Common Chords By Randall Hill
A loud ringing tone emerges.
It takes her a few moments to get the beast-like instrument under control, but then the bellowing and harrowing tones of “Amazing Grace” fills the cathedral ceiling of her Surfside Beach home like an overrunning glass of water.
“The nature of the pipes almost draped around you becomes like a part of your body,” said the music major who has played the instrument for the last 18 years. “You have these droning sounds at your ear and you’re playing the melody in front of you on the chanter. It just seems to get inside you as you play.”
As she goes through a list of commonly requested bagpipe songs, Leonard notes the sense of heritage she feels as she plays.
“I’ve always been aware of my heritage, my family does genealogy. They have traced our ancestors back to England, Scotland and Ireland,” she said. “When I started playing pipes, I started feeling a part of the history. I can almost feel my Scottish blood flowing when I play.”
In a recent lesson at her home with one of her students, Grayson Carter of Murrells Inlet, Leonard also passes on the traditions of the pipes to another generation. The lanky 14-year-old’s prowess is quickly advancing.
But learning to play the pipes is a slow process.
“You have to be diligent,” said Leonard. “If you really want to learn you can. It’s a step-by-step process.”
Listen to audio clips of Peggy Leonard on her bagpipes: