There is periodic discussion of non-traditional kilts on the forums to which I belong. Lately, someone posed the question, Have you seen anyone compete solo wearing a Utilikilt? I usually comment on these threads, since, unlike the majority of pipers, I regularly wear both traditional and non-traditional kilts.
Many pipers (or at least, the vocal ones) do not like the Utilikilt. I have seen it disparagingly called an Extremetoolbelt and also a Potato Sack. Funny thing is, I don’t think the makers and wearers of the UK would really care – in fact, they would probably think it was funny. I know I did.
But, since the question posed referred to playing in a competition setting, I thought these pictures might be helpful. Imagine you are a judge and one of these three pipers has just stepped up to play his tunes for you. Who will you pick?
Last week was the annual Midwest Highland Arts Fund Winter Storm competition in Kansas City, Missouri. The event features three top-flight piping competitions – two in piobaireachd and one in light music.
The list of competitors is interesting, because they are mostly quite young, and many already play with some of the top bands. Some have also competed in major solo competitions in the UK. Despite all their experience, it must still be quite intimidating to play in front of the panel of world-class pipers who were assembled to judge the competition. The formidable list included Andrew Wright (President of the Piobaireachd Society), Willie McCallum and Angus MacColl.
The Captain, Ken Eller, has generously made recordings of the three competitions available on his website, so I’ve spent the last few days listening to the prize-winning performances. The recordings show the healthy state of piobaireachd in North America, and I think anyone listening should feel optimistic about the future of the Big Music in the hands of the next generation of pipers.
Even as I sit here comfortably at my computer, the storm in the UK over the alleged airplane bombing plot is hitting close to home.
We had no band practice this week, because 9 of my band (the Wasatch and District Pipe Band of Bountiful, Utah) were traveling to Scotland for the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow. My Pipe major mentioned to me that they were all flying into Manchester Friday and driving the remaining four hours or so to Glasgow. They will be glad they did not go through either of the London airports.
There are reports of pipers having to check their valuable old pipes without adequate protection, and not being reunited with them upon arrival in London. Uniforms have apparently gone astray in some cases. Even if their pipes and equipment arrive safely, the bands flying into London at the last minute still have to find their way to Glasgow. From what I read on the BBC news website, waiting for connecting flights is pretty much a lost cause, so last-minute van rentals would seem to be the order of the day.
It will be interesting to hear from my felllow band members how this all played out over there when they return. Also, whether all the upheaval had any effect on some of the top bands. (As I write, the finals of the Grade 1 Medley competition should be getting under way.)
I note from the list of competing bands that there are bands from countries like Oman and Pakistan at the Worlds. I wonder how easy it was for them to make their way to Glasgow?
Good luck to them all.