Thursday, February 28, 2008

Last night we had a particularly intense practice, in prep for the 8 March concert.

We went through all the combined band pieces (some several times) and thankfully nobody's chanter came in early (i.e. mine) and all cut-offs were good. So PM Jason (and also PM Sean, although he didn't say much) was happy.

So after about a hour and a half of piping, the Grade IV (not-so-hot pipers) got to take a break while the Grade III (hot pipers) went over their sets for the concert. I went over the new ending for the reel in our MSR on PC. Then we moved down to the auditorium and Grade IV went to the music room to go over OUR (Gr. IV) sets. My legs were beginning to tremble and my arms were aching from playing so long. After playing our MSR a few times over, Jack reminded me that we were going to challenge Sean in his decision not to have us play the Battle set and the 6/8s, so we spoke to Sean. Then Jack, Dave and I went through 2 more sets, together with Sean. Dave dropped out, not knowing both battle tunes. And I was rushing the tunes, probably due to how tired I was. Just wanted to get them over with. But Jack and I were asked to play again after practice for Jason so both PMs could make the final decision together.

We went back with the Grade III in the auditorium and went over our intro tunes to both halves of the concert. At this point, after 2 hours of piping, I'm starting to turn blue. When the band was dismissed, Sean yelled "Don't go anywhere!" and went to corner Jason. I was wondering if I was even going to make it down to my pipe case 20 feet away, much less home. So Sean and Jason, along with Jack and I, went back to the music room. I told Sean I didn't think I could play Blue Bonnets again as I had gotten up at 0200 and was very tired. He said some encouraging words and looked helpful (?), and he called out the Blue Bonnets set first. Grrrrrr . . . Jason listened while Jack and I and Sean played 100 Pipers and Blue Bonnets (6/8's). I did fine, trying very hard to keep the bag inflated and not to rush ahead. I must have succeeded for I got the go-ahead to play that set in the concert. Yay, me!

Then Jack left.

Sean called out the Battle set, which is 2 much shorter tunes, and easier, due to fewer grace notes. Now I had to pay attention and not lock my knees to stay upright, as well as not rushing and keeping the bag inflated and my arm squeezing and my fingers playing the right notes and timing.

I know you're all wondering how it went.

So I'll tell you.

My strike-in and my cut off were terrible, two things I forgot to think about. So I was gently cautioned to get that right. And both PM's smilingly told me I had played the set fine! Jason said it sounded like I had been working hard on those tunes. If everybody practiced that hard, we'd be an amazing band. Well, I had been working on them, but I think I only ran through them 4 times total. What would I play like if I practiced half an hour every day? Waah! The mind boggles in contemplation.

I should have iced my lip last night, as today it is sore and swollen. And my arms and legs are wobbly and my stomach is queasy and my head hurts. I think I over-did it.

But I am happy because I succeeded in my challenge.Yay, me!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

We are coming down to the wire on this March 8 concert.

Last night at practice, as we were going through the sets, two sets came up wherein PM Jason asked PM Sean who was it that hadbeen Chosen from the Grade IV to play along with the Grade III. One of those sets was what I call The Battle Set, including Heights of Dargai

1897 during the India conflict between England and Russia, when 2 British units had already tried totake the Heights. The Gordon Highlanders (Scotland) were then commanded to try. They accomplished it in 30 minutes, but during the charge their piper, Allen George Findlater, was shot twice in the legs and parts of his pipes were blown away, but he sat there and kept on playing until he lost consciousness from loss of blood.

and Battle of the Somme

WWI, 1 July 1916, northern France, 57,470 casualities that day, over a million for the whole campaign. This was supposed be a diversion so that Verdun could be won someplace else . . . probably at Verdun. J.R.R.Tolkein was a combatant during this battle, but contracted trench fever and was evacuated back to England. Lucky guy.

The other set was a couple of 6/8 marches, The Hundred Pipers and All the Blue Bonnets Are Over the Border (the Blue Bonnets being Scots who would go on (cattle) raids over the border into England, and their traditional uniform included blue hats).

I was not on the Chosen list for either one of these sets, presumably because I was not at practice last Tuesday due to the first band/RS schedule conflict of my career. Humph!

While the rest of them were tootling away on these two sets, Jack leaned over to me and said, "You wanna challenge Sean on those?" meaning 'D'ya wanna work really hard on them between now and next Wednesday, and have a private try-out for those two sets so we could be on the Chosen list?' I accepted the challenge. I challenged Jack to challenge Sean. Sean also encouraged anybody to challenge him next week, too. It was a very challenging practice.

