CLASP profile: Vincent Guinnane

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Where are you from and how did you get into piping? 
I am originally from Detroit. A friend of my dad, who was in the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment in Windsor, asked if any of his kids were interested in learning the pipes, so I raised my hand. I got a George Alexander chanter from him for playing up and down the scale first.

How has the pandemic affected your piping personally? 
I played for my neighbours more on the street at sunset including eight piobaireachds and people made a connection with me to pipes that they had heard over the years (triangulated) including a Venezuelan friend whose father had worked for Shell Oil in Scotland for two years.

Is there anything you can’t leave home without?
I tend to bring my chanter and music with me when I travel along with my laptop with music on it.

What’s your favourite international food?
I’m mostly a fan of Mexican and also Thai, but I like all sorts of food. I also like Liquorice All Sorts (pun intended) due to my dad (who is from Manchester). 

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Either camel milk and meat in Kuwait or Filipino balut in Manila.

When you travel is there something you particularly miss when away?
My bed, maybe just because its home.

Do you have a set practice routine you could share with readers?
I leave my chanter out on my desk, so that it is always available.

What’s your most memorable performance you’ve taken part in, either band or solo?
Band – Playing at the funerals in the San Jose Arena of Santa Clara Sherriff Deputy, Paul Bush (played in the from the viewing cupolas) and San Jose Police Officer Michael Johnson; Solo – Modesto Solo Invitational, which was like a recital that even had a stag’s head ornament over a fireplace. I did well in all events.

What’s your most memorable performance you’ve heard – band or soloist?
1. Gordon Walker playing Crossing the Minch at multiple speeds one of which was probably warp speed at the Dr. Dan Reid Memorial post-competition dinner. 2. Listening to all of the pipers playing piobaireachd there while trying to finger along reading Killberry.

Who has been the biggest influence on your piping? 
John Goodenow of Detroit and Neil Serkland of San Jose. 

How do you relax and do you have other interests or hobbies?
Reading and fixing things around the house and on cars, but I play music on other instruments like tenor saxophone and chromonica as well. When really stressed from work or other, I get on the chanter or pipes and my wife would understand when she saw that.

Have you taken part in any show, concerts or recitals this year?
Mostly police or fire memorials or graduations. I played a Christmas recital for my Fire Prevention Bureau in the San Jose City Hall, too.

What’s your favourite destination, either for a holiday or on a piping trip?
I have always liked the Queen Mary Highland Games. I would like to get to Scotland.

Do you have a go at the local language when abroad?
Yes, especially when I was traveling with the Merchant Marine or deployed with the Army.

Favourite piece of music – any music?
Dexter Gordon’s I Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry and Bob Seger’s Turn the Page.

Was piping something you wanted to do from an early age?

From about seven or eight years old, as explained in question number one, but also after seeing a Scotsman at the San Antonio World’s Fair in 1966. I went from wanting to learn violin to bagpipes.

Which pipers did you aspire to, if any?
Ronnie Lawrie, Gordon Walker, Bill Livingstone and Jack Lee.

Do you recall the very first competition you competed in?
It was probably the Campbell Highland Games in 1979 or 1980.

Favourite piobaireachd?
Of the ones I play, Lament for the Old Sword or MacGregor’s Salute. I do tend to prefer breabach tunes. When listening to big soloists, I really like The Desperate Battle and Bells of Perth.

Any humorous piping anecdote you can relate to the readers (keep it clean!)?    
At the Rosa Highland Games in 1994, Rufus Harley – a black jazz bagpiper – was invited on stage in a rather shiny Scottish-style outfit, and did a Jimi-Hendrix type remake of Scotland the Brave. Unfortunately, the crowd frowned upon it. I wanted to hear more, as a Coast Guard buddy from Philadelphia had told me about him in A-School in 1979.

At that same games, a drunk knew how to stop drones and kept doing it to mine in the practice circle, so finally my rather large and fiercely bearded Pipe Major, Neil Serkland, chased him away with his dirk. The drunk was next seen being chased by several kilted Sonoma County Sheriff Deputies off of the grounds.

Also, the Essex and Kent Scottish Pipe Major would tap my fingers on my chanter with his chanter when I was doing something wrong.