Tuesday, December 29, 2009
In October Small Son had surgery to remove a tumor in his left femur. He was on crutches for 4 weeks, and along about Thanksgiving he got off them, only to discover his leg muscles had atrophied and he still couldn't walk without assistance. So we continued to drive him to school, and he used a cane for a while, and even to this day limps a little, although the cane is gone.
November brought Thanksgiving and 2 birthdays, one of which was long-distsance and had to be planned for a long way in advance.
December brought Christmas. Again great distances were involved, and despite my best efforts at getting presents in the mail by the 9th of December, the package has not yet arrived in Korea, leaving our girl nearly present-less. I'm sick about it.
In fact, I was sick throughout the Christmas holidays. I either worked or slept. The house is a mess, since I do not have the energy to either clean it up or make the kids do it, and nobody else cares.
Yesterday I had a wisdom tooth, my last, pulled. It didn't really want to part company, and my jaw ended up getting cracked in its extraction. So I am on pain meds and antibiotics and liquids for a week until it heals.
I think it's still bleeding.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Several things are to blame.
First, I have a lot of knitting to do, seeing as we are approaching Christmas.
Secondly, the airline I work for, which uses a massive amount of computers, is planning a change to the program that we use to make and keep reservations. I think they said 66 other programs tie into this main program. Everybody (thousands) is having to learn how to use the new system, and much work is having to be done to ensure that when the cutover happens (Jan 29, 2010) it will be as smooth as possible. I have this fear living in the pit of my stomach that something terrible will happen: a huge snowstorm in New York on the day of cutover, marketing will forget and have a sale, we'll all forget how to use it (even though we are being continually--daily--retrained on it), some essential part of the adjoining systems will fail to connect, . . . I don't know. Something!
Third, Small Son was discovered to have a tumor in the upper part of his left femur, and much time has been spent going to doctors and hospitals and arranging schedules, etc. The surgery went well (Oct 22) and he has been on crutches since then. It's amazing how much extra time a person on crutches will take to get anywhere, even though this person now walks faster than I do on a straight stretch!
Fourth, since Ventura, nothing much has happened to my piping world.
Here are the things that have happened:
Band elections were held. Jason got unanimously re-elected as Pipe Major. Bj got re-elected as Chief Drummer Dude (I think he's called Drum Sargent, but I've been known to be wrong). Pete is still Treasurer. Laura got elected as Party Animal. Jack is now Fundraiser. Erin is Secretary, a set of duties which she has been performing for a long time without a title.
Sean has left the band to pursue other interests. He's still teaching, though. Triona did not officially announce it, but she has a job that requires her attention on Wednesday night, so she won't be at practices. She is, for all intents and purposes, out of commission. Tyler got engaged. Aaron grew a beard. Sort of. BJ got a divorce. A new piper came from Canada to join. His name is Robert and he is tall and speaks fluent French. He's been piping since he was 16, even with Canadian military pipe bands. He's pretty good.
It's a different set of faces around the circle from what was there 5 years ago. Some people are the same: Sande, Pete, Jack, Jason, BJ, Erin, Ryan, Ian, Grant, Aaron, Dennis . . . The new people are all wonderful. I miss the ones who have moved on.
Our website is up and working. Try this link: Salt Lake Scots There are band tunes and everything on the community portion of the site. All I can say is: It's about time. Finally. What took you so long (5 years)?
WUSPBA had their general meeting, and we learned that there is going to be a World's competition in Las Vegas in April 2011. Jason decided to keep us as Grade IV through next year (2010) to try and qualify for that competition. This means that in 2011 when we were planning on upgrading to Grade III, we'll still be Grade IV, hopefully competing in the LAS World's.
Band Party in January. Laura will be planning it. Maybe bowling.
My lip is sore from practice on Wednesday. We are working on blowing/squeezing.
Some things never change.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Friday, October 9
In Transit, Salt Lake City to Long Beach, CA to Ventura, CA
I arrived at the airport early, but not as early as Andrew and Jessi who were waiting at the gate area for the rest of us. Sande showed up shortly afterwards, followed by Pete and Trenda, Liz and Ben, our Ben, Sean, BJ, Tyler, Teagan, Paddy, Aaron, Erin, Triona and Dan. Our Fearless Leader, who had advised us to be at the airport early, showed up less than one hour before flight departure. Transportation difficulties. But we all got there in time.
