Monday, April 14, 2003

Campbell senior and longtime bagpiper Daniel Eisen joined the queen's piper for a private jam session.

Avid bagpiper jams
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By Cary Kawamoto
Ewa Naupaka

It was a dark and windy night in London's Hyde Park, with the haunting sound of bagpipes floating on the chilly breeze. A lone senior stood playing Irish melodies in honor of St. Patrick's Day on the first night of seven that he would spend in England.

"It was eerie because it was cold and the wind was blowing," recalled Daniel Eisen, who is Filipino-Scottish and an avid bagpiper. "From what I heard, the pipes sounded really cool; maybe they just play better in that kind of weather."

As a member of the Celtic Pipes and Drums of Hawaii, Eisen has had ties with England since before high school.

"About four years ago, the queen's own piper gave a pair of silver bagpipes to our pipe sergeant," Eisen said. "Since then we've maintained e-mail and phone contact."

On his trip with other Campbell students, Eisen made it a point to take his bagpipes with him wherever he went.

"Those things were heavy," he said with a laugh. "I had them with me so I could play as much as possible."

But he did not have as many opportunities to play as he had planned. There were several occasions when he wanted to play, including the Elizabethan banquet at the Globe Theater and while watching street performers, but he was worried that police would stop him because he didn't have a permit.

The original plan was to meet with the queen's piper, Pipe Major Jim Motherwell, at a pub near Stonehenge, where they would go afterward to play. But it didn't work out.

"We were told it was a place of worship and that people might be meditating and we couldn't play there," said Eisen.

Instead, on March 21, they returned to Motherwell's flat at Buckingham Palace, where the usual throngs of visitors were no longer allowed because of the conflict in Iraq.

"It was huge," Eisen confided, "but it's not what everyone thinks Buckingham Palace is. It's just the one floor; the rest of it looks like a hotel." The other Campbell London-goers weren't able to go in, so they left to eat.

Eisen and Motherwell's planned public performance ended up being a private jam session. "He said, 'Play a tune for me,' so I played the easiest, simplest tune that you could possibly imagine ... so that I wouldn't look like a fool in front of one of the best pipers in the world." Though Eisen made it through "Scotland the Brave," the queen's piper proceeded with a song of his own. "He was 500 times better."

Eisen received a signed copy of Motherwell's CD, met the head of the Royal Secret Service and caught a glimpse of Prince Andrew before leaving the palace. He said the visit was the highlight of the trip: "It was something no one else gets to do, you know, to play with the queen's own piper."

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