Today on the Elora Fergus Podcast we’re talking with Fergus Bagpiper Extraordinaire, Peter Hummel aka Peter Piper. In this episode, we chat about Peter’s music interests before the bagpipes, his introduction to the pipes and his Greek family upbringing.
Since the start of this pandemic, Peter has stepped outside and played his pipes in tribute to healthcare and front-line workers. We talked about where the inspiration came from and one of the biggest surprises that have come from his daily tributes.
Peter shares his journey from growing up outside Niagara Falls, Ontario to living and working in Fergus with his family for over twenty years. He also shares his meaningful Scottish discovery.
We talk about postponing the 75th Annual Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games and we both share a little insight and behind the scenes sneak-peak into the upcoming Wee Digital Ceilidh.
Peter also shares a few of the passion projects and where he volunteers his services, plus two great behind the scenes Riverfest stories.
I think you’re really going to love this episode!
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Audio Transcription with Peter Hummel
Peter Hummel: Do you mind if I drink coffee while we chat though? No, not at all. That's what I like
Ryan Joyce: Conversations. Well, it's nice to officially meet Peter. I mean, not officially meet we've met many times, but to get to know you, uh, because you are kind of a local legend and hero, and I don't know that everybody knows your background. I know I don't. So I'm looking forward to talking about all that. And of course, a big Scottish festivals coming up, so many great things to chat about. So nice to you. Nice to connect. Well, this is a really odd year and you've been doing something really remarkable. Uh, and that is every night since the covert pandemic started at seven 30, you go out and pay tribute. And what a, what a, what a gracious, what a gracious gift that, where did that idea spark from?
Peter Hummel: To be honest with you. Um, my wife, uh, found it online, uh, people in the UK at three o'clock, when there's a shift change, um, with the NHS, they, they go out and bang pots and pans, and, um, a few famous Pipers were going out there and playing like guys from the red hot chili Pipers. Um, my, one of my favourite Piper's alley Hutton was going out and doing it. My wife was like, you should do that. And I'm like, I'll do it once and see what happens. So I did it once and people in my neighbourhood stuck their heads out the door and they're like, Oh, what's going on? And then we started recording it. And then all of a sudden I'm practicing proper social distancing people who we've lived in our neighbourhood for like part of the neighbourhood for five years now. But we've been living in Fergus for over 20.
We strapped a GoPro to a twenty-foot Caber
And we started meeting people like that. We hadn't seen, or we've seen them shoveling the driveway, but whenever, you know, so for me, it was the golden lining of COVID what I'm calling it. Now. I was like, I I've met all my neighbours. Um, they come out at seven 30 on their driveways and at first I was playing up on my balcony at my house. And now that the summer's here and it's hot, it gets really hot on my balcony. So, and I just play on my porch and play a few tunes. Sometimes I pull backing, tracks out. It's all for fun. Some days, some days I have good days some day that have bad days and I joke about it. And I always say, can't always have a 10. Right. So, yeah.
Ryan Joyce: Yeah. That's well, it's really great what you're doing and the community sure. Does. You know, know who you are. Do people call you by your real name when they see you in the grocery store? I know your last name.
Peter Hummel: Yeah. Well, I'm kind of incognito at the, at the grocery stores and stuff. Cause I'm wearing a mask, right? Yeah. Lately. But it's funny when I'm, if I've, if the one thing I've learned is when I, when I was playing on my balcony, I always wore a different kilt. So people started asking me which kilter you're going to wear. Now, how many kids do you have? Like, you know,
Ryan Joyce: Okay, well, we now need to know Peter. How many kids do you have?
Peter Hummel: Um, I, I have over 30 kills.
Ryan Joyce: Wow. Oh, that's so cool.
Peter Hummel: I'm a trained kiltmaker right.