I don't know why it is, but every time any portion of the band gets together, the talk inevitably turns to wrestling. Last night was no exception. Drew (17) was prattling on about this or that wrestling move to Sande and me, and we were trying to look interested. He's very obviously a lightweight kid, so I asked him how long he had been wrestling, figuring the answer was going to be "never", and then we could needle him, which would be much more interesting. He said he had been wrestling since kindergarten. Sande asked, "Have you changed weight classes at all since then?" Later, we were just standing on the stage in a line so Sean and Jason could plan out the staging. Cait and Triona were standing next to me. The discussion had turned to whether or not we should block the first 2 rows of seats so nobody could look up the kilts of the pipers 3 feet away. I said, "Maybe we could save those seats for the hard of hearing."

Also during staging, Jason was advising everybody that they had to stand at (British) attention during the whole performance, no slouching, no talking to your neighbor, no picking your nose . . . "No waxing your calves," Dennis tossed in from the back row.

This is why I like this band so much. We're so serious about piping.

***UPDATE*** We just had an earthquake 5 minutes ago. The whole house was shaking. It's snowing, but there is no wind at all. If this is The Big One, it's going to be miserable for the survivors.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I really hate it when people yell at me.

Especially when it's for something I haven't done, or if I am being unjustly accused.

I am a supervisor for an airline. We have a frequent flyer program where you gets points if you fly, but not if somebody else flies, even if you paid for it. The points add up to free round-trip tickets on our airline. Another thing you have to know for this complaining story is that if you are using a free ticket in combination with a paid ticket, each ticket has to be on it's own reservation.

Well, this lady--no, this woman, nothing lady-like about her--was transferred to me this morning at 0430 mountain time. The reservation agent told me she had neither the credit card number nor the confirmation number for her husband's reservation. The agent was thus unable to give the woman any information about anything on the reservation, and the woman was angry. The credit card was in her husband's possession, and her husband was asleep in the other room and she did not want to wake him up. By the time I got her, she was boiling, had already woken her husband up and got the credit card info and started telling me what a difficult time she always has with this airline. She was angry about having three different reservations for three people. I explained that she and her son had an outbound and return flt on one reservation because they were flying the exact same flights using the same payment method, but that her husband had an extra flight (to Las Vegas) and he was using one free ticket and paying for the other part, so he had to have 2 reservations all to himself, because he was flying different flights and because he was using different payment methods. She could not or would not understand that. She kept ranting about how difficult it was for her all the time with this airline and how much of a b**** I was and what a terrible attitude I had, and why couldn't I fix the reservations . . . and on and on. Then she asked who was my supervisor. I told her Carrie. The woman was incensed! I had not told her all she wanted to know! But I had told her everything she asked me for. Didn't I think, she screamed, that she would want more information than that?! If I would just stop thinking about myself and my *** attitude I could maybe figure it out! I asked what else she wanted to know, as I had given her exactly what she had asked for. Well, she wanted my sup's last name and her phone number and she wanted to talk to her right now. When I told her Carrie was not working right now, she wanted to speak to somebody else. When I told her there was nobody else, she berated me some more and then wanted to know why she couldn't pull these reservations up in her true blue account. When I told her the husband's wouldn't be in her account because she wasn't on the reservation, she screamed again stating she always gets points for when her husband and son fly. I tried to tell that no, she does not, only when she flies as this is a frequent FLYER program, not a frequent BUYER program. That made her madder'n heck. No, she always gets points when they fly. I asked her if she had the special credit card that gives you true blue points when you purchase things, but she did not. She denied everything I told her.

I'm still tense from that call, and it's been 3.5 hours!

I have to FIDO: Forget It (and) Drive On.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A couple of weeks ago at group lesson, I noticed that Jason was having trouble with the zipper of his pipe case. Part of the fabric had pulled away from the zipper, and sometimes the zipper didn't actually ZIP. I offered to see if I could fix it. So after finding a zipper long enough, and arranging a time, Monday I picked it up from a place called CMI Mouldings, place of employment for Jason. I had scheduled the whole day to do this, as I wasn't sure how long it would take and he needed it back right away. But Handsome Husband had other plans and kept me busy until noon. I stopped only long enough to pick up Daughter #3 (one hour) , and then later to make and eat dinner (30 minutes) and finally I was done at 1930. I had to do lots of hand sewing as the corners I had to sew in were very awkward and a machine just wouldn't do it. I kept finding blood all over my finger tips and I couldn't find out where it was coming from. Couldn't locate Jason that night after it was finished, so took it in to his place of employment Tuesday morning.

There are 2 things I don't like about the new zipper. 1) it is wider than the original, so zipping around the corners sometimes causes the zipper to buckle and bind.

