Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Book is published and available

I published my blog book (not that anyone would really be interested in buying it besides myself), but hey it's done.

You can take a look at this URL:
Grandpiper Blog 2005-09

Monday, December 7, 2009

Making a blog book.

I found a way to archive all of my past blogs and save them to a document.

I have spent a lot of time writing up my posts and at this point I have over 115 of them. I would hate to lose all of that writing. Even though there's no plot and it doesn't read like a novel, I've decided that it is interesting to me and more of a journal than I'm currently keeping.

I've saved all of my posts and I've decided to publish them in book form as "Grandpiper Blog Volume 1". I've published photo books on before and they are very professionally done and affordable.

So, I've decided to go ahead with a blog book. Should be interesting.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's been a while ... (blame hockey)

It’s been a while since my last blog entry … sorry about that.

After our return from Nauvoo we sort of got absorbed in hockey and piping became a secondary thing. Hockey in August you ask?! Well, yeah it does sound a bit ridiculous, but that’s the way youth sports is becoming.

Teagan got an invitation to try out for a couple of very good teams this year. Chadders AAA Bantam and Jr Grizzlies AA Bantam. Both teams are tier level travel teams and neither of them is really affordable so we weren’t sure how this would work out if he made one of them. He made both teams.

They both offered him a scholarship to play. These scholarships were good, but to play for Chadders still would have been far too expensive. The other was much more affordable, so we decided to let Teagan play with the Jr. Grizzlies this year. I applied for a position as Asst. Coach and was accepted.

I also agreed to coach a Squirts team with the county and so a lot of my time has been focused on hockey lately.

Regardless, there have still been bagpipe and drum competitions and other events, so I haven’t completely ignored my piping.

In August we went to Jackson Hole, WY for the Jackson Scottish Festival. The band did very well there placing 1st and 2nd in the two competitions. I competed solo as did Teagan. Teag took third place in his competition and I got a second place in my slow march. It was a fun trip and I will have a video of the band competitions posted on my video blog soon.

After Jackson I was asked by my niece to pipe at her wedding reception in St. George in October. I agreed only to find out later that the band was going to Ventura CA to compete in the Seaside Games. I had already committed to my niece, but Teagan didn’t have a commitment, so he went with the band. We found out in September that his hockey team would be going to Boise ID for a tournament that weekend, but he had already committed to the band, so he missed the tournament.

Unfortunately the band didn’t do very well in Ventura. It’s too bad, because they had done so well at the other competitions. Teagan said he still had a fun time.

I had a wonderful time playing at my nieces reception. I didn’t find out until I got down there what the plans were. She was married in the LDS Temple in St. George, but since her parents and a few relatives were unable to go into the Temple she decided to have a ring ceremony before the reception.

That is the first ring ceremony I’ve attended.

Shanay (my niece) asked if I would play for the bridal procession. I played Highland Cathedral and it worked out very well.

She then asked if I would play as people arrived for the reception, so I went outside and played a few sets while folks arrived. I then played again inside after the bridal dance and one last time as the couple left the reception.

Shanay and Spencer were both very pleased with the piping and I was happy to be able to provide it. Spencer is a metal sculptor and gave me one of his metal roses after. It was a beautiful gift.

Shanay’s sister is thinking of getting married next year and asked if I would be interested in piping at her wedding – of course I agreed.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Nauvoo - a very special experience.

We left for Nauvoo on July 11th in the early am. It was a long drive, but seemed to go by quickly and we arrived on the 12th. We settled into our little cabin at the Nauvoo Log Cabins to begin what was one of the most spiritual and fun experiences I've had in a long while.

The first week was fun, but a bit frustrating. My pipes (I'll blame them) didn't settle in very well. The humidity especially affected the bass drone which double toned almost constantly. We had seven pipers and four drummers (two tenors, a bass and a snare). Most of the pipers were quite good and individually we sounded good, but as an ensemble we had a tough time getting it right. It is a difficult thing when working with different chanters, reeds, pipes etc. Nevertheless, we got along and seemed to work well together.

Our daily schedule involved a parade down Mulholland Street (the main street in Nauvoo); playing before vignettes two to three times per day; the Pageant pre-show (we played Loudans for the Highland fling); the Pageant flag ceremony; a small part in the Pageant itself (fake playing for the dance scene); and finally the pipers would play to signal the cast to strike the stage. We would usually show up to these performances about 20-30 minutes before hand to tune up and then perform. We also had a practice in the morning to work with the weaker pipers on tunes and get our pipes in order. After a great deal of messing around with my drones I was finally able to get my bass to strike in properly. The cooler than normal weather also helped.

While I enjoyed the first week, I felt that there was something missing from the experience. I pondered and prayed to find the missing element that would complete the work I felt we were there to do. I felt we were really there to do more than just provide entertainment, we were ambassadors for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but I wasn't sure exactly how to bring this into our playing.

One afternoon, Mindy, Teagan and I went to the Nauvoo Brick Yard. There was an older missionary there doing the presentation on how bricks were made. His name was Elder Toone and he was almost blind. I was interested in how they made bricks, but didn't expect much from the presentation. I was in for a treat. Elder Toone did a great job explaining the composition of the bricks and the process that was used to make them, but he turned the whole presentation into a spiritual experience when he explained the faith of the early saints and then bore his testimony. I would have never thought that a presentation on brick making would have been a spiritual experience for me. As I thought about this presentation the spirit touched me and I felt that this was the element we were missing in our performances.

When Chuck Acklin (the other adult piper) left at the end of the first week I was left responsible for the group. We lost five of our seven pipers and two of our drummers, but we gained two more pipers. We had a nice tight group with four pipers and two drummers.

At the orientation on Monday I asked the group to meet in one of the rooms at the High School for a brief devotional. I told the others in the devotional that I felt strongly that we should take the opportunity to testify during our performances. We usually took a few minutes during our vignette performances to take questions, but I felt we needed to do more to invite the spirit. Everyone was in favor of this and the next week we began taking turns bearing our testimonies during our vignette performances. The change was remarkable.

I felt the spirit more strongly and finally felt that we were doing what we were supposed to do and what we had been called to do.

We moved into the White House Inn for our second week in Nauvoo. It was a great place to stay. Sort of like a boarding house with shared kitchen and a hot tube which was nice after a day of performing around town.

In the end, this experience strengthened my testimony of the restoration. I felt the Spirit of our Heavenly Father prompting me and responding to my prayers. I felt the power of the atonement of Christ and gained a deeper appreciation for His great sacrifice. Just like my piping, I realize that I am not perfect, but I also realize that in spite of my shortcomings, God is mindful of me and loves me, and I keep trying to improve. I love Him.

I am grateful for this experience. I am especially grateful that I could share it with my wife and youngest son.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Video on my video blog - link below

I've posted a new video (taken by my wife) of the band's QMM - one of our first place finishes. Check it out HERE.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Utah Scottish Festival - the pain and the glory

So the time arrived for the first competition of the season with it's anxiety and stresses. The weather was a factor; but it was what one might expect at a "Scottish" festival - overcast with occasional downpours.

Teagan and I had run through our solos the night before and felt fairly prepared ... not! He had been practicing and I had been practicing, but we hadn't done so together much so there existed the potential for disaster. Especially for me because I have a tough time staying focused when I play with someone else.

We got to Thanksgiving Point (location for the blessed event) and my wife dropped my son and I off so we could go in while she found a parking space. We located the band tents and I pulled out my pipes to warm up.

They sounded pretty good. I messed with them a bit and ran through parts of my solos and the solo tunes for my son. I probably should have run through them all the way, but I was feeling a bit too confident.

My wife had trouble getting in the gate because they weren't going to open until 9:00 and she was afraid she'd miss my son's first solo. She wouldn't, but she was upset and had to let all the volunteers and everyone else she ran into know about it. That got me a bit stressed right before we were to go on.

My son and I went over to the solo competition area and wound up waiting quite a while because the drum judge was late showing up and threw the schedule off. As I watched the time tick away, I decided to head over to my solo station and let the judge know I'd be late. When I got there he said,"You're up" and so without much mental prep I was up!

I always like to have a few minutes to mentally prepare, but I had none. Again, being a bit too confident I jumped right in. My drones were a bit sharp (not too bad, but the judge noticed). I was a bit sloppy to start and when I went into the second part I got my son's solo mixed up with mine and screwed up the first measure. I recovered, but by then I was flustered and going into the third part my tenor drone cut off. I finished strong, but by then the damage was certainly done. The judge was kind in his comments - I'm sure he knew that I knew I was toast.

