CLASP profile: Damien Pitman

Damien Pitman.

• Where are you from and how did you get into piping?
Johannesburg, South Africa. I started learning the bagpipes when I was 12 years old. Rory Bellingan tutored me. I started playing because the secondary school that I chose to attend (Jeppe High School for Boys) had a band and I wanted to give it a shot.

• How has the pandemic affected your piping personally?
At first, when lockdown hit, I didn’t have much motivation because my wife and I moved to Scotland from South Africa just before the pandemic struck, and the famous Scottish piping scene was ripped away from us due to the restrictions. I then decided to take advantage of the time that we had and spent hours practising my piping so that I could have a shot at making a pipe corps over here, in a top Grade 2 band.

• Is there anything you can’t leave home without?
My chanter and pipes, if we are going away for a long period of time.

• What’s your favourite international food?
Baboetie from South Africa. Baboetie is a type of mince curry dish. I also love sushi.

• What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Ostrich and crocodile.

• When you travel is there something you particularly miss when away?
My dogs, for sure!

• Do you have a set practice routine you could share with readers?
I always play my practice chanter when I have a spare second – I actually have a few all over the house. My wife is extremely long suffering! When I practice the pipes, I warm up with whatever tunes are my current favourites then spend a decent amount of time working on my embellishments and breaking down my competition tunes. I try to watch as many YouTube videos as possible, of top bands and solo pipers.

• What’s your most memorable performance you’ve taken part in, either band or solo?
I was the Pipe Major of the African Skye Grade 2 pipe band for a period of time. In 2014 we had a fantastic run of results in the circle. I was also in charge of a school pipe band, the Jeppe Pipe Band, for ten years and I travelled with them to Basel to perform in the Basel Tattoo in 2016 and 2018. That was special. The journey to get the band ready for that kind of a trip was a very rewarding one.

• What’s your most memorable performance you’ve heard – band or soloist?
Inveraray’s first World Championships title performance was quite special. I also love the St. Laurence O’Toole band – it’s so musical!

• Who has been the biggest influence on your piping?  
Rory Bellingan, my first tutor. His passion for piping is contagious.

• How do you relax and do you have other interests or hobbies? 
I love traveling with my wife, and going for walks in the countryside.

• Have you taken part in any show, concerts or recitals this year?
Not this year.

• What’s your favourite destination, either for a holiday or on a piping trip?
Before I lived in Scotland, World’s Week was my favourite trip. I also love London, The Lake District, and the Highlands.

• Do you have a go at the local language when abroad?
We give it our best shot but are never very good!

• Favourite piece of music – any music?
Ludovico Einaudi’s Due Tramonti.

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• Was piping something you wanted to do from an early age?
I was about 11 years old when I took an interest in piping.

• Which pipers did you aspire to, if any?
Stuart Liddell and Terry Tully.

• Do you recall the very first competition you competed in?
2002. The Pretoria Boys Highland Gathering.

• Favour piece of ceòl mòr?
I am still learning. One of my biggest regrets is not learning it and appreciating it from a younger age.

• Any humorous piping anecdote you can relate to the readers (keep it clean!)?
I once appeared on a television show in South Africa as a piper, and the show was in another language. I didn’t understand a word of the questions that the characters on the show were asking me – I just smiled, nodded and played the pipes when I was given the thumbs up! Very embarrassing for me. My mates have never let me forget about it!

* Thank you, Daniel!