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Ryan Joyce: Yeah. I knew that from our, a little bit of work, we did a couple of weeks ago, but other than that, that was a complete, like, I've never worn a kilt and I, we got to get, you know,
Peter Hummel: You know what, Ryan, I got one for ya. I got one. I got one. And because you're a magician, it's a straight black kilt. Perfect.
Ryan Joyce: Oh, fun. Oh, that's so fun. It's so interesting to see and dive into this world that is very much embraced in our community. I have been filming with you and others a lot lately for the festival and things. So I've been starting to learn like some of the, the, the Scottish culture and inherited. And I asked you this on a video, which is going to be in coming up in the Scottish festival. Um, but the question that I asked is, are you Scottish? And that is, you have a real interesting turn on that.
Peter Hummel: Yeah. Like I've always grown up. Uh, and, and my mom's Greek. So we grew up in the very, very, very Greek heritage and Greek culture. I speak and read, write Greek fluently. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Like my grandmother wouldn't talk to us unless we spoke to her in Greek. So, and I do have an ongoing joke about my mom cause she's very similar to the mother and my big fat Greek wedding. Um, I do have an invitation. I do have my mother. Um, if people, people who've met her, the like that is so bang on of your mom. But, um, my dad was German or what my, my last name is Hummel so very dramatic. Um, but my sister did a family tree and then found out that my dad's, uh, biological father was a McGilvery. So there's Scottish blood me.
Yeah, man. You know, whatever. It's all good. And it's, it's funny because one of my favourite movies is formula 51 with Samuel L. Jackson. And he wears a kilt throughout the entire film. Well, the kilt is the McGilvery tartan. Oh, no kidding. No, seriously. So that's the one I wear now. That's my actual family. My wife's a Campbell. So when I, when we got married, I wore Campbell of Katar. So that's the one I've adopted for many years is wearing the Campbell turn. But now that I've learned them a McGilvery then, well the ancient McGilvery I wear.
Ryan Joyce: Oh, how cool. And for those listening that maybe are not quite up on this, there's a ceremony in Scottish tradition right at the beginning is where of the Highland games that takes place, the hearse lighting ceremony and it's to represent past and future. Is that right? Yeah. And then each name is called and there's, it's a beautiful ceremony. There's there's torches and fire and it's just lovely. And so it's, so that's essentially, you walk in with your clan, they refer to them as your family. And so you would walk in with which family would you walk in with now?
Peter Hummel: Uh, happy wife, happy life. So I, uh, I would, I would, I would go in with the Campbell, even though I know a lot of Scots, don't like the Campbell's, but I like my wife
Ryan Joyce: Always that see there's, there's, uh, insight that I, I haven't been privy to yet, but that's a, that's really super interesting. And what a terrible, what a, what a terrible thing that's going on around, you know, everywhere with COVID and everything. And this has certainly been a challenging year. We're supposed to be the 75th. Yeah. Yeah. Anniversary or celebration of the first Fergus Scottish festival. How many games have you been to?
Peter Hummel: Oh my goodness. Um, okay. So when I worked for many years at community living, we used to send staff to volunteer in the beer tent when the kinsmen, um, so I started going to the Highland games. Oh my goodness. I think I can't even, probably 20 years ago.
Ryan Joyce: And you've gone every year since, I guess. Yeah.
Peter Hummel: Yeah. It's kinda been like, uh, one of those activities, you know, I I've always been interested in, in the Scottish culture. I've always been interested in Highland games, bagpipe music, even from a little kid. Uh, I, you know, to be honest with you, uh, I grew up in the punk scene and I remember, you know, as a, as a kid seeing the Dropkick Murphys with a bag Piper and I was like, that is the most incredible thing I've ever seen in my life. So I started basing a lot of stuff around that Canadian punk bands, like the real McKenzies and stuff like that. You know, they they've all got a Piper in there and just, you know, being lucky enough that I saw these bands early, before they were really big, they used to sit and chat with me and tell me, Oh, well, you know, you gotta get this, you gotta get that. You gotta shut this off. You know, it was really neat. I hadn't been playing at that moment, but I was always kind of curious, like, how are they doing this? Some of the origins came
Ryan Joyce: From the, from punk basically. What, so where did you?