I then went back to where my son had his first solo (2/4 march) and we were on immediately. I was so flustered by my own solo that I messed up the second part of his solo. Fortunately I didn't completely break down, and he played strongly, but I can't help but feel bad.

His second solo was a 6/8 march which he hadn't memorized. The judge had told me that he didn't think there was a rule against playing with the music, so we were good to go. Unfortunately my son had left his music back at the band tent, and had to go back and get it. Typical of a 14 year old he walked there and back even though he was supposed to be on next. By the time he made it back the steward was ready to DQ him and I was again off my mental mark. I totally trashed the second part and for the first time ever I broke down and couldn't finish. My son did finish, fortunately, but I didn't help him at all in his competitions.

I now had a fairly long wait until I would be up for my slow march. I took the time to get my head back in the game and remind myself that I was a decent piper and could place in this competition if I played like I was capable of. I also had two tunes prepared and had some time to play through them to decide which I wanted to play. That was a blessing because I really had a good feeling about the one versus the other and that made the decision easier and my ability to play it more confident.

When the time arrived for my slow march solo I was ready to go for it and I was excited about playing it. No fear or anxiety at all.

I had heard the competitor before me and he had played very well, but I remained unshaken and when the judge called me over I was ready. I told him my tune and he seemed pleased that it wasn't another tune he had heard a million times before. I then stepped away and checked my tuning really quick and it sounded dead on.

I faced the judge and began to play. My focus was there and I could hear the drones locked into the chanter. My doublings came off perfectly and when I got to the end I wished I had another part to play. I stepped away and some folks over by a tree near the judge applauded and congratulated me. My wife seemed very happy and I felt good.

On the way back to the tent, I told my wife that I didn't care where I finished on that piece, I felt I had given it my best and was pleased.

So for the solo results: my son finished second in both of his competitions (5 competitors in the 2/4 and only two in the 6/8); I bombed in my 2/4 - which I expected - and didn't place, but finished 3rd in my slow march (10 competitors in the 2/4 and 17 competitors in the slow march). I was very happy, because I've never placed higher than 5th at the Utah Scottish Festival. I was likewise very proud of my son for being so nice to me after I screwed up on his solos. I was glad he finished where he did; I hope I didn't hurt his scores too badly.

The first band competition went very well. I felt very confident that we nailed it. My son had a hockey try out that we had to leave for so we missed the second band competition, but I heard later that they had done very well there too. The band had two first place finishes - very exciting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend is over ... I'm exhausted!

I'm glad it's over, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

The Redwood Road Cemetery has food and drinks available in their chapel and it's a nice place to take a break, so it gives you a chance to recover between sets.

The band had a gig there on Sunday and I was scheduled to play my solo just before they performed. I showed up and did a quick tune up; then started my solo set. I got through the first piece (Fair Maid of Bara) when Tyler came out and told me to come in a tune with the rest of the group. He told me he really liked the tune I was playing and complimented me on how good it sounded - I was pleased with the compliment.

As the band tuned up, the PM asked if anyone wanted to play a solo during the performance. No volunteers. As we got the pipes tuned and played through a few sets, he asked again about a soloist. Grant was standing next to me and said I should do it. The PM looked at me and said that he thought the tune I was playing when I first got there sounded good if I wanted to play it. I admit I was a bit shocked to be asked, but I decided I wouldn't pass on the opportunity. Then I found out that there would be television cameras there from two stations. DEEP BREATH!! REEELAXXxxx ...

We marched out and played a couple of sets then the PM gave me the nod and Jack announced that I would be playing a solo. I stepped out and struck up - good so far. I hit my E well and went into the first doubling a bit awkwardly. I think this caused me to squeeze the bag a bit hard and my tenor drone shut off. If you've ever had that happen in front of an audience it sounds like you just went from a full pipe sound to playing the piccolo. I figured, "Oh well, I've blown it but there is nothing I can do except play the tune the best I can." And I played on.

I was happy with the tune, but unhappy that my drone popped off. I thought to myself, "Well, at least I got a chance to solo. Probably will never happen again after that."

The next day I got up early and had to be to the cemetery at 8:00am. I put in my two hours at Redwood and then headed up to Mountain View for another band performance. When I got up to Mountain View I pulled my chanter out and checked the reed. It had been giving me some trouble that morning - sure enough, it had a big chip out of the corner - aaaaaaahhh! I figured I was done for now!

