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In late July, I received a call from a fellow bagpiper about a performance they had been asked to play, but couldn’t.  This type of thing happens a lot; a non-bagpiper knows someone who plays bagpipes, but they are busy that day, so that person refers the requester to a band or group, and they ask around.  If that group can’t find anybody in house, they call someone in another group they know, and so on.  The request came through to Midlothian Scottish (I’m a playing/instructing member, and a board member of the 501(c)3 nonprofit), and I happened to make contact first.

The requester was a woman in her mid to late twenties, Jessica.  She and her husband were throwing a party for her mother, and wanted something special.  I gave her a call to discuss.  This was to be a birthday party in the back yard of their house in Skokie, IL.  Apparently there is something of a tradition of including novelties in their gatherings; my job was to one-up the comedic “nun” that someone brought out to her aunt’s party a year or two back.  I would be a surprise, coming from the front yard to the back while playing happy birthday.

Around 1:00 I arrived.  They could not have asked for a better day for the middle of June in Chicago.  It was a high of about 80 with moderate humidity and mostly sunny: beautiful.  The house was a typical Chicago area near-suburban home: a squat rambler with a narrow but fairly deep yard.  I called, and Jessica came to meet me.  After warming up in a part of the house that Jessica said couldn’t be heard from the back, we were ready to go.

Surprises are fun.  As I rounded the corner of the house and got into the yard, everyone at the party was standing up, beaming, looking either at me or at the one person who wore complete shock, followed by glee on there face.  That would be the guest of honor, Chris.  After happy birthday I played a few other tunes, and then stopped to introduce myself, congratulate the guest of honor, and field questions from the “crowd.” How did you learn? How long have you been playing?  What is the little bag called?  What about the shoes? The hat?  How do bagpipes work?  Can I learn?  Can I try?  Of course!

It’s all great fun.

I played for about 10 more minutes, and stopped.  The family invited me to have some food, which I did (it was delicious), and some conversation.  I ended up sitting with Chris, the guest of honor, and a few others.  After cake, I stuck around for a few minutes, said my ‘thank yous’ and ‘goodbyes’ and took off home.  Not a bad Sunday afternoon.

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