Peter Hummel: I grew up proud Niagara falls, man. Are you? But I grew up in Chippewa
Ryan Joyce: Now where, uh,
Peter Hummel: Okay, so your Niagara falls, you're going to Marine land. Yep. Go outside of Marine land. There's a little town that's Chippewa. Wow.
Ryan Joyce: Wow. Ad population is less than Fergus. So like a couple thousand, they got a stop sign, coffee shop and yeah. Relatively normal upbringing. You be introduced to music. Where did, well, I making assumptions. Did you have a relatively normal upbringing?
Peter Hummel: I normal. I grew up Greek. Is that normal?
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Ryan Joyce: Well, listen, I have spent 10 years on a specific cruise company that is operated by Greeks or some of my close friends are captains. They're all Greek. I have, I feel like I've been adopted into the eye OPA. I want to smash plates and cheese all the time, I guess.
Peter Hummel: Yeah. I think, I think as a kid, because you know, not only did I go to school, but I had to go to Greek school two days a week. Wow. And then on top of that, we did Greek dancing and my sister and I were part of the Greek dancing group. I used to wear the Fu Spinella. So I was, I was already used to wearing what you would call a skirt, except the food Spinella is a lot shorter and leaves nothing to the imagination. So
Ryan Joyce: That's so fascinating. So like art and culture has been embedded in you from the beginning, which is really cool.
Peter Hummel: I would say ultimately art culture and heritage, like all put together, right? Like it's a big, the Greek culture is very like most cultures. It can be quite ethnocentric, but you learn a lot and you learn, like, I learned how to Greek dance. It brings my mother when she sees all my siblings and I dancing together in a circle, it just brings great joy to her. Right. And it freaks people out when they see me get up and do like the Zorba. Cause they're just like, how did you know how to do that? Did you watch the movie? Yeah.
Ryan Joyce: Yeah. He knows how to do everything. Cool. Uh, how did you end up, how did you end up in?
Peter Hummel: I was in college. I was taking educational resources and special needs. I was looking for a job to get out of Niagara because I'd made a pact with myself that I would leave Niagara. Like I had to see there's a whole other story behind that, but let's just say, um, you know, so I ended up going to Sunbeam residential development center for an interview. I did the interview and they said, great. Uh, can you start in September? So I moved to Guelph and then they said, Oh yeah, we've, we've put a halt on all September hires. And I ended up getting a job with community living the next day and wow. Stayed with community living wealth for quite like maybe 10 years of my life. I worked for them, uh, running group homes and stuff like that, or I shouldn't say running, but you know, assisting the folks that live in there. And, and then I met my wife, uh, Sandy, and we were dating, she's a teacher and part of my certification, I, I, I am a educational assistant. So I went for an interview at the upper grand district school board and got the job. And here I've been for the last 17 years. That's amazing at home, right? It is home it's yeah. I work at the high school.
Ryan Joyce: Yeah. Yeah. It really is a great community. And you're you do a lot throughout the year. You do a lot, like just in the last couple of weeks, we've crossed paths several times. You're volunteering in all sorts of different things. Tell me some about the things you do throughout the year. Maybe some highlights and
Peter Hummel: You know, anytime, anytime, uh, I know people get, keep people always bugged me about, should be asking for money for this kind of stuff. But I don't, I really don't like to, like, someone's asking me to play it, you know, an 80 year olds birthday. I'm not asking money for that. I like doing that kind of stuff. Like, you know, I'm happy to do it now, not to be abused, but you know, like right now, like recently I played at a seniors home in Kitchener, uh, for an, I think he's a 90 year old vet and, um, you know, he's, he's got some difficulties and you know, the one thing he, he loves his bagpipe music. He's an old Scottish Highlander. So I was happy just to go out and play for this guy, you know? Um, I, I played for a little while there, I was going to the, uh, uh, Wellington terrace and then playing out there. Cause it was it's fun for me. Like, you know,
Ryan Joyce: It's an audience too, right? Like as performers there's, it's also good practice too. Like it's one thing in, you know, solo, but it's another thing to practice with some adrenaline. So that, yeah. That's a great thing that you're doing. Wow.
