J. David Hester.
J. David Hester.

Dr. J. David Hester, piper, pibroch scholar and enthusiast, died suddenly on September 12. He was 57 and lived in Baltimore, Maryland.

David was the main figure behind the alt.pibroch website through which he, along with Barnaby Brown, promoted pibroch interpretation by “making challenging historical material easier to find, understand and integrate into musical performance”.

Music was an important part of David’s life. As well as the bagpipe, he played classical violin semi-professionally as well as bassoon, mandolin and electric bass guitar in a punk rock band. He began learning to play the pipes aged eight with a pipe band in his native southern California. After he graduated from University of Redlands he moved to San Francisco. Around this time he became interested in ceòl mòr but didn’t take it further. He gained a doctorate in religious studies, rhetoric and ancient Mediterranean cultures.

David returned to ceòl mòr later in his late 40s and it here he really found a focus for his musical expression and taste. In early 2016 delivered a presentation on the earliest sources in general and on his website in particular. As he wrote in the February 2016 Piping Times, “For the first time in the history of pibroch, direct access to this information is universally available to anyone. We believe this is a transformative event in our musical history, allowing performers, audiences, competitors and judges to explore the full breadth of the idiom as it was represented in the primary source material.”

It is not known yet who will take over the website.

Hester also made available an online edition of the late Roderick Cannon’s A Bibliography of Bagpipe Music. Geoff Hore, the New Zealand Gold Medalist, took over the responsibility to maintain this and before Geoff’s death in 2015, David helped him migrate the website to its new home at alt.pibroch.

Earlier this year he published an ebook, APC Guide to Pibroch, a free online guide to the earliest scores.

Last week Hester was featured on the The Piping Hour, the weekly radio show hosted by Stephen Rooklidge.

We send our condolences to David’s wife Mary and the rest of the Hester family.