Pipe dreams

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bagpipesIf you’re bushwalking in Tasmania and hear bagpipes, it’s probably just Dr Sally-Anne Richter from Mowbray Veterinary Clinic in Launceston.

“My biggest gig was when I played at the 2014 Edinburgh Military Tattoo as part of the Australian Federal Police Pipes and Drums. Most people who watch the Tattoo on TV probably believe it takes place on a single day, but it’s actually five weeks of performances. The first week is for rehearsal, then seven shows over six days, each week for four weeks. It was a fantastic experience.

“I started learning the bagpipes when I was 16. My school was setting up a pipe band and I put up my hand to join. I had done Scottish country dancing as a tot and was very enthusiastic about learning bagpipes.

“At present I play with the St Andrews Caledonian Pipe Band in Launceston. I also play in a Celtic rock band called Schmeltic.

“When I was looking for jobs, I wanted a mixed animal practice with a nearby pipe band. Once I received the job offer in Launceston and discovered there was an active pipe band in town, that made the decision a lot easier.

“Playing the bagpipes, isn’t all about lots of air. It’s a combination of blowing, the muscles in the arm and keeping constant pressure on the bag. If you just blow the whole time, you’ll simply end up fainting. Like riding a bicycle, once you learn how to do it, it’s easy.

“My husband, John, is the pipe major of my band. When we married, he wore full Scottish garb and we had lots of friends playing the pipes. At one stage of the evening, every piper was playing bagpipes, including me in my wedding dress.

“I think the bagpipes are a really powerful and emotive instrument. You can play jigs and reels for dancers, a military march in a display or a mournful lament at a funeral. On top of that, the bagpipes have given me many amazing opportunities. Going to Edinburgh was a highlight and I have competed at the world championships in Glasgow. It was exciting to perform in Melbourne for the Military Tattoo in February and I’m heading to France in August to perform at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient on the coast in Brittany.

“My husband and I also take our bagpipes bushwalking. We like to go hiking in Tasmania and play on top of mountains. If you ever come across us in your travels, feel free to stop, say hello and request a tune!”

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