I test a new way to update this page

Rather an unusual post this time – I’m testing a new way to update this page.  Assuming that it works, you will be reading about the Enumclaw games last weekend.

My band traveled to Washington State (the Tacoma area) last weekend to compete against some big hitters in the piping neighborhood.  Although the competition took place in the U.S., it is administered by the BC association, so my band ended up competing against a bunch of aver-achieving Canadians.

Considering that, they did pretty well (6th out of 8) and plan to return next year, presumably with the newly-minted Grade 4 band in tow.

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Payson Scottish Festival

Yesterday this fun and compact festival celebrated its 25th anniversary, and my band (the Wasatch and District Pipe Band) was there to help celebrate by winning the Grade 3 Timed Medley.

The Payson Games is always a really good day. The games are held in the city’s little park, which is old. This means that it is stuffed full of mature trees, so there is plentiful shade. There is a playground right in the center of the park, so the kids have a lot to do, all without leaving eyesight from the band area. The park is small enough that you can get all round it in just a few minutes, which make the logistics of getting bands and soloists to the performance a breeze. You may gather that I like the Payson Games!

That said, this year didn’t start out too well for me. I neglected to send in my solo application forms and missed the deadline. The organizer was very nice, but just couldn’t fit me in as a late entry. Still, when life (or your own carelessness) gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right? I decided to volunteer as a steward, since my only commitments during the day were to play in massed bands and the little parade-let up the main street outside the park in the morning. So, while the kids entertained themselves (and the dog) (and other band members’ children) I ran back and forth wrangling soloists and bands in the various competitions. I had a great time and got to talk to far more people than I usually do.

My sheep dog act turned out to be so efficient that the Slow March solo judge finished his competition early, giving time for a couple of us to play our piobaireachd tunes for critique for him. So, I did get to play after all. The Rout of the MacPhees got a second outing this year and I got some helpful advice from Bob Mason, the judge.

On the band side, the Wasatch and District Grade 3 band won their competition, and sounded very good doing so. The local Payson band (White Peaks Centennial Pipe Band) won both Grade 4 competitions and they really did sound good. Our new Grade 4 band will be competing for the first time next year and we clearly have our work cut out, if we are to put in a good showing next to White Peaks.

I had a great day. No sunburn this games, and the cherry on top was buying fresh cherries from a farm stand on the way home. Yum.

Salt Lake Highland Games

The Utah Scottish Association Highland Games took place yesterday and Friday.

I was competing solo, but have a year off from band competition as we get our new Grade 4 band established. This was a good thing, because it enabled me to focus on my solo stuff and I think it paid off. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I elected to play The Rout of the MacPhees for my Piobaireachd. We had a beautiful evening for it and I was quite happy with my performance. I took 4th place, and got some good comments from the judge, John Partanen. I think a few nerves may have crept in, but overall I can’t complain!

On Saturday, my pipes were sounding really good for the Slow March and 2/4 March. Amazingly (for me) I placed 3rd in my half of the draw in the 2/4 March. The organizers pulled the top 3 pipers from each half to play again and I finally finished in 4th place overall. I’m still trying to figure out what my surprise at this result shows: Am I a better piper than I thought? If so, why couldn’t I tell? I thought I did OK, but I could hear plenty of places for improvement. Or, maybe the explanation is that almost everybody else choked! Whatever is going on, I’m happy with how it turned out!

Not competing in the Band competition freed me up to do a couple of other things: talk to pipers from other bands, and listen to all the Grade 4 bands quite carefully. Next year, our fledgling Grade 4 band will be competing against these guys and it’s helpful to see where we should be aiming. The verdict: It’s going to be tough, but doable.

Next up, the Payson Games on July 12th and I get to do it all again! See you there.

A Busy Weekend

It was Memorial Day in the United States yesterday and my band was busy!

We had three cemetery performances and four of our band members played with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for their weekly TV show “Music and the Spoken Word”.

The other bands along the Wasatch Front were busy too. Here is a nice multimedia presentation from the website of a local paper, The Salt Lake Tribune, featuring Jason Killpack, the PM of the Salt Lake Scots.

In addition, several Utah pipers, including some from my band were competing at a Highland Games in Costa Mesa, California. I haven’t heard all the results yet, but it sounds like they all did well.

I’m back…and I choose a tune from my previous two posts!

For reasons too numerous to mention I have not posted for nearly two months. I didn’t really notice the time passing (which is either good or bad), so now I ought to rectify the situation.

It seemed reasonable (after such a long break) to start back by referencing my previous two posts, and I can do so without artifice because I really have had to make a choice which involves them both. The 2008 competition season has arrived for this lowly piper and with it a choice of tunes in piobaireachd for the upcoming competitions. All winter I have been putting off the decision: should it be my eponymous web tune, “I Am Proud to Play a Pipe” or my family-connected tune “The Rout of The MacPhees”? Both tunes are on the Piobaireachd Society’s Silver Medal list for this year, both have reasonably straightforward grounds and 1st variations (that is all I have to play in my grade), and both have compelling reasons for me to choose them.

Well, the wait is over – I finally made my choice. I picked The Rout of the MacPhees. It comes up in the competition list a lot less frequently than I Am Proud to Play a Pipe and is perhaps a little less technical. And there is that wonderful family connection. Still, I’m going to have to work on my edres and D-throws, since the ground is stuffed full of them. I will also have to get inside the tune, since on the face of it, it is quite repetitive. That makes interpretation very important, or the tune will just end up being boring. My instructor (and soon-to-be belt winner) Justin Howland will help me with that, I have no doubt.

Well, I’m back. I’ll try not to be silent for quite as long this time.

A bittersweet piobaireachd

In 1615 James Macdonald of Islay, beginning what was to be the final chapter in the Macdonalds’ struggle against the rule of England and Scottish surrogate rulers, escaped from Edinburgh castle to fight one last time with the clans against the crown.

Among the clans he gathered to his cause were the Macfies of Colonsay under their chief Malcolm. Late in the year Colla Ciotach MacDonald,or Colkitto (a Macdonald who had secretly joined the forces of the crown under the Earl of Argyll), betrayed Malcolm Macfie. Malcolm was forced to give up the clan’s hereditary right to rule Colonsay. For a few years Malcolm remained on Colonsay, but it must have been a strange existence. In 1623, as colonists were unwittingly founding a new nation in Massachussetts, Malcolm Macfie was killed by Colkitto on Colonsay, bringing an end to the little island nation of the Macfies. The Macfies gradually dispersed from Colonsay over the following generations.

This, then, is the backstory to the tune The Rout of the MacPhees. The tune is on the list of Silver Medal tunes from the Piobaireachd Society for 2008 and thus stands a reasonable chance of being heard during this competition year. Still, it is probably not a first choice of pipers given that it is not as “tuneful” as others. I’m not sure who wrote the tune – if it was a Macfie, a Macdonald, or some other person. Knowing this might help to understand the tune a little better, but in the meantime I am choosing to interpret the tune as one of those “angry” tunes which appear occasionally in the repertoire.

At the recent Winter Storm competition in Kansas City only one competitor played the tune out of a field of nearly 30. But one is better than none, and we can be grateful for Captain Ken Eller’s omnipresent recording device.

Visit The Captain’s Corner and scroll down to enjoy David McNally’s performance of The Rout of the MacPhees, the first recording available of this tune in recent years. Thank you David for choosing to spend some time with this tune – this Macfie appreciates your efforts.