Much conversation and joking went on while waiting, boarding, flying, deplaning, baggage claim, and heading for the rental cars. Another passenger was taller than Aaron (6'9"), which was a favorite subject of conversation. Instead of Dan, Sande and I being in one car, and Aaron, Sean and Teagan being in another, Enterprise gave us a 7 passenger van which we shared among the 6 of us. Dan and Aaron were Designated Drivers. Our 6 garment bags, 5 pipe cases and 6 backpacks did all fit into the cargo area, but only just and only with Aaron's expert packing skills.
The drive to Ventura (87 miles north) took several hours due to typical California traffic. We gave it up about 8:30 pm and stopped at an ihop for dinner, which made us feel better and allowed the traffic to clear out. We had some language/communication difficulties in ordering and paying. My scramble ended up with peppers, but I was so hungry I ate it anyway. The coupons HH had pressed on me before leaving came in handy, too, and saved us a bundle.
Our hotel was gorgeous! Each bed had a duvet and FOUR pillows! I remember vaguely calling home to let them know I had arrived, putting my pipes together so that they could acclimatize and falling into bed, asleep in an instant. Sande and I shared a room, as before in Jackson, WY.
Saturday, October 10
Saturday dawned gray and 50F. Sande graciously woke up at oh-Dark-hundred hours Saturday morning and went with me in search of breakfast. We were told specifically that the breakfast bar was free, but as we were walking back to our room full of scrambled eggs, orange juice and sausage, a Person in a sous-chef jacket ran after us and requested our room number, and the breakfast was charged to Sande's card, anyway. Dirty rotten ratchafratch! But oh well. It was going to be one heck of a day, and it really needed to start with a good breakfast. I gave Sande $17 for my part.
At the front desk, I woke up first Pete and then Sean, calling to try to find us a ride to the Ventura County Fairgrounds, about 1.5 miles away. In the end, Dan dropped Andrew, Sande and I off. It was a mostly concrete venue with 4 or 5 quonset huts here and there. Little collections of sleeping mobile homes leaned up against the fences. Very little life was evident. We did see Aaron Shaw striding this way and that while we tried to get our Gale chanters and drones in tune with one another. Andrew gave up and switched to McCallum, so I did, too. Sande-fine tuned my drones and I started warming up my mind and fingers.
My march solo competition was scheduled for 0835, with the slow air at 0840. I was just hoping I could make all the notes sound; I was having real trouble with pressure. After all the work I put into Captatin Norman Orr-Ewing and the throws on D . . . I reverted back to my original faults and crushed every single throw. My slow aire was nothing to speak of, but I got all the notes right.
About that time, Dennis showed up with the van, tents and chairs, and pretty soon we had our little Salt Lake Scots home of tents and lawn chairs. The tables were quickly covered with pipes and drums as other band members arrived. Then the piping began.
Opening exercises were to be in an incredibly small space for the amount of bands and spectators. We were paired up with a band from Westminster, CA. It took awhile to decide on a tune we both knew, but we finally settled on Mari's Wedding, and agreed to play that together while we marched around the tight circle. Just before we started off, I remarked to Triona that I hoped we weren't going to have to play Mari's 12 times, like we played Scotland the Brave at one Salt Lake games during fireworks.
It turned out to be only 6 times.
Then we went back to warming up.
We seemed to be pretty focused. Everybody was in time and in tune and on the right note. People put their Gale chanters back in (McCallums for massed bands) and tuned their drones pretty much by themselves--even me! to lighten Jason's tuning load. Very little major tuning by Jason and Sean went on. Only fine-tuning. Jason kept us playing a tune, resting and playing another tune, etc., so we were pretty much stuck there behind the quonset hut waiting all morning for the next call to play to keep the pipes in tune. We were on at 2:10.
Traditionally, a band going in to compete forms up into a block, pipers in front and drummers in back, and plays a tune on the march. When the tune is over, one just keeps marching while the lead snare drum taps every left footfall. Everybody tries to make this a positive thing. "Have fun," and all that. I, however, always feel like we are marching to the block to have our heads chopped off. I've watched too many French Revolution movies, I guess. At 2:05 we played Minstrel Boy and marched around the quonset hut, across the parking lot, and up to the line between two smallish bleachers. (Talk about lush vegitation and beautiful scenery! NOT!) Last minute pep talk from Jason, and we struck in.
This was our timed medley, which includes 2 marches, a strathspey, a reel and a slow aire. We played very well. I heard some rushing in the reel, but for some reason Jason either didn't hear it or didn't mention it. In 4 minutes were were done, and marched out.