Peter Hummel: Yeah. Yeah. And I was just waiting. I'd like to go back to the Wellington so I was just waiting for a phone call to say, yeah, yeah, come on back. Like, you know,
Ryan Joyce: And you, you also do river Fest every year. Oh yeah. That's so fun. Tell, tell me a little bit about that and some of those adventures.
Peter Hummel: Oh my goodness. Well, uh, okay. So river Riverfest, um, they basically asked me if I wouldn't mind, uh, opening each day playing bagpipes and I thought, great, cool. And they're, you know, they're, they're very gracious with me. They like play whatever you want. They let me experiment a few times with backing tracks and stuff like that. But, um, my goodness, where do I start with an adventure? Okay. So one of my favorite, so I basically any one that's backstage I've met at river fast, a walk off the earth. Um, actually before the, uh, when they played the one year, the beard guy was here, like the he's one of the members that passed away recently and he never talks or anything. And then I start, I struck up a conversation with them. The guy's a master musician. He knew everything about bagpipes. He'd never played them, but he knew the T they played in.
And he was a very interesting guy to chat with. Um, my, my personal favourite was the lead Piper and main guy for the Celtic band Rollins cross their Canadian legends and Celtic music scene asked me to play with them on stage. Oh, how fun. So there was him and I backstage, um, between trailers tuning, our pipes. We're we're just about to go on stage. Um, and Ian was such a great guy like just to work with and, you know, I told them, I said, I go, you're kind of fulfilling a dream of mine to play with you guys. And he goes, Oh, good, good. Don't screw up.
Ryan Joyce: That's awesome. And there's not tons of people that you can experience that form of comradery.
Peter Hummel: Uh, you know, surprisingly enough you can, um, some musicians, some seasoned musicians know nothing about bagpipes, right. So they just assume you can play with them until you like, I last year, the mighty mighty Bosstones who I love that band. Right. So
Ryan Joyce: Impression that I get, I remember that from high school. Yeah.
Peter Hummel: So, so Dicky Barrett, I put out a post saying, Oh, I'd love to do a collaboration with you. He comes up to me on a Sunday at river Fest and he goes, you're on you're with us come backstage. We're gonna tune and everything. Well, the guitarist and the bass player, Joe Gittleman, our bass player, if you follow Scott music or just even punk music in itself, the guy's a legend. Right. And he's back there with me and we're playing this tune a little bit ugly. And he's like, I can't, I can't tune to you. I just, I can't. And I was like, Oh, well, I'll try to tune to you. And it just, you know what, we spent an hour trying, but it's really hard if you don't know the instrument well enough. Sure. But I got to hang out with the mighty mighty Bosstones that's fun.
Yeah. They sign it. They signed my record and you know, uh, at Dallas green, my, my it's, my wife's favorite singer. Um, we got to hang out with him for a bit and I could go on there's so many people at river Fest that I've met. And um, this one band, the wet secrets that the first year I played at river Fest, the lead guy comes up to me and he goes, do you want to jam with us on stage? I said, what? And he goes now. So I walked out on stage and they were doing this Sonic assault on stage. And I just kicked in with my bagpipes and joined in with them, everybody that heard it was like, that was amazing. What you guys did. We made it up just five minutes of just making noise. And people were like, that was the coolest intro ever. So that was really fun. The folks at river Fest have done so much for me. Like I can't, I can't, I could go on for hours about Spencer and John Ralston and all those guys. But you know, at the end of the day, we're not doing Riverfest this year, but you know, we're going to do something for them. Right. Like, I'll do something out on the patio and I'll play a few tunes just for them because they deserve it. They're. And it,
Ryan Joyce: Now you mentioned your, one of your, what I mentioned say idol or people you look up to at the beginning, it's in your understand what makes, um, what makes them that high in your eyes? What is it that they do that so different or skilled?
