By Wendy Pramik
Posted On: Jan 24, 2022
A bagpiper in traditional Highland dress summons guests to dinner at Glenlaurel Scottish Inn near Rockbridge in southeastern Ohio.
The deep and shrill sounds coming from the pipes transport them from the rolling countryside of the Hocking Hills to the bonnie lands of Scotland as they make their way inside the cozy carriage house.
Scott Caputo, of Columbus, has played hourlong sessions on Saturdays at Glenlaurel for the past seven years. His sonorous tunes beckon overnight guests to come dine on a seven-course meal, a one-of-a-kind dinner bell that adds a serving of authenticity to the event.
"I love playing here," the 69-year-old Caputo says.
Ohio's travel destinations are as much about the people as about the sites. As travelers explore the state, they'll encounter people like Caputo, who use their talents to make visitors feel welcome and to give them an experience that's uniquely Ohio.
On Jan. 25, Caputo plays more music and then reads "Address to a Haggis" by Robert Burns in celebration of the beloved Scottish poet's birthday.
Caputo will don a plaid, pleated kilt and a wool Sheriffmuir jacket that he made himself, with a knife called a "sgian-dubh" tucked into his hose. He also sports a traditional purse, called a "sporran," because kilts don't have pockets. His shoes are "gillies," which do not have a tongue, and which, he says, are "notoriously uncomfortable."
Caputo, who is part Scottish, has played the bagpipes for 46 years, mostly as a member of Capital City Pipes & Drums in Columbus. It's not a simple instrument to master. He performs on a secondhand set he purchased in 1976 while earning his Master of Fine Arts from The Ohio State University. He says he tried to learn how to play the guitar and banjo, "but nothing ever worked."
"When I picked these up, I was kind of dubious as to how far I’d get, and it just took off."
Photo courtesy of Glenlaurel
On nice days Caputo plays outside of Glenlaurel's cabins and crofts, the music wafting over the 140-acre property, which also includes private trails with a gorge, rock cliffs and waterfalls. It's even got a 19th-century style Scottish links golf course. Along with his kilt, Caputo likes to pack his watercolors to do plein air painting.
"I love the Hocking Hills. I try to make a day of it when I come down to play. I paint or take photos for a couple hours, stopping at one of the sites around here."
The area has even been compared to Scotland for its trails, caves and waterfalls. Tonight, a thick mist overtakes the property of Glenlaurel, calling Caputo indoors to play in the Glasgow Dining Room. He wears earplugs inside because the instrument is loud, and he's developed tinnitus, ringing in his ears.
Guests mill about downstairs in the Loch Ness Pub before they're called to dinner to the familiar tunes of "Scotland the Brave" and "Rowan Tree."
But there's more to bagpipe music than these catchy tunes. Many songs, which last less than a minute and are played with nine available notes, are tributes to military conflicts.
"The music is very evocative," Caputo says. "The 'Battle of the Somme,' for instance, is a nice dance tune that's about one of the most terrible battles of World War I. The Scots seem to take these awful scenes and write the best music from them."
It takes stamina to play the bagpipes. Caputo practices every day, blowing into a recorder-like section of the instrument called a chanter. It's a lot quieter than the full set. Regular play is good for the instrument, too, keeping moisture in the bag and keeping the reeds a bit moist. Not playing will make them dry out.
"It takes a lot of wind control," Caputo says. "There's a lot going on there to get it tuned right to have a balanced tone and nice, crisp sound. Keeping the tone steady is one of the most difficult things, especially if you get tired."
Caputo shows no sign of being tired as the dinner guests take their seats to enjoy rack of lamb.
"The older you get, the harder it is," He smiles, sweat glistening on his face. "But I love the challenge of it."