I pulled out my reed case and looked to see what I had. I found a new reed and blew into it. It was hard as H E double hockey sticks. I found that if I chew the sound box on the reed a bit (I know ... big no no) it will weaken the reed a bit and make it easier. I tried that and voila - a really nice crow to the reed. I popped it into the chanter and it sounded pretty good.

When I joined up with the rest of the band, I confessed the problem to the PM. He tried my chanter out and found that the F was really flat. He messed with it a bit couldn't get it to work. I was about to tell him to not worry and I'd just sit out, but he said he thought a rubber band would help and we went to his car to get one. Sure enough it worked beautifully. We were pressed for time and I knew he was under some stress, but he remained very calm and friendly. I was very impressed with that.

We got back to the band and tuned a bit more. I was slightly flat, but made a quick adjustment on my own and I was locked in. We marched into the performance area playing a set and then went through some of the regular tunes. Without warning, the PM looked over at me and asked if I would play my solo. "No way!", I thought, "He's really giving me a second chance!" I knew my tuning was locked in, so I jumped at the chance to make up my mistake.

My strike in was a bit off; with the new reed I got a small squawk - but that was it. The drones were tight and full, the chanter was in tune from top to bottom and locked into the drones. No fingering mistakes. Embellishments were distinct and even. It sounded good to me. I couldn't have been happier with it. Jack said it was my competition piece when he introduced me. It really wasn't, but maybe it should be.

Anyway, it was all good.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend has begun.

The band makes a ton of money on Memorial Day Weekend.

We have an annual gig with a company that owns several mortuaries and cemeteries (not sure what the difference is). They pay the band beaucoup bucks to have solo pipers playing practically all day long at three of their cemeteries. Then on Sunday and Monday morning the band has a full performance at all three cemeteries.

Last year I signed up for two hours of piping; one on Sunday and the other on Monday morning. This year - in the spirit of being a good band member, I signed up for six hours; three today (exhausting), one on Sunday and two on Monday morning (I'll miss one of the full band performances).

My wife is in Texas and so it's just me and my son at home. We have been moving him from one room to another and worked on that all morning - it was kinda like moving a whole house full of stuff; man he's got a lot of junk. Anyway, I worked on that all morning and we hauled a truck load of items off to the thrift store. We did some more work and then I headed off to put in my three hours piping.

The first hour was great. I have eleven tunes that I am playing. I timed each out last night and if I play them all through twice I'll have about forty minutes of piping.

After a break, I was back at it again. I could feel the burn towards the end of that set and wasn't anxious to get back out after my last break. But I did.

Whilst playing the last set, I had a young lady come up to me and request that I play Scotland the Brave. She said that she had just returned from a visit to Scotland and missed it. I obliged - twice through! She was very grateful and had a guy take her photo with me. I had several people thank me for playing and it seemed worth the effort. I'm pretty tired and glad I only signed up for one hour tomorrow.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rush to judgement? Maybe

I read a response to a comment I made on another band member's blog and perhaps I made a rush to judgment in my last post. She recalls the PM saying that Dan and Karen MIGHT be cut which leaves the option open for them to play.

Regardless, I still feel that the pressure is on and there will be less and less tolerance of gafs and flubs. After all, how would it look if a band composed largely of grade III pipers didn't take first place in a grade IV competition?

I can't say I lay too much blame on the PM. After all, one week he was PM of a Grade III band and the next he's a Grade IV PM - that's tough.

Anyway, things are what they are. Some will rejoice and some will adjust. At least I couldn't be accused of being grumpy at band practice, in fact, I thought I was quite upbeat. Hopefully I'll have cause to continue to be.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Has the culling begun?

Our first band practice with the group formerly known as the Grade III band went surprisingly well. The PM was in good humor which made the experience rather fun.

Still, I was a bit suspicious and was withholding my final judgement until I heard the whole thing out. I suspected that at some point during the practice a hint would be dropped that would suggest the culling of the herd would begin. I was wrong ... it wasn't a hint, it was actually said in a very straight forward manner, and in fact (at least from my perspective) the cuts have begun. Let me explain.

We have had two new pipers coming out to our Grade IV practices - Karen and Dan. I've been very impressed with both of them. They seem to be playing very well, so it was no surprise to me that they were voted into the band last night. However, there was a caveat to their entry into the band - they were cut from competition.

My feeling is that this was a bit unfair. Had the Grade III not lost their ability to compete, Karen and Dan would be welcome members of the Grade IV competition band and would have competed in June. NOW however, that has changed.

