Award-winning piper shares love of Scottish music

06-02-2016 Indy Article Post Page

New Hamburg Independent
By Lisa Hagen

What is the most important thing to remember when playing the bagpipes?

“Try not to flash anyone,” laughs piper Andrew Huxley-Osborne in reference to the traditional pipe-playing kilt. “You have to remember to bend with your knees!”

The award-winning New Hamburg player knows his way around that traditional garb as well as the Great Highland Bagpipe, an instrument he first picked up at his Scottish grandparents’ house in Cambridge.

“I didn’t have any interest at first, I was more into sports, but after a visit to Scotland I got a chanter [the recorder-like part of the bagpipe] and some free lessons at the Legion and I was hooked,” he remembers.

That first exploration turned into a full-time passion and a part-time career. Huxley-Osborne still has his nursing job at Cambridge Memorial Hospital. But he has found work as a solo performer; known as “The Piper in the Burg,” he plays for weddings, fundraisers, and special events. This weekend he’ll play the grand opening of the Scran and Dram, an authentic Scottish Pub in New Hamburg, on Jan. 23 and again on Jan. 25.

“For me, bagpipes make an event memorable and I like to promote good music, musicianship and keep the Scottish traditions alive,” he says.

Huxley-Osborne honed his skills by joining what was then the Paris Pipe Band, and he rose quickly through the ranks to become Pipe Major of that ensemble. He was the first conductor to take the group to international competition, which turned into an unexpected Cinderella Story.

“The first year we were dead last at the North American Championships. I brought in instructors the following season and focused our energies. The second year we won the whole thing at the grade five level,” he recounts.

Bagpipe competitions are divided into five grades with beginner bands in the fifth grade playing marches and easier tunes. First grade players tackle the toughest pieces.

Huxley-Osborne is an accomplished grade one soloist and his skills have made him a guest piper for bands in the U.S. and Scotland.

Being part of his pipe band allowed him to travel the world. In one memorable concert, the 45-person ensemble played on the shores of Alberta’s Lake Louise with the Rockies as their backdrop. They played at the base of Mount Rushmore and gave a stirring performance on Juno Beach, France. No pipe band is complete without a tour of Scotland, where they marched with thousands of premiere pipers in the largest Highland Games in the world, the Cowal Highland Gathering.

Huxley-Osborne moved to New Hamburg a few years ago because he liked the small-town feel. Since then, he has been actively volunteering his musical talents at events like the Canada Day celebrations, the opening of the Wilmot Splash Pad and the Wilmot Jo Walk for suicide awareness.

And that old adage about girls falling for rock musicians apparently works for bagpipers too. Huxley-Osborne met his wife in the Paris-Port Dover Pipe Band. She is also a piper and the head photographer and editor of their website, piperintheburg.com. After a few years of playing bagpipes together, they tied the marital knot. After all, who can resist a man in a kilt?

Original article posted by the New Hamburg Independent, February 2, 2016