After that we had to hang around until closing ceremonies--pretty much the same as opening, except there was massed bands. Two things of interest: one of the drum majors couldn't have been more than 10 years old, but he had his moves down EXACTLY! Another pipe major had to have been at least 80 and could barely stand up straight. His band was pretty much the same age. I was amazed they were still playing, but hey! good on them! We did not get any awards, but then neither did the Grade IV LA Scots.
Then Sande and I went back to the hotel, changed and walked across the street to an In-And-Out Burger for dinner. I was seriously considering just passing on dinner, but figured I needed sustenance. Dan and his brother Andy were there, and we had some conversation with them, but not very much. We were all too tired. Back at the hotel, we met Teagan just returning. He had been left behind at the games and had to find his own ride back. We were shocked that we had abandoned the only jeuvenile in our group! Upon comparison of notes, we realized that the van driver had been told Teagan was going back with one of the cars, and the car people had been told he was going back in the van.
Back in room 3079, Sande found Kung Fu Panda on TV and we started to watch it but I fell asleep so fast I don't even remember getting fuzzy. One minute I was awake, the next I was waking up at 2230 to the sound of other band members in the hallway returning from a beach volleyball party. I changed into pj's and went back to bed and slept until 0730 Sunday morning.
Sunday, 11 October
Ventura and transit
Sunday dawned gray and about 55F, same as Saturday. I slept in until about 7:30. I got my uniform back on and packed while Sande waited. We had breakfast across the street at Denny's. Back at the hotel, Sande packed and I waited. We then located Dan and Aaron, who decided to go over to the games with us, so we waited while THEY packed. We made sure Teagan had a ride, and that the ride knew they had him. Don't forget Teagan! After a quick stop at a 7-11 or similar, we arrived at the games and warming up began almost immediately. Opening Ceremonies this day was a parade down the street, about 3 or 4 blocks long. Instead of having to play Mari's Wedding over and over with the Westminster band, we got to play any tune or set we wanted. Parade stuff is old hat to us, so when our turn came, we started in.
Mickey, a female drum major from California with a voice of thunder, was our drum major. Must have been a requirement: You must have a drum major to participate in the Opening Exercises. She is a familiar face, having done workshops in Salt Lake for us. Drum Majors have all sorts of acoutrements: a big metal stick with a blob on one end, sometimes a hat with black ostrich feathers, a tartan sash, spats . . . Mickey was throwing her stick (called a mace, I think) around before we stepped off, and I wondered to myself if she ever dropped it. I had never seen her drop it, but maybe when she was just starting out drum majoring . . . We stepped off, and Mickey tossed and twirled the mace, and suddenly . . . she dropped it. The whole band was only about 10 feet behind her. She bent to pick it up, missed her grip, and had to try again. By this time we were almost on top of her. She looked back, and I saw a gleam of panic in her eyes.
The good news is we didn't run over her, and she didn't drop the mace again. Good thing, too, because the bass drummer would not have been able to see her and it would have been a mess.
We were on at 2:10 again Sunday. The difference was that Jason decided to use McCallum chanters instead of the lower Gales today. Well, OK. Whatever. McCallum chanters sound harsh and shrill in the high desert air of Salt Lake, but 100 yards from the ocean they sounded beautiful.
Same drill as the day before. This time, we played our march set, which is a collection of 4 marches, some slower than others. We have been playing this set since before I joined the band, and it is getting rather old even with changing the last tune. We do it well, however, so we did it well again and marched out.
Some of us had to be back in Salt Lake for work or whatever, so we changed, packed up the van and headed south for the Long Beach airport. We made sure we did not forget Teagan. (He was probably chafing at all the attention by this time.) As we were driving along, Sande and I compared notes and realized . . . she was booked to return on Tuesday!! And no names changes less than 24 hours before flight departure! Aaaaaagh! When we stopped for lunch (or perhaps it was dinner), I talked to jetBlue for about 30 minutes and finally Deb Watson said she would change the name of Joel Fairbrother (who didn't leave Salt Lake at all but was still scheduled to return on Sunday) for Sande's name, no fee. I was very worried, standing in the bushes as far away from the traffic as possible so I could hear, and waiting on hold for her decision. I have to bring her food every day and paint her house for her, if she loses her job because of this. Sande said she would help with the painting, too.
After that we had no more problems. We did NOT forget Teagan. It was our battle cry all Sunday. And Dave, his dad, was waiting to pick him up at the airport when we arrived.
