Want to improve your Galician bagpipe playing, connect with other gaita pipers from around the country and world, and jam with other world instrument musicians? In just a couple short weeks you can at Lark Camp, in California’s Mendocino Woods, July 26-August 3, 2013!
This is a huge event—a kind of 8 day “world music Woodstock” where over 600 world instrument musicians and dancers come together for specialized workshops, trainings, networking, and explosive jam sessions. Whether you’re a seasoned Spanish bagpipe player or just starting out, this is the place you want to be.
This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Mickie Zekley, founder of Lark Camp (Lark in the Morning Music and Dance Celebration) as well as Lark in the Morning, a store that sells instruments from all over the world. See the interview below.
Natan: How does Lark Camp help new and seasoned Spanish bagpipers?
Mickie: It’s a real hot bed of Spanish bagpiping. People from all levels and backgrounds get together for 8 days and really share their knowledge. Every year we have “Cano” Alexandre Cadarso coming from Galicia or other instructors including Keven Carr and Ian Law to lead the workshops. It gives a real chance for people to not only to learn gaita but also play in a marching band and also play with other instrumental groups—like the brass band or even the marimba orchestra. So Lark Camp is also a place to explore the gaita as a fusion instrument.
Natan: Your special gaita instructor this year is “Cano” Alexandre Cadarso. Can you tell us a little about him?
Mickie: He’s quite a famous piper over in Galicia. Kevin Carr, one of our gaita instructors, was the one that originally set up the connection and helped make it possible for him to keep coming back to the camp. Cano is a marvelous piper and just a wonderful person. He can be a hard task master trying to get everyone to play really well and be in tune, too. He’s definitely a top gaita teacher.
Natan: What kinds of lessons and events will the camp have for the gaitero that attends?
Mickie: There’s 2-3 hours a day of gaita workshops, one night there is a Galician band performance, and then a lot of informal playing as well. Lark Camp is very session oriented. Jam sessions and music networking and exploration are happening constantly all over the camp.
Natan: How many gaiteros usually attend the camp?
Mickie: About 12-15 pipers at the minimum attend the camp each year—and quite a few lady pipers attend too.
Natan: Do you think the community of gaiteros in the US is growing or staying about the same?
Mickie: It seems to be growing and gaining popularity. It’s really nice. The gaita is a bagpipe that is more accessible than some of the other pipes. A lot of people may not be willing to try some other kind of bagpipe but the gaita is a “pick it up and play it” kind of instrument.
Natan: What advice do you have for the gaitero just starting out?
Mickie: Get a decent instrument. Don’t buy the cheapest thing out there. Get something that’s going to be in tune, plays well and fingers correctly, and that has reeds readily available. All of those things are of great import. When you’re dealing with bagpipes cheap doesn’t necessarily mean playable.
Natan: Do you play the gaita and if so, how did you learn? Also do you play any other instruments?
Mickie: I’ve been playing the gaita since the 70's but I got mine from Portugal in a little place just outside Lisbon. As for learning, there was this fellow, Robert Donovan Thomas, who was a scholar and a very interesting man, an expert in all different kinds of bagpipes. He played gaita and got me turned on to it. We had a gaita band and musician group with drummers and fiddle players. We did concerts back in the early 70’s. It was a lot of fun. I also play a number of other bagpipes, the harp, an Irish style flute, anything with frets and strings, penny whistles, double flageolet. My wife and I both play a lot of instruments together for some of the concerts we do and it can be up to 16 instruments between the two of us.
Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think below in the comments or give us a shout on our Facebook page. Until then, happy piping!
About the Author: Natan Andres is a Galician gaita player, entrepreneur, and likes playing and hiking in the mountains of Montana.