The PM made it quite clear that if a piper wasn't up to par (and that likely means playing to Grade III standards) they will be cut from competition as well.

Is this good? I really got into piping because I love the sound of the pipes and I love to play them and to draw out the emotion that they instill in me and others. I really never even considered competition as a part of that until I joined the band and found out that pipe bands and solo pipers actually compete. Now that seems to be the focus. I have to force myself to step back from time to time and remember that playing the bagpipes isn't a sport - it's an art.

Should Karen and Dan have been cut from competition? If they were good enough to compete in Grade IV before the big change then they are good enough to play with us now ... end of story.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Big shake up with the Salt Lake Scots Pipe Band

I broke my vow of not being a complainer at band practice this week.

We had a bit of a shake up when four drummers in the Grade III band quit. They all joined a band in California called the LA Scots Pipe Band. BJ Gunn - the drum sergeant and Teagan's instructor - had been playing with the LA band since this last fall and about a month ago (see my "Nerve Racking Experience" post) Mindy and I were told by Andrew Morrill that BJ would be leaving the SL Scots. Sure enough he did and he took three other drummers with him.

That devastated the Grade III drumline and so they had to choose to cancel their competition season or play with the Grade IV. Guess what they chose? Yup, they're going to be playing with us; or perhaps - and more likely - we'll be playing with them. Many are not very happy with what happened and there are hard feelings in the Grade III band. Should be interesting.

With seventeen pipers and a still very small drum line, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the competitive atmosphere increase at practice and the fun factor decline. After all, there will be no shortage of pipers if the PM decides he would rather win than have everyone participate. That would be a tragedy.

Anyway, I voiced my concern at practice, but alas, it will probably make little difference. Anyway, stay tuned because the drama is bound to continue.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Ever thought being a piper was too tough? Watch this...

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Nerve Racking Experience

A couple of months ago I was asked if I would help an old friend plan a Ward party on the theme of "Scotland". For you who are not of the LDS (Mormon) faith, a "ward" is a congregation of Mormons - similar to a parish.

He wanted me to play the bagpipes and get some highland dancers as well as help him arrange for food and anything else that might add to the scottish flavor of the event. I was very busy with other things, but agreed to at least play the bagpipes with my son and wife accompanying me on their drums. I referred him to the Utah Scottish Association for help with the other things.

The weeks passed since the invitation and, while I was practicing on the pipes, it was pretty non-commital (in otherwords I wasn't preparing like I should have). My wife drafted a short program that we would follow and the tunes were fairly simple, so that made my preparation even less intense as I knew these tunes fairly well. The only one I anticipated any problem with was a solo piece I'd been working on, but not very hard since competitions were another couple of months away.

We practiced together as an ensemble a few times the week before the big evening and I was ready to go.

I got a call from my friend and he told me that he had arranged for some highland dancers and that their father was from Scotland and would be at the event. I felt a little more pressure to perform well, but was still fairly confident.

We arrived at the church house where the social was taking place. Folks gave us polite smiles as we carried our instruments into the building in our kilts. We found a room away from the cultural hall where people were beginning to gather and I was able to tune up my pipes.

After running through a few tunes I left my pipes and went into the cultural hall to get a bite to eat (they were having a potatoe bar). As I sat and chatted with my wife and son, I caught a fleeting glance of a gentleman who was helping the dancers in another room. I assumed him to be the father from Scotland, but in the brief look I got of him I thought to myself, "He looks a lot like the Pipe Major of the Wasatch and District Pipe Band." The thought didn't stay with me for long, because 1) I couldn't imagine what he would be doing at this small Ward gathering; and 2) if he was really here, he'd be doing the piping.

After the meal it was time for the entertainment. My wife came into the back room where we had our things and said that she had just talked to the father of the dancers and they had asked if we would mind alternating numbers with them. I told her that I thought that was a good idea as it would give us each a break (piping and highland dancing can both be taxing - especially on an old man like me).

We went up on the stage and I drew back the curtain for our opening number "Scotland the Brave". As we set up on the stage, I glanced over to the back stage door and to my horror, there stood Mr. Morrill, the Pipe Major for the Wasatch and District Pipe Band; who is also, by the way, the President of the Western United States Pipe Band Association (WUSPBA) and one of the best pipers in the State if not the western USA!! He's been playing the pipes since he was 8 years old and has piped with the Utah Symphony, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and was the funeral piper for Gordon B. Hinkley, the late president of the LDS Church. My mouth went instantly dry!

