World Pipe Band Championships

Well, the World Pipe Band Championships are over for another year.

Not surprisingly, the top three bands in Grade 1 were the same as in the previous three or four years – they just duke it out for who gets to place where. In the end Field Marshal Montgomery came out on top, displacing last year’s winners Shotts and Dykehead to third place. Simon Fraser University were second.

I have listened the first summary show of the championships on BBC Radio Scotland’s Pipeline show and am partway through the second week of coverage. The College of Piping Radio show on Radio Six International still awaits me as soon as I can sort out some computer issues. They have interviews with Richard Parkes (the Pipe Major of Field Marshal Montgomery) among others and that should be really interesting. I will be posting in more detail with my thoughts on the competition and the radio shows.

This year, however, I have access to more than just the radio shows. Nine members of my band, the Wasatch and District Pipe Band, and their families were at the Championships on Glasgow Green. This Thursday evening I’ll be able to get firsthand accounts from people who were there. I’m looking forward to hearing all about their experience of the competition (and also their eventful airplane trip).

Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be able to make the trip over to Scotland myself.

The maintenance guys will kick their butts

I’m out of town this week with my family, so my kids can go to camp. We’re staying at a hotel that claims to be a resort. Glacial service and flies on the dining tables say otherwise, but that’s a whole different story.

I decided to practice a respectful distance away from the hotel buildings. This isn’t too hard as the hotel is way out in the country, on the side of one of the mountain ranges of northern Utah. I drove up to the water tank that supplies the hotel. It’s about a half mile away from the hotel and probably several hundred feet above it. I was confident I would not be heard from there. Yesterday I played for about an hour with only trees and crickets for company.

Today I took up my position as yesterday, but after a few minutes two of the maintenance guys showed up in a truck. Apparently they had to add some chemicals to the water. They were very happy that I was playing and told me to carry on. They left a few minutes later with big thumbs-up and waves. I carried on playing, but after a short while I heard the truck coming back. This time the front seat was stuffed with extra hotel staff – more waving and thumbs. It was a Drive-by listening.

I bumped into the maintenance guys again later. They asked why I had gone so far from the hotel to practice. I explained to them that I always try to be careful when piping in public – not everyone likes the pipes for some reason. They said to move closer and that if any of the guests complained they would “kick their butts”. Sadly we leave tomorrow, so I will never get the chance to see the promised butt-kicking. Shame – that would have added to the resort experience.

My Newtilikilt causes a stir, but I am not refused service.

With lightning speed, my new Utilikilt arrived from Seattle Thursday. Of course, I have worn it every day since. It might even be helping to scare up some business.

My kids persuaded me to take them to a gross fast food restaurant. The staff commented on my accent and my kilt, but did not ask me to leave. (Hey, Salt Lake City is the home of the Denny’s that made diversity training a national issue in cheap food chains.)

A nervous woman approached me. Had I scared her kids?

No – she wanted to know if, by chance my kilt was American (yes, 100%, I told her) and where did I get it? Since the kilt had arrived that day, it still had a handful of Utilikilt business cards in the pocket, so I gave her one. I also gave her a few of my Drive-by Piper cards. Turns out her friend is getting married soon and would “really like a piper at her wedding”.

Good things happen when you wear the kilt.

World Piping Events and World Events

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.

New Utilikilt!

To be correct you should wear a kilt.

But to be cool, you should wear a Utilikilt.

I got my first Utilikilt about 3 years ago at the end of a summer of nightly Ben and Jerry’s consumption. The kilt is for sure cool, but has never really fit me and finally I gave up the procrastination and called Seattle yesterday.

Speaking to the people at Utilikilts is always entertaining.

Nick (Utilikilt guy):
“What size do you need?”

Marc (Drive-by Guy):
“32 medium”

“Did you measure yourself like it says on the website?”

“No, I just subtracted 4 inches from my old Utilikilt”

“Four inches? Four inches? Jesus Christ man, you got a tapeworm or something?”

“I just stopped eating ice cream every night, and started playing the bagpipes.”

Nick told me well done and they’ll ship it tomorrow.

I will be cool once again.

Salt Lake Scots outdoor concert

Last week I saw one of the Salt Lake area bands, the Salt Lake Scots, play an open-air concert. The venue was Liberty Park in Salt Lake City – the park hosts a weekly concert series for musics and dance of the world during the summer.

Anyway, the Scots had to go on with only 6 pipers – the stage is so small their numbers were restricted. Despite this they seemed to settle into playing with a small group very well. The first couple of sets were a little ragged here and there but they soon found their groove, and the playing was excellent after that. I spoke to Jason Killpack (the Scots’ P/M) after the show and he pointed out a couple of times where they had made mistakes but I had thought they were intentional tune modifications. I guess they play confidently even when they go wrong!

The show was hosted competently and entertainingly by Drum Major (and piper) Jack Marinello, who always makes the Scots interesting to listen to. For me the highlight was, as always, their competition MSR. They have an excellent march (Bonnie Dunoon) which you don’t hear much, and a very tuneful Strathspey (The Caledonian Canal) and Reel (Captain Lachlan MacPhail of Tiree). It’s a nice set all round.

The band stayed afterwards for a meet and greet with interested audience members. It was a very pleasant evening and the Salt Lake Scots have once again represented piping with pride and excellence. Nice work guys.