Peter Hummel: Well, I really, I love the traditional form of bag piping. I compete in it, like actually, I just got a first place in my pee brought comp petition just found out today.
Ryan Joyce: Oh, okay. Congrats. That's great.
Peter Hummel: But, um, I like, I like guys that take the idea of playing bagpipes and making it more modern, making it more accessible to a larger audience of people. Um, Allie Hutton, he was taught by my ultimate favorite bag. Piper is this guy called Gordon Duncan? Gordon Dunkin was the first man to take thunder struck and put it on the bagpipes. He died. He died a few years, many, like a few years back. Right. But anyone he taught has taken on the mantle of how can we stretch the limit of the bagpipe? Where can we put it? So I just adore listening to, uh, Allie. Hutton's one of them, Lauren, McDougall's another one actually. Uh, Lauren came to Fergus few years ago. I met him then. Um, and just recently, since COVID happened, I get this message out of the blue from him saying, Hey, would you like to do some lessons?
And I said, well, this is what I want to work on. And we, you know, uh, now that things are lifting, he started to get really busy again. So, but we spent a good, a good month of COVID working on music and working on technique. And so I've got some stuff coming out soon that people are going to go, Whoa, uh, yeah, that's fine. And sometimes you hear it on the porch, I'll experiment and play it. And I, I crash and burn when I do it, but I don't care. Like it's all for fun. And
Ryan Joyce: It's an instrument that requires both hands and a lot of breath. Is it sorry, is it as much breast controls? Is it looks as a person that knows very little about music? Yes. Okay. That's a yes
Peter Hummel: And no answer, mainly because you've got to figure out after you're all tuned up. Like we were the other night down below, it started to cool off. So I was starting to lose my tuning. So as I was starting to flatten in the drones, I had to blow a little harder to sharpen everything up a bit, instead of me stopping halfway through and tuning. Right. So on if you're tired, like when we do the Highland games, but the entire Fergus pipe band, we are on all weekend long, we're constantly playing. Some of us are competing. Some of us like last year was a busy one for me because I did solos. I was competing with spirit of Ontario. It's a new pipe band that, uh, like, I, I won't say I helped start, but I was in the initial, let's bring these guys together. Um, and then I played with Fergus all around the park all weekend long. So I was by Sunday, I was done. And I, and then strangely enough, I had a hole in my pipe bag that I didn't know existed. So I just thought I was tired and I was breathing hard and everything I was doing until I got home and sprayed it with soapy water noticed I had holes like little tiny pin holes everywhere.
Ryan Joyce: And that's not like a duct tape fix.
Peter Hummel: Nope. That's like throw the bag out and get a new one.
Ryan Joyce: Is that, Oh, and what is the value of something? Right.
Peter Hummel: Um, the bag I use, it's about $270, but I made that bag last for seven years, which they only have a three year expiry. Oh, okay. So I was surprised, like I looked at the day when I bought it, it's written inside the bag and it was like, Oh, that's seven years ago. Well, I guess I'm do. Yeah. And how much,
Ryan Joyce: How much does it weigh roughly? This is of course probably imagined varies from,
Peter Hummel: Yeah, it varies. Like, I think my, my particular pipes that I, I play, uh, they're Dunbar P threes, and they're made of a plastic Caldwell Ray Delran and it's a very hard dense plastic. So they're, they're pretty heavy to begin with. But my competition set is an old set of, uh, 1930s Lauries. They don't weigh half as much as the Delran pipes. They're, they're a bit lighter. So I to put a number to it, I don't know, six, seven pounds maybe. I don't know. I, I I'm so used to it. Right. So,
Ryan Joyce: Oh, it's so interesting. You're also, I mean, you were with the Fergus pipe band as well. Like you do all sorts of piping. Would you say that you pipe every day?
