Piping through Moers

by Hayden Chisholm –

As „Improvisor in Residence“ in Moers, it is a part of my „job“ as I see it to connect somehow to the people in the town. hayden with pipeNow, this is an interesting point in itself because if I’ve noticed that if I put on improvised music or jazz concerts I can only ever attract a particular and relatively small demographic. The now legendary Moers Festival amplifies this demographic by importing many from abroad. But I ask myself sometimes if I could not find a simpler tool to connect the regular folks in town.

Let me just say that the word „connect“ isn’t an easy one to define when it comes to music. So allow me to fend off a plethora of explanations and debate and just say that all I want to do is put a smile on people’s faces with sound- no matter how quaint that concept may seem in our often cynical times.

Were I to stand in the middle of the pedestrian zone and play the kind of lines and structures I will probably play on the main festival stage ( the kind of lines I love, by the way) I would still struggle to pull either a crowd or many smiles. There are many reasons for this but I think if people are to find their way to loving improvised music they will in their own way. Most of the time they need a sonic epiphany at some point in there life, preferably early.  My lone sax in the Moers pedestrian zone may not quite be the siren to lure them away from their comfort zones.

Luckily I have a powerful weapon in my arsenal that in recent years I’ve used more and more for the above purposes and also personal reasons: playing the bagpipes is the most glorious way to burn off excess energy and have a blast at the same time.

And so on a day like today in Moers I like to don my kilt, tune my pipes, and stroll slowly through the town and the park close to my residence improvising on the pipes. Take note of the „I“ word in the last sentence, the one that’s in my job title. I may be lynched in Scotland for approaching the pipes in that way ( and I wouldn’t be the first Chisholm piper to go down in such way) but right here, right now, anything goes (one of the beautiful things about the „Improvisor in Residence“ Position)

Do the people smile ? Yes, they do. Naturally their reasons differ but there is certainly something in the pipes that can reach them – is it the simple tones over the drone, is it the sheer volume, is it because they’ve seen „Braveheart“? I know not but certainly has been a way for me to „connect“ to the folk in town and maybe even pull a few of them into „our“ world of improvisation and risk taking.

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