By Joan Frances
Everyone should have a hobby, that extra curricular activity that one becomes engage in to fill free time with something worth while. Fort Bend is blessed with many gifted people. Talents range from sports to drama, art, and even music. Jim Harper, a Sugar Land resident has a unique hobby, he plays the Bagpipe. Jim plays so well that his band placed 2nd in the World Competition this summer in Scotland. His story is fascinating.
Jim’s parents grew up in Scotland where the art of playing the Bagpipe has been around since 1000 B.C. While the Scots did not invent the Bagpipe, they claim to have made them their own by keeping them alive as part of the musical tradition and culture. His father played when they lived in Chicago and Jim grew interested in playing when he was 13. The key to playing the Bagpipe successfully is to build up lung capacity, it took him a few years to master. He joined a junior band and was taught the music and structure. Saint Thomas Episcopal in Bellaire has a successful program to teach this challenging instrument.
On August 11, the city of Glasgow in Scotland, hosted the Highland Games. This is a festival of competition ranging from dancing, art, and the Pipe Band World Championship. Two hundred fifty bands came to compete from all over the world. Jim, along with three other Sugar Land residents, Jacob Bowers, Victor Reyna, and Richard Keane, flew to Scotland for 10 days to join 31 other band members of the St. Thomas Alumni Pipe Band to compete against 29 other bands in the Grade 2 Category.
There are three different grades or levels. Level one is the best and level three is considered the lowest. The bands compete on the level they are most competent at. They came in uniform, the Isle of Skye Tartan Kilts, and performed twice to place second overall. Last year the band came in 4th and next year they’re striving for 1st place.
The medley they played was four to six minutes long, a combination of marching and playing in unison for a large audience of spectators and judges. Drums accompanied the musicians and the arrangement was an assortment of slow and methodical, to fast paced, and traditional playing.
This is truly an old age art. It is difficult to comprehend the hours of practice it must take to perfect a wonderful hobby as the Bagpipe.
Jim Harper and the 34 other people who came together to help keep this ancient art alive should be admired and congratulated for taking the initiative to never forget our history and where we all come from.