Peter Hummel: Uh, other than typing at seven 30? Yeah. I try to, I try to, I try to play every day on the pipes. I try to get the practice Channer and play on that when everyone's in the living room. Family-wise I have an electric chanter. Oh yeah. Oh, interesting. It's a digital and I plug it into my ears and I just work on stuff that way, but I try not to rely on this because even with the practice, Channer, there's the breathing aspect of it. And there's no breathing with this, but this is fun when you stick it through an amp.
Ryan Joyce: Oh, sure. Now, do you have to wear any hearing protection?
Peter Hummel: I, I tend to with the band, I tend to do, um, you got 20 people around you and the snare drums really snap. So you start to get a little echo inside your head. And I don't like that because it's really hard to tune when you get that going. So, Oh yeah, definitely. You're protected.
Ryan Joyce: Is it? Yeah, I wasn't sure. Wow. It's so interesting. Well, what's on the horizon for you. I mean, considering obviously things are up in the air coven related, but what kind of things are you working on or looking forward to?
Peter Hummel: I, I am working on stuff like, uh, just putting music together. I have a side project I created called sworn to be wild. So I've been putting music together for that. And that's basically my idea behind that is, um, we're not a pipe band, we're a punk band. And I kinda liked the idea of anthems when people are at a pub and they're singing along and stuff. So I've transcribed music, like rescue team from boney M onto the bagpipes. Cause I know, I know everybody knows to go respite, cheek, you know? Yeah. Um, sweet Caroline. One that I've transcribed. Um, I've got a bunch of them. I don't want to let too much out of the bag we were supposed to play. Our first show was supposed to be at the goofy new feet, uh, on st. Patrick's day. And it was funny because a bunch of us and we're, we're from all different bands where a combination of the people that like minded, like let's go outside of the box, but let's see what we can do. And, um, yeah, so COVID came and our gig didn't happen, but it's okay though, because actually it gave me time to sit back, look at what we're doing and come up with a new plan.
Ryan Joyce: That's great. Look forward to for the future. So,
Peter Hummel: Oh yeah. Yeah. And, and, and I think, you know, someone had said to me, Oh, you guys are like the red hot chili Pipers. And I'm like, no, we're not as serious. If this is all fun. Like the whole thing is about to be just as a performer. You understand when the crowd's into it, you get more into it. So you're getting more out of it. They're getting more out of it. And all of a sudden, now you're at a, uh, a place where everyone's just enjoying themselves and that's, that's where I'm at with it. I just want people to have fun with me and I want to have fun with them at the end of the day. That's how it should be.
Ryan Joyce: And how can people follow you?
Peter Hummel: Well, uh, there is Peter Piper is beg piping services on Facebook. There is, uh, Peter Piper on Instagram and there's a spore and to be wild on Instagram and sport, and to be wild on Facebook and, you know, Fergus pipe band is on, uh, Facebook and Instagram. So we're all there. Yeah. And, you know, yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
Ryan Joyce: People also will give them a little sneak peek that they you'll be able to catch you in August, which is still kind of, um, secret information. So I guess we can't really chat to us, but there's going to be absolutely great content. So all that's amazing. Peter, I'm so thrilled to finally get, I feel like we should continue a conversation on the future episode. Cause there's we just touched on, on the beginnings, but
Peter Hummel: Well, yeah. You know, any time I'm home,
Ryan Joyce: That's very true. Thanks for being on the podcast. Peter I appreciate it.
Not a bother, Ryan. Thanks for having me, man. Thanks for all the work you do.
Thanks for listening to this episode with Peter Hummel!
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