CLASP piper profile with Peter Allen

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Today’s member of the Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers to be featured is Peter Allen who is originally from Cincinnati in Ohio, USA.

CLASP is the National Piping Centre’s circuit of graded solo piping competitions for adult amateur pipers. More information can be found on the CLASP website here.

Q. Who is your current teacher and what are lessons like with them?

I had a proper teacher my first year, that was 17 years ago. Name of Dave Harper from N. Pickenham, Suffolk UK. We still chat often via emails. He can be very helpful on the intricacies of Piobaireachd and Light muisc. He was and still is top level player.

•Peter with his 1910 Henderson pipes

Q. How many hours per week do you spend practicing?

Normal average is 20 hours a week.

Q. Can you tell us about your CLASP journey so far?

This is the start of my 3rd year with the Clasp on-line comps. I fought the first 2 years with chanter reeds, fat fingers and stress. I have for the most part gotten some good reeds, solved most of the fat fingers, and still deal a bit with the stress now and then.

Q. Have you ever played in a pipe band?

Yes. I have played in two. One in Virginia and one in Bangkok. Bangkok is a five hour drive, so I don’t get there much anymore.

Q. Is balancing work/family/piping challenging?

I would love to play a lot longer, but life calls everyday.

Q. What music are you currently listening to?

Mostly piobaireachd, with some jazz, classical thrown in.

Q. What is the best piping experience you have ever had?

Striking in my 1910 ebony Hendersons for the first time.

Q. Oh, tell us more about your 1910 ebony Hendersons

After I started playing pipes, I was always looking for that “perfect set”. I have probably had more than a dozen sets in 17 years. I bought the Hendersons in June of 2022 at an online auction in Glasgow. They don’t have ivory or silver, but are fully combed and have wood mounts.

I made many attempts to get a full history from the auctioneers, but all they could give me was that they were from a broker. I was not 100% sure they were Hendersons, and assumed they were African blackwood and made sometime before 1930.

When they arrived, I saw a slight crack in the blowpipe stock, so I shipped it off to Dunbars in Canada for repair. Rick Pettiegrew mentioned the wood was ebony.

When the repaired stock got back to me, I set the pipes up in a sheepskin bag I had already. The tone right off the bat was amazing, with overtones and the set vibrating when played. The set also looked to have seen very little play. No scratches or dings anywhere in the wood. I tried a few different drone reeds and settled on Ezeedrones tenors, a old Rocket base with a hide bag and Infinity chanter.

I sent detailed pics of the Henderson pipes to Ron Bowen of thebagpipemuseum.com. He confirmed through Rick Pettiegrew that they were indeed Ebony, and dated them around 1910 time frame.

All parts of the pipe look to be original. A black light shows no repairs but for the mentioned blowpipe stock.

When I play these, I know this will be my last set. So I have saved a lot of money by not needing to keep searching for the “perfect set”, as I have found it! To me, they have the perfect tone and resonance anyone would want.

Q. What are your piping goals for the future?

I’ve been a solo player for so long, being in the Clasp competitions is the only chance I have for being heard. My goal is to continue to improve every day until I am too old to play. I just really enjoy playing, and the tunes I choose to play are ones I really love.

Q. If someone was considering joining the CLASP, what advice would you give them.

Go for it! For me, it is a good way to test myself and sharpen my performance skills.

Q. Apart from piping, do you have other interesting parts of your life that you would like to
share with the bagpipe.news readers?

I am a retired engineer, living in Thailand year round. In a very small village of less then a few hundred people. I bicycle about 10 km almost everyday when the weather is good, and always walk about 5 km or more. Also a devoted amature photographer.

When I worked as an engineer, I traveled all over the world. Living at work sites for typically two to three years at a time. Most of my family were amateur musicians and – or artists. But no bagpipers. I started with guitar in the 60s listening to the Beatles. Played the flute for a few years, then saxaphones, oboe and cello. I tried some cheap pipes from Asia in the early 1980’s, but they eneded up in the bin. I am ADHD, so I had previously gotten bored with my instruments. There is no getting bored with Highland pipes for sure!