Born into the MacGregor Clan, and trained by expert bagpiping teachers in Monterey and Canada, Elise considers herself to be a "People's Piper." By this she means gladly wearing many different hats - from being the star attraction at black-tie whiskey tastings to humbly presenting honors at military funerals, escorting VIPs onto corporate stages, summoning guests to attention at formal wedding ceremonies, psyching-up athletes for golf competitions, and serenading wine tasters with smooth background music. Elise derives her versatility from performing year-round as a professional solo bagpiper, bandleader and fiddler for Celtic band Charmas (also listed on Gigmasters), Highland Games competitor with the Monterey Bay Pipe Band, and seasonal parade marcher with Canada's Kincardine Scottish Pipe Band.
Clients have repeatedly praised Elise for having a professional attitude, gracefully handling last-minute changes, setting a reverent mood, and playing her bagpipes with nice artistic expression. Her repertoire features popular Songs of Glory, Grand Marches, Funeral Tunes, Battle Marches, Slow Airs, Competition Sets, Scottish Dance Tunes, favorite Irish ballads, jigs, and marches, plus some Novelty Tunes like Happy Birthday, America, and assorted Rock and Roll Riffs that clients have requested. Given at least two weeks advance notice (preferably a month), Elise is happy to accept special requests, and she can learn almost anything that will sound good played on bagpipes.
Bagpipes are a finicky instrument, requiring constant maintenance, elaborate tuning, extended physical stamina, and daily fingerwork practice from any serious performer. Consequently, most bagpipers have individual specializations, and for this reason Elise has decided to offer a few tips here for matching up a bagpiper with your event...
Formal Weddings: Perfect flowers. Gorgeous dresses. Imagine a sloppy bagpiper marching down the aisle. This is one occasion where you should avoid paying less than $300 for your bagpiper, and before selecting one, listen closely to their audio samples (see Funerals for a short discussion about tone quality). Also, find out if your bagpiper will charge overtime if the wedding ceremony gets a late start (which is common), and if they accept unusual tune requests (which you are likely to come up with once you start imagining all the possibilities).
Casual Weddings: Make sure to warn your bagpiper if you're going to ask them to play while marching down a steep, bumpy hillside in the hot blazing sun, or walk a great distance from the parking area to your event.
Funerals: Clients often type into Gigmasters "I only want you to play Amazing Grace" (meaning "my gig will be quick and easy, so I want it to be cheap.") Well, imagine yourself trying to open a combination lock - if you don't align the dials correctly, nothing will happen (there's no in-between state where the lock could be partway open). This might sound strange, but the same thing is true for bagpipes - when all three drones and the chanter resonate perfectly with each other (meaning their pitches are well matched), the resulting music can reach deep into your soul, creating the kind of spellbinding moment that every client hopes for when they hire a bagpiper to play Amazing Grace. Every bagpiper aims to create this effect, but it requires a lot of skill, including a good ear, steady blowing, constant maintenance of the instrument, and careful attention to very small changes in temperature or humidity (and knowing how to prepare in advance if weather changes are expected during the ceremony), so here, again, you'll want to carefully consider these necessary skills when you are establishing your price.
Burials at Sea: Make sure any bagpiper who might go out onto a boat with you has experience adjusting their reeds for wet, salty conditions, and that you agree ahead of time about whether or not you'll ask them to play while the boat is moving, in a strong wind with sea-spray, etc.
Private Concerts: Choose a bagpiper who knows many styles of tunes, and who enjoys playing whatever people want to hear, because too much fast, complicated, or dreary sounding music can interfere with people enjoying a good bottle of wine.
Golf Tee-Off: Many golfers appreciate good bagpiping, and they are inclined to submit requests, so seek a good bagpiper who knows a lot of popular tunes.
Scottish Dancing: You'll need an expert who's used to playing with dancers. A couple of the northeast Bay Area bagpipers excel at playing dance music.
Birthday Parties and Personal Pranks: Thank heavens for budget bagpipers, because this is one case where you'll appreciate that they can save you some money for an easy performance.
In summary: Ask a lot of questions before you make your choice. Elise specializes in playing funeral/memorial tunes, ceremonial marches, concert sets, golf/race tunes, rock adaptations, and playing near or on the water.