Alan Keith – Highland Bagpipe, Irish Whistle, Accordion, Scottish Smallpipes, Borderpipes.
Alan Keith started his musical career at age nine with the clarinet, which he played in bands and orchestras through grade school and high school. While in high school, Alan also learned to play the Eb alto horn and the Sousaphone.
During junior high school, Alan took lessons on the Scottish Great Highland bagpipe from Robert Hart of the Caledonian Pipe Band of Duarte, CA, and upon entering high school in 1963, he joined the La Habra High School Highlanders Pipe Band. It was while a member of this band that he had the distinct privilge of performing for H.R.H. Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, during Philip's visit to Hollywood, CA in 1966.
After graduation, Alan took Highland bagpipe lessons from the great gold-medalist James McColl, and also from P/M James Thompson of the Los Angeles Scottish Pipe Band. During his college years, Alan played with several professional pipe bands in the Los Angeles area including the Caledonian Pipe Band of Duarte and the L.A. Scots Pipe Band. While on a vacation trip to Britain during the summer of 1970, Alan was invited to play in competition as a member of the South-East Fire Brigade Pipe Band(Edinburgh) at the Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, Scotland. 103 Scottish pipe bands competed at this event!
Alan started competing in solo piping contests in 1968, and in that year, he won the Ian Campbell Memorial trophy for novice piping at the Santa Monica Highland Games in Southeren California. Since then, he has won many prizes in amateur solo competitions at Highland Games and other events around the state.
As a Highland piper, Alan has appeared both solo and with bands on several television shows and in commercials. One particularly memorable TV show in which Alan participated, was a segment with singer Andy Williams on the Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour. On New Year's Day, 1970, Alan played as a member of a pipe quartet leading a Scottish theme float in the Pasadena Rose Parade. It was also during this period that Alan performed a second time for a British Royal, namely the arrival of the H.M.S. Queen Mary in Long Beach harbor. Alan began his teaching of the Scottish Highland bagpipe while in college, and has among his former students several soloist and band-member prize winners. Alan continues to teach, giving both private and group lessons (see Music Instruction).
Diatonic (button) accordion playing came to Alan at age 15 when he recieved one as a gift from his parents. Largely self-taught, Alan has over the years, sought out other players of this lesser-known member of the accordion family, both to learn about various playing styles and techniques, and to expand his repertoire of traditional music. Alan has been playing accordion professionally since the early 1980's, and currently offers private as well as group instruction for this instrument (see Music Instruction). He currently teaches both Highland bagpipe and diatonic accordion at his home in Forestville near Santa Rosa, and during workshops at the Lark in the Morning Summer Music Camp located in Mendocino, CA.
It was during visits to the Renaissance Pleasure Faires in California during the 1970s and 80s, that Alan was exposed to many performers of folk and early music, along with a variety of exotic instruments. Inspired by the now legendary bagpiper Robert Thomas and other Faire musicians, Alan now plays more than fifteen different kinds of bagpipes (see 'Instrument Collection - Bagpipes' page), several diatonic accordions (see 'Instrument Collection - Accordions' page), four kinds of folk oboes, numerous tin whistles, tabor pipes, and many percussion instruments (see 'Instrument Collection - Misc. Instruments' page). Having aquired a sizable instrument collection over many years, Alan was also inspired to take up instrument-making and repair. He now constructs and repairs instruments for himself and others.
For several seasons during the early 1980's, Alan toured as a musician with both Aman and Khadra folk dance ensembles, and for 16 years during the '70s and '80s, he could be seen at both the Southern and Northern Renaissance Pleasure Faires with such groups as The Celts, Les Gauls Bladders, The Newcastle Waits, The Irish Band, and Danse Macabre (see also Alan's Photo/Sound Page). At the Dickens' Christmas Faire in San Francisco, he performed with The Parker Family and The Contra Band. Alan has also been a member of The Electric Morris Band, The Golden Toad Minstral Band and the French bands Le Soleil (see also Photo/Sound Page), Le Bonheur, Deux Amis and Le Turlututu.
Since the late 1980s, Alan has made a number of trips to Europe to both study and perform traditional music and dance. July, of 1995, found Alan touring France, where he attended several folk music and dance festivals. At the festival of Saint Chartier in Berry, he performed in concert with 412 other bagpipe and hurdy gurdy players as a member of Le Grande Orchestre de Vielles et Cornemuses. (Click here for the program description.)
For three consecutive years (1995-98), Alan was a featured artist and workshop leader at the Sebastopol Celtic Festival where he could be seen demonstrating a number of his bagpipes.
As the "cornemuseux" with Tour de France, Alan participated in the 'Talent From Towns Under Two Thousand Contest' on A Prairie Home Companion NPR radio show as one of six finalists nationwide! This program was broadcast live on April 4th, 1998 from The Town Hall Theatre in New York City.
In June of 1999 and 2001, Alan helped organize the first and second French & Breton Music and Dance Camp, and was also a featured workshop leader at those camps. As the creator and administrator of the camp's website, and also the principal promotor and advertizer, Alan was instrumental in the success of this unique event here in the Americas.
Alan is featured on Le Soleil's recordings Le Soleil and Bal Folk en Californie, on French Creek's Fait en Californie, and on Tour de France's Music of the French Provences. He presently plays both solo and with the French bands Tour de France and Les Campagnards, with the Celtic and British Isles trio Rosin the Bow, and with the German/Bavarian group The Polka Meisters Trio.