I remained fairly composed and was able to pull off a decent rendition of Scotland the Brave and was grateful that my wife and son were playing with me to help drown out my pipes somewhat.

We then played a competition medley together (which went fairly well) and left the stage. My wife looked at me and asked, "Do you know who that is?" in a knowing tone. I squeeked, "YES, it's Andrew Morrill!!" She said, "I know, I recognized him when I went and talked to him, but I didn't want to tell you because I was worried you'd be intimidated." "DARN RIGHT I'm intimidated, [I did say darn because good Mormons shouldn't swear] I'm freaked out!!" I don't think I needed to tell her this last bit of information as this was self-evident.

To add just a bit to the intimidation factor, Mr. Morrill announced the dancers and informed the audiance that the first dancer was the former "world champion" highland dancer from Scotland! What was I, a lowly grade 4 piper, doing on the same stage with these people?!

After the dancers finished their two numbers we were up again - correction - I was up for my solo ... yikes!! I did a brave attempt playing my solo with the President of the Piping Association for the western States standing not 10 feet away, but in the end I slaughtered it (at least it felt that way).

After the dancer's next numbers, my son did a great job on his drum solo. The dancers performed once more and then fittingly I went out and soloed "Amazing Grace" thinking deep in my heart that if any wretch needed saving it was indeed me.

Mr. Morrill was very gracious in his comments after the performance and I appreciated that he was so kind. I have a whole list of excuses, but in the end, while I didn't do as well as I could have, I thought I did okay for where I'm at as a piper ... and some day, I might even watch the video.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Post on Practice Chanter reeds

I like the Gibson reed.

Some say it is a bit loud, but I like it. It's just loud enough to be heard and quiet enough to be pleasant inside.

I have made several PC reeds modeled on the Gibson and have found them to work well (they don't last as long as the original however).

The reed I'm using now is an original and I've had it in the chanter for over a year. I have two spares and parts to make some knock offs if I need to.

My daughter bought a chanter with a long slender reed. It had a much more mellow sound to it, but it was too quiet for my taste and if I blew even a little too hard it cut out - too light and it squawked - very tempermental.

The Gibson reed was easy to adjust the balance on as well - just a bit of sandpaper in the right place and it balanced out quite well.

Originally Posted by jessierose View Post
I don't expect a lot from a PC reed because I'm a piper not a practice chanterer. So many people get hung up searching for the perfect practice chanter and reed but, at the end of the day, if it's decent it's good enough.

I don't necessarily look at the PC as an means to an end. My gibson pc is a great little instrument and I love to play it just for the enjoyment of something different. It's no fun to play if it doesn't sound good.

I think there are a lot of pipers who feel that the pc is a throw away piece of equipment, and perhaps a lot of them are. I decided to look at my chanter differently and purchased it as an instrument rather than a practice tool. I'm very happy with what I bought and I enjoy playing it.

I play the great highland bagpipes, the small pipes, the guitar ... and the chanter - and have also played the piano and trumpet in my youth. Would I perform with the chanter? Sure ... and I have. I guess I'm a piper, chanterer, guitarist, and at one point pianist and trumpeter. Be all that you can be!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Response on BPF about the "best" innovations

Drone Valves: I've read the "Worst" posts and I have to say I love my drone valves - guess I'm just one of those lazy pipers, but I haven't noticed any difference in tone. Perhaps at a higher level of play I might think differently, but for me they have been a huge help. My bag is nearly full when I strike in and cut offs are a piece of cake. I use the hyland drone valves with my cannister system - had to fiddle with them a bit to get them working right, but I've not had any problems with them.

Synthetic Bags: I was handed a set of pipes with a hide bag by my instructor back when I started on pipes. I absolutely hated it. When I had the cash to get my own pipes I got a Ross Cannister zipper bag with all the guts. My instructor tried very hard to discourage me from going with a zipper, but I ignored his advice and interestingly enough he now plays a zipper bag.

The cloth bag felt pretty flimsy at first, but once I got used to it - wow. I'd never go back to the hide bag. There is a hybrid bag made by Gannaway which combines hide and synthetic. I've seen them, but haven't tried one - might be a nice compromise.