We did not mess up; we did not appear stupid; no bags were lost; everybody arrived in California and then Salt Lake safely and on time; our hotel was lovely; we got 4th in both events, even though they did not give out 4th place awards; it did not rain.
We did NOT lose Teagan
All in all, it was a very good weekend.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I went to a doctor appointment with Small Son today. The doctor bustled in after an interminable wait, greeted me, and held out his hand. This, of course, was part of the greeting, so I held out my hand and shook his. This was the appropriate response, and the meeting went on. It was a rather worrisome meeting, so it was on my mind for some time after that.
Several hours later at band practice, I was tootling away, warming up my pipes but still thinking about the doctor's appointment. Pipe Major Jason approached me and held out his hand. I held out my hand, as before.
But this wasn't a greeting.
I forgot I was now in a subculture where there is a different body language. There aren't usually any greetings at band practice. Maybe a nod of acknowledgement that, "Oh, I see you showed up to practice this week." A mental 'checking you off' on the list of members. That kind of thing. I guess we consider this new practice session as not 'new' at all, but a continuation of last week.
In the pipe band world, when a pipe major holds out his hand to you, it means your chanter is out of tune and he wants you to give it to him so he can tune it.
Jason laughed and shook my hand anyway.
Then he took my chanter and tuned it.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I think I said this last year. There are dogs, wool, sheep, and a motley collection of other animals, and piping, and it's mostly not full band so the atmosphere is laid back.
This year was no exception.
On Friday I showed up late and Sean and Pete were all tuned up and piping away, with Erin on snare. Sean's girlfriend Jen, and Pete's wife Trenda, were roaming around looking at things and came and joined us during breaks. A good time was had by all. I piped 3 hours and my lip was only a smidgin swollen.
Saturday's schedule had me down for 3 hours. I was first on the scene. Jack and Dan showed up nearly half an hour later, along with Jessi on snare. Erin got caught in traffic and was very late. It was chilly, but Jack and I managed to get us all tuned sufficiently well so that we didn't "skirl". It was definitely a fall day, with overcast skies and a bit of a breeze, but the mountain shortly woke up to the fact that it was only 5 September and life could still be warm and buzzy, and so it was, with the buzzy bit supplied by a miriad of grasshoppers. This put our drones out of tune terribly.
Jack and I managed to get our drones and chanters pretty much in sync, but no matter what we did to Dan's, he sounded terrible. We messed around with tape and reeds and hemp for an hour, neither one of us sure of what to do, Erin and Jessi standing patiently by, but ended up with only frustration and discord. We gained a deeper appreciation of Jason, Sean and Tyler who do this all the time.
Grant showed up, undid what we had just done to Dan's pipes, and we achieved a modicum of harmony until Dan left a few minutes later. Grant, Erin, Jessi and I played til 1300 when I was supposed to be off, but that would have left Grant a solo piper with TWO drummers, so I stayed the additional hour (for a total of 4).
The other problem Saturday was that none of us original three were really experienced in pipe-majoring. We asked Erin to do it, and she tried for one tune, but with that heavy snare on her knee, keeping time with her foot was a superhuman effort. We couldn't see her foot, anyway. So I suggested each of us pipers take it in turn to pipe-major. It really wouldn't matter if we made any mistakes. Who would know except us? What happens at the Sheepdog Trials, stays at the Sheepdog Trials. Right? The motion was seconded and passed, and we spent our 4 hours gaining a deeper appreciation for Jason, Sean and Tyler who do this all the time.
My lip was a teensy bit more swollen, but not enough to whine about--or even mention.
Monday . . . have you ever heard of the Miner's Day Parade? I hadn't, and I was raised in a mining town! Park City has a Miner's Day parade on Labor Day, and we marched in it. It was pretty much like the Fourth of July parade, except that Red-haired Daughter and Small Son held a banner for a bunch of kilted crazy people, men and women and . . . um. . . Well, anyway, they were relatively well-mannered. The band played tunes, and I only really messed up when Jason, behind whom I was marching, called out Minstrel Boy and I and Dan and Karen started Green Hills.
When playing, it makes things go much smoother if you can focus on one stationary thing. Watching the people go by or what's happening outside the circle just makes you forget where you (read: me) are in the tune or set and mess up. When marching in a block down the street, there really is only one stationary thing, and that is the bum of the person right ahead of you. I was marching and focusing and playing really well, when I realized what I was focusing on: Jason's . . . um. . . kilt. I mentally squawked and focused on his feet instead, which helped me keep time, were more appropriate, but were not necessarily stationary.
