Hobbies

Well, there is only one really, but I do go for that one for real.

Music

I love music, any and all music! (Except for most modern popular genres, which makes me dislike what most people like – bummer.) I usually have a strong opinion on if a piece is good or bad, but this is not connected to genres, it is strictly for individual pieces. Here’s a list of my current favourite genres:

  • Ethnic music, especially
    • Classical Indian ragas (love the interesting scales and bends)
    • Mongolian and Tibetan larynx singing (so amazing)
    • South African mbira music (Stella Chiwese, you are a goddess)
    • Scandinavian folk music (this is a latecomer on my list) especially
      • Erik Pekkari’s accordion playing
    • Celtic music of the traditional kind, not really the modern bland world music. Especially
      • Sharon Shannon’s accordion playing on the early recordings
  • Classical western music (a very large genre, I know) especially
    • 18th century opera seria by Handel, Hasse and others (I have a soft spot for male sopranists)
    • Medieval and renaissance music by Susato, Monteverdi and others. Performers I like are Joculatoris Upsaliensis and Convivum Musicum. Both are Swedish groups led by the same person, Sven Berger
  • And last but not least, bagpipes. I, in contrast to some others in my band, like more than the Scottish Highland variety
    • Traditional Irish piping as performed by
      • Leo Rowsome (Possibly the most influential Irish piper ever)
      • Robbie Hannan, a very nice present day piper
    • But mainly solo music on the Scottish Highland bagpipes
      • And especially the classical genre Piobaireachd, a kind of raga for the bagpipes. More of this later.

My instruments

I started out on the recorder at the tender age of 7, like most kids in Sweden did at the time. After one year of tuition, I was the only one left in the class, all others had quit to play football or whatever. But at this time the family moved from Enköping to Karlskrona, and I found myself in a bigger class which made it fun again. At this time my teacher wanted me to play the tenor recorder, to make it possible for us to play multi part pieces. This instrument was just too big for me – I simply couldn’t reach the holes, which was very frustrating.

At the age of 10 I started on the oboe in the Kommunala Musikskolan, an (at the time) very comprehensive music education that every not too small Swedish town provided for those who lived there. My teacher worked at the military band in Karlskrona, Regionmusikkåren, and was a very nice man, although his pedagogical skills were perhaps not the best. Eventually I also got to play with that band and some other ensembles in the neighbourhood on a few occasions. At the age of 15 I also started on the bassoon, taught to me by the son of my oboe teacher.

I’ve always been interested in trying my hands on different instruments. Early on I got myself recorders in different pitches and models, and at the age of 13 I persuaded my parents to get me a soprano crummhorn for Christmas.

At the age of 17 (i.e. in 1979) I moved to Gothenburg. In that city I was not eligible for the Kommunala Musikskolan anymore, so I dropped the oboe and bassoon. But just a few weeks after the move, there was a tattoo in the city, where the two Pipe Bands, The Murray Pipes & Drums (of Gothenburg) and Gothenburg City Pipe Band, played. I immediately took contact with Mats, the Pipe Major of MPD, and the rest is history (literally).

Even though bagpipes (i.e. Scottish Highland Bagpipes) have an entire section to their own below, I still play other instruments as well. My current instrumentarium consists of:

  • Recorders
    • One bass
    • One tenor
    • Three alto, one of them low pitched (A 415 Hz)
    • Three soprano, two of them renaissance type (Moeck and von Huene)
    • Two sopranino
    • One gar klein flötelein
  • One soprano crummhorn
  • One oboe (Malerne) that I recently bought second hand
  • Bagpipes
    • Two sets of Swedish pipes (Leif Eriksson and Alban Faust)
    • One set of Scottish bellows blown Lowland pipes
    • One set of Scottish mouth blown smallpipes in bloodwood with buffalo horn mounts and gilt brass ferrules, custom built for me by Rolf Littorin
    • One set of Scottish highland pipes (Hardy ca. 1965 fully silver mounted and extensively refurbished by Rolf Littorin)
    • One replica set of Scottish 18th century pipes made by Julian Goodacre
  • One Irish flute by Des Seery of Bray, Co Wicklow
  • Many Irish tin whistles in different pitches … and some other more or less strange flute type instruments.

Bagpipes

Incidentally I had already bought a tutor and a cheap practice chanter when I was attending a language course in England a year earlier. So I knew some of the fingering and techniques of the pipes already. And of course I could already read written music. This made me a very fast learner when it came to music and fingering. Playing the bagpipes turned out to be another matter entirely, though. Normally you don’t touch the bagpipes for 6 to 12 months after you’ve started to learn the instrument. You stick with the practise chanter until you are fairly proficient and have at least several tunes under your belt. Since I learned to play the practise chanter really fast, I started on the pipes after about 5 months I think. But it was hard for me, probably because I already played several wind instruments. With mouth blown instruments the air flow directly affects the music, so you have to breathe in at appropriate places depending on the tune you play. Not so with the bagpipes! Here you strive to keep the bag filled at all times and this is done by blowing at regular intervals that has nothing at all to do with the music played. Anyhow, I had a hard time getting my mind to do this disconnect, and it took me about 6 months of hard work to be able to blow the bagpipes well enough to play with the band. Some people manage to do this immediately, like the first time they pick up a set of pipes. Yeah, some have it easy …

My first public performance with the band was almost exactly one year after I first started to play. I have stuck with the band ever since i.e. more than 30 years. During this time the band (and myself) have gone through several phases musically. During the first few years, the band had quite a few members playing at roughly the same skill level. We competed – successfully – several times and played on numerous public events. In the mid 80:s a number of our members decided to get a life, got married, and moved out of town. This left us with just a few pipers who then decided to try some different things. We expanded our repertoire to include tunes from other countries and other genres, e.g. jazz. During these years we always made surprise performances at the Copenhagen Winter Competition, a solo and ensemble competition held in February every year. Doing this was great fun for us, and it also became hugely popular with the audience, who expected us to every year do something more outrageous than before.

Then I moved to Ireland to work for Microsoft, and thus lost contact with the band. Even though there are several pipe bands in Dublin, I did not get in touch with any of them, but instead concentrated on learning to play the whistle and Irish flute. During this time I played regularly in a few sessions and had a lot of fun. But when I moved back to Sweden again, I naturally resumed playing with the band, which at that time was starting up again, having finally gained a few drummers. For many years we continued to struggle, having to borrow pipers and drummers from Denmark to be able to compete and to play at “real” band engagements. Finally in the late 90:s we got a few pupils who actually learned to play and also stayed with the band. We were still a small band though, and could only muster a minimal number of players for competitions. However, we still managed to do some interesting things, like competing at the Cowal Highland Gathering and playing at the Northland Festival in Caithness in the far north of Scotland. More recently we also played and competed at the Festival Euroceltes in Strasbourg.