Not the best yet: I've read the posts about the synthetic chanter reed as well. I have heard one of those being played and I have to agree that it didn't sound as good as cane, but I wouldn't be too quick to pass them off as a bad innovation. I think it is only a matter of time before a material or method of production is found that will match the quality of cane and overcome some of the downsides of a cane reed.

Final note: At a certain level there is perhaps enough of a difference to embrace the sheep skin bag and cane reeds (drone and chanter) but I'm not there and at my age doubt that I will be. I love playing my pipes and that's what matters to me. If something makes that easier for me and I can't notice a change in the quality of the sound, then it's all good as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The "Bagpipes"

The history of the bagpipes is an interesting one.

They are thought to have originated in the middle east and imported to the Scotland by the Romans. Bagpipes are mentioned (though not by name) in the Bible and there are numerous carvings, paintings and sketches of bagpipes going back several centuries before Christ. While this is all interesting, I was carrying my pipes upstairs to practice and it suddenly hit me as to what a simple name they bear. They well could have been named by a preschooler.

Teacher: What would you call these Johnny?
Johnny (4 years old) points to the drones, chanter and blowpipe: What are those?
Teacher: Those are pipes.
Johnny points to the bag: What is that?
Teacher: That is a bag.
Johnny: I call it bag-pipes.
Teacher to Johnny's parents: Your boy is a genius!

Voila! So let it be said, so let it be written!

Try doing that with just about any other instrument:

Piano: Pee-an-o? If you told someone to draw that you can only imagine what it might look like.
Trumpet: Trum-pet? Sounds like an activity that would get you charged with a felony under animal cruelty laws.
Drum: I'd be temped to use it as an adjective to describe a plump, boring person. "Yeah, I've met that guy - he's a bit drum."

What genius dreamed up those names? Let's see, I have a wooden box with a neck on it and some strings that when plucked will make wonderful music. I'm going to call it ... a stringplucker! You'd have to be an idiot to call it a guitar! Gi-tar - something a dinosaur might become extinct in.

Obviously the Scots were very practical people. Why waste time dreaming up some odd name for something when what it is speaks for itself. Bagpipes - simple!

I wonder what the guy was thinking when he came up with Sax-o-phone?! HEY! Get your mind out of the gutter!

Friday, January 2, 2009

On to Nauvooooooooo!!!

I got an email yesterday from the Nauvoo Pageant folks and they have accepted our application for the 2009 cast! Yippeeee, we're going to Nauvoo!

For those who don't know, the Nauvoo pageant has a Pipe Band and we have been accepted to play in it. Here's an article about the band: The Pipers of Nauvoo

Teagan isn't as excited as my wife and I are; I think it smells a little too "Churchy" for him. Well ... he's a teenager, so unless it involves food, video games, air soft guns, sports, girls or best buddies, it's probably not going to peek his interest too much. Nevertheless, I think once there he will discover it to be a fun and exciting experience (probably will find that at least three of the above listed items apply) and will be asking us to do it again in 2010.

We'll be in Nauvoo from July 12th through the 25th, so if you make the trip look for us.

Now we have to make reservations for a place to stay and start saving up some $$$$$$.

Mr. Grumpy

Being the New Year, I decided I need a change in attitude. Well ... there are several changes that this plump, old, lazy, couch potato needs to make, but let's start with attitude and the rest may fall into place.

I have recently been reading a friend's blog and have discovered that I have been referred to from time to time as being somewhat of a sour puss - that's not a quote, but it expresses the occasional impression. I don't think that is her overall impression of me, but I concede that indeed I probably come across that way many a time, especially when it comes to issues with the Pipe Band.

I readily admit up front that I'm not a great piper. I'm generally inconsistent with my playing skill; probably because I'm inconsistent with my practice. I state this because I am probably in a poor position to pass judgement on anyone or anything having to do with playing the bagpipes. At the same time I can be quite opinionated when it comes to how people treat each other; whether or not expectations seem realistic; and how well run an organization is. That is where I run into trouble.

My friend has been effected by the same issues in the band that I have and yet she remains optimistic and upbeat. In fact, she has suffered through one incident with an influential band member that still makes me angry to think about and yet while I know it upset her, she has treated it with humor and moved beyond it's caustic influence. She's my Pipe Band hero!

So, I will vow to quit being a sour puss this year and strive to remain more positive. That's not to say I won't voice my opinion, but once said I will move on.

... let's see how long this will last?!