert in Lubbock, TX (where I live) for International Bagpipe Day this year (March 10) and that was the best concert I’d ever been to, bar none. That guy has more music in the air he exhales than I’ve got in my whole body. I’d say the trip to Colorado was worth just this concert alone. But it gets better!

Saturday, the piping workshops with Fin Moore continue with an additional session in the afternoon playing with the harp workshop participants. I have never played with a harpist, so this will be a first for me. Following Saturday’s slew of workshops is the Saturday night concert with Daimh! Daimh is a Scottish group that incorporates highland bagpipes along with vocals, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and now uilleann pipes. It’s going to be a great concert for sure.

Sunday morning sees yet another workshop followed by the Grand Finale Concert which I’m guessing will be an amalgamation of the instructors playing together, always a delight.

Information regarding registering for the retreat can be had on this page. At the time of posting, a bit late I admit, the early bird discount has already passed (shucks!). Organizing the piping retreat is Jim Conley who’s a great guy and a very trustworthy man. Jim is the one who sent me a set of Henry Starck pipes to play and display on the blog while he was going to be out of the country for a spell, just for the heck of it. He contacted me, not the other way around. Jim also knows all the great places to eat and visit while you’re there. Which leads me to:

That area is a very beautiful part of Colorado. The Spanish Peaks are twin mountain peaks that you can go hiking around. Here’s me playing Jim’s Colin Kyo bagpipes out in Jim’s backyard.

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Walsenburg is a bit off the beaten path and so if you have non-piping relatives that you’d have to drag along with you (bleh, I know), there are plenty of great restaurants and outdoor activities to partake in. There’s Lathrop state park “just across the street”.

I can’t wait to go and I hope to see you there!