Scotland Comes to East Lansing for a Celebration of Bagpipes and Highland Dance

Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 7:50 am
Ann Nichols

Above: Petersen Jones (l) with The Glen Erin Pipe Band


This Saturday at 5:00 the sanctuary at The Peoples Church will offer a Celebration of Bagpipes and the Scottish Highland Arts hosted by graduate composition student (and bagpiper) Duncan Petersen-Jones. The concert is free, although a donation of $5.00 is suggested.


According to Petersen-Jones, attendees “can expect a concert that shows a high level of bagpipe music and highland dance,” including both traditional bagpipe music and his own compositions. The highland dancers will range in age from young children to adults, and all are students of Allie Gibson, founder of Gibson School of Highland Dance in East Lansing. Petersen-Jones will be joined by other pipers, including “soloists Ben Elliot and Laureano Thomas-Sanchez from Alma College, another soloist, Joseph Horwath, and a mini band from the Lansing-based Glen Erin Pipe Band.”


He chose The Peoples Church as a venue for his evening of music and dancing after playing during services at the church on more than one occasion. “The idea for the concert came about when I was talking to one of the pastors there, Andrew Pomerville, who is a great supporter of the Scottish Arts. I was talking about the book, and he suggested having a concert for the book at The Peoples Church. After talking to several players to see if they would help with the concert, I decided I would go for it!”


Although Petersen-Jones is a kilt-wearing bagpiper born in Edinburgh, his personal and musical backgrounds defy easy categorization. He moved to Michigan at the age of four where his parents joined the faculty of MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. A citizen of the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, he attended public school in Okemos, went on to receive his undergraduate degree from MSU and is currently working on a Masters degree in music composition at The University of Michigan.


Above: Petersen-Jones


As a composer, Petersen-Jones straddles “contemporary classical style for different ensembles…everything from string quartets to full band music” and “bagpipe music.” Asked about the interplay between the two styles of music, he says “I believe that my two different compositional streams influence each other, some of it consciously, some of it subconsciously.”


And what kind of music does a bagpiper/classical contemporary composer listen to? “I like to listen to current composers, such as John Corigliano, and Steven Bryant, as well as MSU’s own David Biedenbender and Zhou Tien. I do also listen to older composers such as Stravinsky, Debussy, and more. For bagpipe music, I listen to a lot of the pipe bands, especially the top pipe bands such as the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band and Inveraray and District Pipe Band. Another fun group to listen to,” he adds “is the Red Hot Chilli Pipers!”


Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Petersen-Jones has also published a first book, Duncan’s Piping Tunes: From the Competition to the Bar, which he describes as “a collection of my bagpipe compositions” including “over 50 compositions, comprising different Scottish styles such as Strathspeys and Hornpipes. Saturday’s event at The Peoples Church, according to Petersen-Jones “is to thank the people that contributed, promote the book and the upcoming CD.”


The bottom line, he says, is that “this concert is a great opportunity to listen to some incredible bagpipers and watch some incredible dancers. There is something incredibly moving about bagpipe music - it stirs the soul - a perfect way to spend an early Saturday evening.”


The Peoples Church is located at 200 W. Grand River Avenue














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