2) it is actually a coat zipper, so instead of starting in the middle and unzipping to the outside, now it starts at one edge or the other and unzips to the other side.

Based on past experience with this person in getting strike-ins and tunes correct, my impression is that he is pretty picky. I advised him about the going-around-corners thing and he said, "Meh." but I forgot to say about the reverseness (if that's a word) of the zipper. Didn't make it to the Celtic Center last night to pick up payment, so I'll give him a couple of days to work with it and see what he thinks. Maybe he will want me to take it out again. I HOPE NOT!!!! On the parts of the bag that I used the sewing machine, it did get stuck a time or two, so I know those stitches are really close together and are going to be HELL to get out, and almost impossible to see, being navy blue thread on black and navy fabric. Plus I don't know where to get a zipper that unzips the other way. Maybe I should start doing research now.

Lee has some white showing on his bag, and wants to be next in line to get his fixed. I'll look at it next week. No zipper involved on that one, just no fabric left to reattach. We shall see.

Jason was impressed by the fact that I had it done so soon.. What???

Friday, February 8, 2008

What with one thing and another, 24 hours passed.

No, really! Nothing else happened!

I finished work. Small Son was sick so he didn't go to his group lesson. My group lesson was subdued; Jason was under sleep deprivation, and I guess the rest of us picked up on his mood, so no wisecracks. We just played--pretty well, except I was loopy so I had to concentrate hard to get all the notes right--and went home. I read to Small Son in his room (The Hobbit, J.R.R.Tolkein), after which he moved his pillow and blanket BACK to the couch and slept last night on the couch. Which means I can practice in his room this morning.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The best part about this lesson was that it was NOT my last lesson!!! Yah!!

The lesson had started without Lee or Sande (Sande because she is still recovering from bronchitis) when in walked Lee. He looked around at us all, sitting there discussing pipe music theory or something (ha) and said, "Better late than never." I waited a pause as if considering those two options, then said, "Well, Lee, I don't know . . ." It got a laugh. He gave me a look and told me my shoes didn't match, so I guess we were even. (They DID match each other, just not what I was wearing. But how much do sneakers/les basquettes/trainers/tennis shoes match anything, ever??)

Other than that, we got lots of compliments on how well we acquited ourselves at Grade III band practice (except for the 6/8's, but that's another story.) We are now concentrating our efforts on All the Bluebonnets are Over the Border (otherwise known as Bluebonnets, a 6/8) We made Sean look good, and the lesson people made Jason look good. Yah! us!!! We also did well in the practice, except for Bluebonnets, parts III and IV. Work on that for next week, guys. Keep up the hard work you have been doing. And remember to have Parts III and IV of Brown Haired Maiden on pipes for next week Tuesday . . .

Sorry we can't go over it tonight because Jason doesn't even know it yet. Not even just have it memorized on PC; yes, have that, but also have it on pipes, which seems like it should just be one more step, but you have to take into account the blowing and the squeezing AND the memorizing, so it's more like 3 steps above just memorizing. That's without the strike-in and cut-off and remembering the sequence when starting a tune so that everybody strikes in together.

I think this is a military thing. To make sure everybody in both pipe and drum corps start the tune together, there's a sequence to a regular beat to start a tune. The Pipe Major calls out the tune or set of tunes and sings the first 2 bars in cantereachd (in case anybody forgot. Like me). He then calls, "Band! (rest) Rolls! (rest) One, two!" at the tempo he wants the tune to be played, with 'band' and 'rolls' and 'one' all as his LEFT foot is stepping down. The drum corps plays a 3-count roll, then waits a one-count rest (during which the pipe corps theoretically moves their right hand smartly to the bag preparatory to striking in), another 3-count roll , and on the rest, they strike the bags to force the air into all the drones simultaneously. This is called the strike-in. It looks good on paper, but it's tricky to actually do.

On the first beat of the next measure they all play an E on the chanter, then start into the tune on the appropriate beat of that measure. Sometimes the tune starts on beat 3 or 4, so you have to wait some extra beats. Sometimes there's a tune for which the Pipe Major doesn't want the E played at the start, you just jump into the first note of the tune and go. Knowing which is which takes practice, and remembering. And usually the Pipe Major telling everybody "No E!!!" in no uncertan terms. After which somebody usually forgets and plays an E anyway and gets chewed out (at practice) or gets The Look (in parades or concerts). If you strike in your drones and your chanter starts in, too, you also get The Look. You have to strike just hard enough to get the drones to all come in, but not too hard so that the chanter comes in. This also takes practice. At home, where nobody else can hear you. Hopefully.