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We interviewed Mr. Gerald Muirhead who performed at Hotch Potch Music Festival 2020, and listened to the sound of bagpipes, a traditional Scottish instrument, and saw the pipers’ dress. [October, 2020]

The City of Yokohama receives assistance in writing reports from members of the Tsuzuki Junior Editorial Board, located in Tsuzuki Ward, home to Yokohama International Pool and site of the British Olympic Team’s preparation camp.

Coming from the host town that welcomes the British National Teams, junior reporters have had many opportunities to learn about British culture and sports and meet people, and up to last year, had published articles on what they learned. However, this year it has been difficult to have face-to-face communication due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nevertheless, the Hotch Potch Music Festival was held at Atrium, an event space on the first floor of the New City Hall in Yokohama, on 18th October.
This time, junior reporters interviewed Mr. Gerald Muirhead from the UK, who performed at this festival. He plays the bagpipes which is a traditional Scottish instrument.
Please check it out!

■ Gerald Muirhead, a bagpiper            Morrow Princess
We interviewed Mr. Gerald Muirhead, a bagpiper.
He said the reason why he became a bagpiper is because his grandfather was a bagpiper, and so bagpipes were familiar to him. He also said that when he went to a concert using a ticket he had won as a prize in a painting contest, he was fascinated by its traditional and cool sound.
When I asked him how many types of bagpipes there are, he said that there used to be 30 types around the world, but nowadays, just four of them, which are from Ireland, England, Scotland and Spain, are famous and have been passed down.
The Scottish bagpipes that he uses are very heavy, weighing more than 4 kg. I was so impressed to hear that he has been highly active and has had various experiences such as playing for Queen Elizabeth and also playing a part of the film music for “Tales from Earthsea” by Studio Ghibli.
I want to be a respected person like him in the future.

Mr. Gerald Muirhead with junior reporters

 

■ Bagpipes are fascinating!              Aisa Miyashita
We listened to Mr. Gerald Muirhead, a Japan-based bagpiper, playing the bagpipes and interviewed him. The bagpipes are a woodwind instrument using enclosed reeds fed from a constant reservoir of air in the form of a bag.

We asked him many questions in the interview.
Q: Why did you start playing the bagpipes?
A: There were two reasons. One was because my grandfather was also a bagpiper. And the second was because I was fascinated by its sound when I went to a concert using a ticket I had won as a prize in a painting contest.

Q: I’ve read on the Internet that you played film music for Studio Ghibli in 2006. Could you tell me which film it was?
A: It was Tales from Earthsea.

Q: What is the hat you are wearing made of?
A: It’s made of ostrich feathers. It makes you look taller, so it was used by the (British) army.

Q: Is it difficult to play the bagpipes?
A: Yes. It’s not like the piano where each key matches a specific musical note. It is difficult because the bagpipes are played by controlling your breathing.

Q: Are there any female bagpipers?
A: There used to be no female bagpipers, but there are now. Some 95% of all bagpipers are male. The female pipers use slightly smaller bagpipes.

There are not only Scottish bagpipes but also Irish, English, and Spanish ones. And the deer buckle on the belt and hat, which are part of a bagpiper’s uniform, symbolizes “big and powerful” men. I think it is one of the country-specific cultures of Scotland where there are many wild deer.

 

■ Elegant Scottish culture              Minami Hashimoto
I heard Mr. Gerald Muirhead playing the bagpipes at Hotch Potch Music Festival which was held at Atrium, an event space of the New City Hall in Yokohama, on 18th October.
He showed up wearing a kilt, which is traditional Scottish Highland dress. He was wearing red tartan check plaid on a gold-edged black jacket which was gorgeous and chic.
He played five songs while explaining how bagpipes work and a bagpiper’s traditional dress. “Scotland the Brave,” a Scottish patriotic song, sounded brave and elegant. He told us that it was actually played on the battlefield. I was lucky to hear the well-known song “Amazing Grace.” The entire space was filled with its beautiful sound, and it made me feel calm as if I were in a Scottish meadow.
He plays the bagpipes at Hotch Potch Music Festival every year with a black feather bonnet and full Highland dress. Please come to the festival next year and experience Scottish culture.

Mr. Gerald Muirhead, playing the bagpipes in traditional dress

 

■ The importance of passing down traditions    Airi Hayashi
I heard Mr. Gerald Muirhead playing the bagpipes at Hotch Potch Music Festival on 18th October and interviewed him. The reason why he started to play the bagpipes is because his grandfather was a bagpiper, and so bagpipes were familiar to him. He was very good at painting when he was a child and won a painting contest, winning a ticket for a bagpipe concert. After seeing the bagpiper’s performance, he wanted to try playing. After a while, he was awarded the Best Performance Award at the International Bagpipe Contest and became so famous that he performed for Queen Elizabeth. In addition, he played part of the film music for “Tales from Earthsea” by Studio Ghibli and said he would also like to perform at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games.
Let me tell you about bagpipes. Bagpipes are roughly divided into the following four types.
It is said that there used to be 30 types in the past. The Scottish bagpipes are best known and weigh more than 4 kg. The second is Irish bagpipes, which are always played sitting down and keeping the bags inflated via arm pressure. The third is English bagpipes, which are very small and relatively quiet. The fourth is the Spanish type.
By the way, the pipes which Mr. Gerald Muirhead plays are the best-known Scottish ones.
I asked him if there are female bagpipers because my image is that pipers are usually men. He said there were no female pipers in the past, but nowadays, 95% of bagpipers are male and the other 5% are female. Recently, female pipers have been attracting attention because their fingers are thinner and more flexible for playing. I learned about their tradition through the interview and would like to pass down the tradition.

The junior reporters, showing deep interest in Mr. Gerald as he talked about the bagpipes

 

■ What I felt about the Bagpipe Show        Risa Minegishi

It was my first time to see a performance by a bagpiper and I was amazed by its power.
I would like to try playing if I have a chance.

I like music so I enjoyed his performance very much.
It was a great opportunity for all of the audience in Japan, and I appreciate everybody who supported this festival.

 

~About Tsuzuki Junior Editorial Board~
Tsuzuki Junior Editorial Board started out life in 2009 as a commemorative project in Tsuzuki Ward to mark the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Yokohama, and the 15th anniversary of the creation of Tsuzuki Ward. Today, junior reporters ranging in age from the 5th grade of elementary school to high school students go out and collect news materials, which they use to write articles. They cover not only Tsuzuki Ward but the City of Yokohama as a whole, giving full play to their perspectives and abilities as children.