Friday, May 30, 2008

New Reed

It used to be I dreaded getting a new reed. They were impossible to play because you had to blow so hard to make any sound come out, and it took WEEKS of constant practicing to soften them up.

I got a new reed last night. It is easier to play than my last reed. I have to relearn blowing so I don't overblow this one and squeak my low A.

We also oiled our drones. Now they are all shiny for competition. I don't know if it helps the tone quality at all, but they are shiny. The rain on Memorial weekend messed up lots of peoples' drones . . . like cup rings on wooden coffee-tables.

The latest issue (June) of the New Era, published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the youth, has a picture on the cover of Drew, band-mate and co-student. He was passing a copy around last night. The associated article is about him and some other pipers and drummers who spend their summers at Nauvoo, Illinois piping. In all the histories I've read and the stories I've heard, I don't recall there being much piping happening at Nauvoo in the 1840's, but hey: it makes a great article, and probably draws lots of people to the daily parades. Drew's on every page of the article. When they put that issue on their website (, I'll post the link.

Here's Drew's picture:

and here's the article:

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Memorial Day

Sunday, May 25, I was excused from the band performance, and went instead to Mountain View Memorial Cemetery. I had never been there before, but I had the address and had done both a Google search and a Mapquest search to get directions. I was supposed to start playing at 1600, but at 1550, I was on a dead-end street behind a high school looking stupidly at my maps. Noticing the time, I drove frantically on, hoping maybe I'd turned at the wrong place. I finally saw an elderly gentleman raking something by the street, so I pulled over and asked him where the cemetery was. I had my hat on, my stupid black felt glengarry with the black pompom on top, so maybe he guessed what I was doing. But anyway, he vaguely pointed me in the right direction. I stopped at a gas station in the general direction, too, just to make sure, at 1559, and then hurried on east and finally found the cemetery, about half a mile east and 2 blocks north of where the maps said it would be. At 1610 I walked into the office with Angus over my shoulder and asked where I should start. The director said, ' play where the people are'. And so I began.

My job was to walk around where people were and play slow aires and slow marches for half an hour, then take half an hour break, then do it again. I was off at 1930.

It was an interesting 3.5 hours. People showed up in all sorts of groupings: alone, young couples, old couples, small families with 1 or 2 children, extended families with camp chairs and blankets . . . One time I saw a father, a grandfather, and 2 or 3 boys walking purposefully westward. People cleaned the gravesites, took away trash, added fresh flowers or balloons, then stood around talking while the kids played amongst the headstones. One grave had a glass jar of peanut M&M's standing on it. Little children were the most likely to come up and talk to me, but older people did, too. Many people complimented me or thanked me. One man in a suit thanked me for spending my Sunday creating such a wonderful atmosphere at the cemetery. Another man told a story of how his son had died 4 years ago when all the Salt Lake City pipers were in Scotland at the Worlds, and after much searching they were finally able to find someone who would play Amazing Grace at the funeral so would I please play Amazing Grace and here . . . he handed me a roll of bills. I declined the money, feeling he'd already paid enough in funeral expenses and sorrow, but I did play AG while he walked away. People took videos and pics of me; I tried not to notice, but it's kind of obvious. One lady walked past me humming the last tune I'd played, evidently oblivious to my being there still. And everybody had a story: when the person died, how they died, how they were related, something interesting they did during their life, what tune was played at their funeral and by how many pipers. It reminds me of a quote I heard once: "A life without stories is no life at all." (Alexander McCall-Smith) I don't know anybody who doesn't have at least one story about their life. It would have been a boring life with no stories.

The weather was warm and sunny, with a light breeze. Perfect for wandering and playing.

I started having trouble with saliva. You know, spit. I'd get through about 2 tunes and then have to quit cuz I couldn't get a good seal, due to all the spit in my mouth. Maybe it was due to my lip getting sore. Monday with the band at the Holladay Memorial Cemetery, I didn't have the tuning issues that Pete and Jack had, but I couldn't keep my reed playing. I'm beginning to suspect this reed has seen it's last days. I'm listening to it like a hawk . . . if that's the expression I want. Walking up the hill, I couldn't keep the blowpipe in my mouth due to uneven terrain and spit issues, so it was a miserable performance. Yet when I showed up for my solos at the Redwood cemetery, I did fine. Except for the spit part. I can't figure out if it's a blowing issue or a reed failing. Maybe I'll ask Jason tonight at my lesson.

My slow aire is doing beautifully (having been practiced so much), but my march is suffering . . .

Friday, May 23, 2008

Last night was lesson night. (I know you are keeping track, but I'll tell you anyway.) I went to my lesson straight from the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. While we were doing our (extensive) tuning up, I played my slow air so the drone "notes" would be accurate (the note changes from when you are just playing drones to when you kick in the chanter) and Jason said "Very nice" about my slow air when I finished. He then asked me if I was doing any solos this weekend. When I said I was, he said, "Good!"

Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but you work so hard to be good, that you grab any cues that you are at least "fair" when you hear them. I accept any and all compliments. I'm accepting both of these. When I finally found my music folder and made a list of appropriate tunes, I have 12:

Killiekrankie (slow march)
Cearcil a' Chuain
Bells of Dunblane
Highland Cathedral (I think this is a slow march, too)
Farewell to Camraw
Flowers of the Forest
Dream Angus
Bruce's Address (slow march)
Loch Rannoch
Amazing Grace
Danny Boy
Summertime, Summertime

I've got my cheat sheet made up, and I hope to find time to run through them a few times before the weekend. If each one is 3 minutes long, that's 36 minutes. I can play through 4, stop and move somewhere else, play 4 more, move again, play the last 4 and I'll be done. The moving will take time, too. That should give me the half hour they require. A good thing these are at a cemetery I'm familiar with, the one at which Wanda is buried. I can go play Danny Boy for her, too. It was her favorite, as she had a son named Danny who died pretty young. She only had 2 kids, both boys. John is still alive, living out by Highland High School someplace, with his wife Kathy.

I think I'm going to try not taking a nap in the afternoon, and then going to bed at 2030. That'll give me 6.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep, as opposed to 1 hr of nap plus 5.5 hours of sleep. Small Son will have to learn to either go to bed earlier or read to himself. We'll see what develops.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What I Gained From A Funeral

An appeal was set before the whole band re: who would be able to play solo gigs for Memorial Day. At first I blew it off thinking they wouldn't want me, I'm too terrible. Then Dave leaned over and said, "If you're good enough to play for a funeral, you're good enough to play a solo gig." Well, that was a new take on the situation. I stewed that over for a week or two, then sent the band manager, Ian, an email telling when I would be available. And heard nothing.

Oh well, I figured as much. Just have to keep practicing . . .Then, after Small Son's lesson last night, Ian came 'round the corner of the cubicle and asked if I could do a Monday morning solo. I checked my calendar in a daze and said I could. He said he would send me the details by email.

As a result, I have two half-hour solos on Monday, Memorial Day. I have to walk/stroll/amble around playing appropriate slow airs and marches, and quit after 30 minutes. I have one at 11:00 and one at noon. TWO!! And I'm not too worried about it!

'Course, Ian hasn't heard me play in a long time, and maybe he wouldn't be such a good judge of quality anymore, either . . . I dunno.

And 'course I'll make up a list of slow airs and appropriate marches (what is an "appropriate march", I wonder?) with their starting notes. Let's see . . .

Danny Boy
Amazing Grace
Cearcl a Cuan (sp)
Bells of Dunblane
Loch Rannoch
Dream Angus
Summertime, Summertime
Farewell to Camraw

That's all I can remember right off the top of my head. If each one is 3 minutes long, that's 27 minutes of playing. If I can figure out what an "appropriate march" is, and find one I already know how to play . . . I can just go through the list one time per solo and be done! Yay!!

So what I gained from playing for that funeral was the confidence that I can do it again, and do solos, too!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I am deeply disappointed. I practiced and practiced (for me) and brought my pipes to Small Son's lesson, ready to play my competition tunes and get Criticized, and Sean was not there. Erin-Drum-Seargant-Behind-The-Desk said he had to work and wasn't even going to be at band practice. A likely story. He showed up at band practice. At 8:30. Humph. We went home at 8:40.

Well, I'll just do it without his--or anybody's--help, so there! I'll lose again, but so what else is new. Never got an award in my life, why should I start now? This is only to get my butterflies under control.

At least I practiced.

I also moved the furniture around in the living room, including the PIANO. It was brought painfully home to me why they never have pianos in marching bands: TOO HEAVY! My arms, shoulders and stomach ache today, but the result is satisfying. It has changed the walk-through pattern on the carpet, hopefully making the carpet last longer. It needs all the help it can get.

Small Son has decided his language will be Ancient Greek. He got a book on learning ancient Greek, and he's only on page one and he says it's boring. He doesn't want to learn Modern Greek because it will just confuse him. We compared the alphabets, and they are almost the same, except for M and N which have a different name, and the character for the S sound, whatever it's called. The thing about learning a dead language is that you usually don't learn conversational stuff first; they give you pronounciation and grammar and rules, rules, rules. Then (in this book, at least) you start learning about pirates who have the affrontry to lead hippopotamuses around. As if they had nothing better to do. HEY! Pirates are supposed to do piratey things! Not pander to giant, wet mammals and take them for walks. Well, we'll see what happens.

