Thursday, June 19, 2008

The adventure began Friday night with a Tatoo*. It was pretty hot, even at 6pm, and Pete left early because his mom collapsed from heat exhaustion. This was a bad sign, had I but known it. All the bands lined up behind the clans. Each clan chief carried a lighted torch, and as they passed by the reviewing stand, they placed their lighted torch in a huge holder shaped like a St. Andrew's cross**. That was all very cool and everything. We got to turn around and face the fireworks, and they weren't so long that we had to play STB 14 times, only 2.5 times. Then we marched out. I was marching with the Payson, UT band to even out the massed band block, and they were crazy people, so it was fun.

The trouble started on Saturday. I got to Thanksgiving Point at about 0800 so I could get checked in and tuned up before playing my solos at 0920. I was not nervous. Sean the PM was cheerful and encouraging. I played my 2/4 march fairly well, only messing up really badly in the last two measures, but crushing some doublings ***along the way. I didn't get re-tuned before playing my slow aire and was thus flat. Did OK.

Then it was hot. I drank water and wore my hat.

Things started to blur together.

We had tune-up at 1100 for another tatoo at 1200. We re-tuned everything with new reeds and our McCallum chanters, as we had done the night before, only Jason was surprisingly calm and laughing. He didn't really seem to care if we were tuned--to ourselves or to the other bands. For massed bands, it was good enough. I drank water. It got hotter.

The first Grade IV competition was the march set. We marched out fine, the tunes were fairly well played, but as we were marching out, my nightmere started. In practice, Dave hadn't been there, so I just followed Pete out of the circle#. For this day, Dave was there. So in marching out of the circle, I was supposed to move over to leave room for Dave on the outside. But I just followed Pete, as in practice, and we were off-kilter. Almost at the end of Salt Lake Scots, I realized what I had done and moved over, and in the process forgot to blow down . . . and . . . I MISSED THE CUT-OFF##!!!

I see this in my waking dreams, over and over, every time I close my eyes. I hear Sean's "Oh Come ON!" and feel the shame, over and over, day and night. Pete assured me that marching out of the circle doesn't count toward the judges score; it's only fluff at the end. But the look on Sean's face . . . I know it did count. Somewhere, for someone.

It got hotter.

That's not the end, either. On the medley, we had an early chanter (not mine) and some finger flubs (not mine, either) and . . . and . . . I MISSED THE CUT-OFF AGAIN!!! At exactly the same place! I did not remember we were only supposed to play Salt Lake Scots once, and I did not see Sean signal that we were ending. Oh misery me! Sean dismissed the drummers and kept the pipers, just to say, "You know how I feel." (Furious)I went over by Jim (drummer) and his wife and their disabled son and talked about anything but competition. In the shade. It got hotter. I drank more water.

We had another tatoo at 1800.

Sean came over and collected us all together just before tune-up, to apologize for his remarks, that he understood that we had done the best we could. I stayed outside the circle and did not make eye contact. It got hotter. More water.

I played with the Scots for this third tatoo. I didn't play half the tunes. They played Amazing Grace for all the fallen Scottish-Americans. We usually play it 2 times through. I didn't see the guy up on the stage signal for the end, so I started into it a second time, and everybody else stopped after once. I heard Jason up in front say, "It's one of our guys." They asked everybody to sit down, but of course there was no place for the bands to sit, so we remained standing while they read through names or something, I don't remember what. Something long. It was so hot and I was about ready to fall over. I don't think I played on the way out, and when we were dismissed, I walked over, got my stuff and left.

I learned later it had been 90 degrees and I had heat stroke. Overheated, confused. HH put me in an air-conditioned car and took me to Salt Lake where he bought me a shake. Even that night I still felt feverish, and took several days to recover. It is going to take me a lot longer to recover from those blown cut-offs.

We did not have band practice on the 17th, so I could not apologize to Sean and to the band, and I do not know if he wants me to turn in my kilt. I had it ready on Tuesday. I'll have it ready next Tuesday, too. Tartaniac, bless her, said there is no way they can ask for my kilt; we are not a Grade I band. I hope that's true, but I have a Plan C ready in case they do. I've gone over the scenario in my mind several hundred times, with all different results, so I hope I don't cry, whatever the outcome.

* Tatoo: all the bands participating in the competition gather together in a block and play from a list of set tunes that the parent organization (in this case, WUSPBA) has made.

**St Andrew's Cross: The big white X in the middle of the Scottish flag. So not really a cross at all.

***Crushing Doublings: Doublings are 3 very short notes (grace notes) played right before the main note and probably are more aptly called Triplings or even Quadruplings. To crush a doubling, you shorten the length of one (or more) of the short notes.

# the Circle: When a band is competing, they march into the competition area in a block and reform into a circle with the bass drum in the center, the snare and tenor drums together on one side. The judges walk around the outside of the circle where they can hear everything and everybody. I believe there is a drumming judge, a piping judge, and an ensemble judge.

##Cut-off: At the end of a tune that a band is playing, to make it sound really good, you want all the chanters and all the drones of all the pipers to shut off, or cut off, at the same instant. If one person's drones keep going, they have blown the cut-off and make the whole band sound terrible.

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