In the meantime, Kalimera! (I tried to get this program to write it in the Greek alphabet, but haven't been successful yet. Maybe later

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I went up to Park City yesterday, even though it was chilly and windy, and practiced. It was very difficult. It could have been the altitude, or the wind, or the cold. We're not even going to talk about operator error here. I did about 30 minutes and had to quit.

Well, and I was tired to begin with. And hungry.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

It was a race to get to the gravesite before the hearse and in the end I lost, but I kept the hearse in my sights the whole time. And I was in time anyway, cuz they dinked around with the microphone and waited for other pall bearers and that gave me time to get parked and into position.

The City Cemetery is very old, and criss-crossed with streets, and it turned out the gravesite was only 10 yards away from the road. I got through the first, shortest tune (Farewell to Camraw) and they were there already. There were only 8 mourners. When the funeral was over, I played Amazing Grace, Highland Cathedral, and Bells of Dunblane while people were collecting and leaving. I did good. Even the chief mourner and the Bishop thanked me.

In other news, while we were going over (and over and over) the Medley last night, somebody brought up the option of harmony for the slow air, Summertime Summertime. Sean said if anybody wanted to play harmony they should ask him first. So I asked him and he said I could. Yay!!!

After playing pretty much all day yesterday, my lip is swollen and sore. I always say I'm going to ice it and I never do. I really should.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

One of our ward members died yesterday. He's been suffering for years, and been in and out of the hospital for 6 months. The past few weeks he's been on life support, and his wife made the decision to (yesterday) remove him from life support. He went Home.

Today at church when this was announced, the ward Kicked Into High Gear! It was amazing to watch! The Young Men and priesthood holders pounced on the RS room and set it up for the viewing on Tuesday. The RS arranged for meals for the family after the funeral, and musical numbers during the funeral. Anybody else who may not have known his wife or him well went up to her today (she was in church, can you believe it?) and gave her a hug and said they loved her. Since it was Fast and Testimony Sunday, many people shared their sympathy for his wife during their testimonies. It was the best thing she could have done, go to church on the day after her husband died. To receive so many hugs and hear so many expressions of love and sympathy and to hear of so many prayers in her behalf must have helped her state of mind a lot. And in actuality, when she first showed up at church, she was crying, but as the 3 hours passed, she just sat and took it all in wifh a look of (nearly) unbelief on her face.

OK, here's the piping part of it: she asked me if I would pipe for her husband's funeral. I think I said I would be honored, but I don't really remember. I started crying, too, and gave her another hug. A quick consultation with the bishop pinpointed my participation to start when the casket leaves the hearse and continues until it reaches the gravesite. After that, there is a 15 minute service and dedication of the grave and then everybody goes home.

So now I'm going through my list of slow airs and am making a list of suitable ones, starting with the best and proceding downwards. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking:

Farewell to Camraw
Flowers of the Forest
Amazing Grace
Bells of Dunblane
Lock Rannoch

I know there's another one that I used for my first year competition, but I can't remember what it is. I'll brush up on that one, too. Dunno how many I'll need, as I don't know how far away from the road the grave is.

Dream Angus.

That's the other one. It's very sad and lovely. I love slow airs.

If I get to the end and they're still walking, I'll start over.

Hope I do well, for her sake. She's had such a rough time.

I'm also taking part in a musical number, singing the alto part of a suitable hymn:

Each Life That Touches Ours For Good

I'm going over to Lois' house after this shift to practice with her and with Marie, the sopranist. I'm glad this happened on a day I could participate.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

It was Girl's Night In last night, as the boys were on a Father-Son campout, but even the girls went out, D#2 to work, D#3 with boyfriend, D#4 with me to church to make copies of the May newsletter and staple them together.

Amazing Discovery for Today: Girls' Nights Out are no fun without the boys.

And NO, I did NOT practice pipes. Thank you VERY much for bringing up such a painful subject.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Daughter #2 and boyfriend invited HH and I out to dinner. We were on tenterhooks the whole time, thinking this was going to be a Special Announcement Moment or something.


It snowed today.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Practice was better than last week. I did good. My strike-ins were better, faster. Missed one cut-off, though. Sean asked for suggestions about other things we could do to work on our weak points. Some ideas were to once a month have a mini-recital, or to have one person play a solo every week, to help with nerves. Marching into the circle a lot was also suggested, but that will have to wait until the weather improves. Dave gets to do tuning for the next month so he can learn it. I requested we all get a turn, so we can all learn how to do it. Pete, who has been with the Grade IV the longest, said he has never heard us play so well. It's nice to make people happy. But I still have to practice. Yesterday I only got in PC time. Still have to work on the massed bands tunes. Sean said he would be at practice early next week, at 1800h, if anybody wanted to jam, or work on something specific, or whatever. I asked if he would listen to my 2/4 march since I learned it from the sheet music. He said bring the music and he would.

I try not to be annoying to the PM's, but I get the impression that I just am. Annoying.