And I promptly played the wrong tune, see above. You just can't win.
Then came the fun part, where HH and the kids and I did lunch things: waiting in lines for ice cream and gas, etc.
In fact, it was mostly waiting for the rest of the day.
We were required by the Sheepdog people to arrive at the chalet at 1400. I was late, getting there about 1410. I caught a gleam of reflected light moving toward the door, and guessed it was Jason or Jack, BJ being in California. It was Jason, the sunlight glinting off his bald head, Brenda at his side. We finally located them in the basement of the chalet, masquerading during the week as a kindergarten. The rest of the band trickled in by ones and twos, sunburned and laughing, some smelling of wet dog. We warmed up and tuned up and were ready to go at 1500, at which point Ian got a call from the Radio Guy who said they had more dogs to run, it'd be another hour. We got a 30 minute rest time, during which Small Son and I watched the Spash dogs jump into the water, and we scouted out the road down to the rest of the trials. At 1600, the call came in that there were still two dogs to run, so it would be another 30-60 minutes. We tuned and warmed some more; I got a new reed, and got my new reed adjusted. At 1700, the word was that the last dog had been running for 24 minutes, and that as soon as the trucks arrived, we should load up and go. Ten tense minutes passed before the radio crackled into life again, and we moved out.
The pickup truck beds had been ameliorated by little chairs from the kindergarten room, or in my case, a cooler. Jack sat on one tailgate. As we moved around corners and up hills, the chairs moved treacherously from side to side and front to back. I was sure we were all going to sweep Jack off the tailgate and land in a pile of broken drones and broken bones (broken drones being the more disastrous: broken bones heal). But we didn't. We arrived at a windswept hilltop wherein ensued a series of game plans that lasted at most 3.27 minutes.
We had three routes to choose from: a) a long paved road to the left, b) a middle length sidewalk, looking kinda ratty as it turned the corner, and c) an area of cut weeds that swept away down the hill to our right. Jason vetoed the cut grass out of hand: the drummers would not be able to see to pick their way around holes, bumps, etc. Jack ran down and checked out the sidewalk, and said it looked the clear as far as he could tell. Finally we got the signal to go. We struck up and started down this 20% grade and took the middle sidewalk. When we got to the curve and turned, our way was suddenly blocked by bushes and weeds. What to do? We were in the middle of a set!! The fence to our right was broken, so we turned and marched through it and the weeds and the burrs and the holes and the sheep poo and the ditches and the hills, curved around the line of colored flags which put us directly into a flock of sheep, with some dogs keeping them in line. The sheep weren't too happy about 10 pipers suddenly walking into their peaceful meadow playing like 40 elephants. Neither were the dogs, but they had their job to do, and they did it, keeping the sheep right in our way.
After that it was easy. Third and second place went to a fellow from South Africa, one for one dog and one for the other. First place went to a chap from Scotland, luckily, because we were supposed to play a national anthem, and we don't even know the Star Spangled Banner--if it can even be played on pipes--to say nothing of the South African anthem!
But Scotland the Brave we know! We played it for the gentleman and his dog, turned up the hill and onto the bridge where we tootled a couple of sets and called it a very long day.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
"Get an iTouch," my husband said. "You can watch movies on that, plus you'll get internet access and tunes and lots of other things, and they don't cost very much more."
So I did.
I've had it now for about 2 weeks, and I love it, but I haven't watched a movie on it yet. What I love most about it is Kindle. This is a program, or application, or "app", that puts a printed book into your iTouch so you can read it anywhere or anytime you want . . . even in the dark! It's not bulky, the pages and cover don't get dog-earred, it marks your place, and it doesn't read the book to you (not that listening to a book is a bad thing, just that I like reading it myself best). Some of my favorite books cost nothing to download.
My second favorite thing is lists. I can make as many lists as I want and they are always with me, I don't forget them at home on the fridge or lose them. I have a list for tunes I want to learn, another for knitting projects in the foreseeable future, one for nicknames of my Scouts, one of books I want to read, birthday and Christmas lists, the JetBlue planes I've flown on, shopping lists, to-do lists . . .
Then, there is the contact app. Everybody's address, email, phones, notes all in one easily-portable little thing.
Finally, I got a password app. It holds all my log-in's and passwords, but it's password protected itself.
Of course, if there's wi-fi, I can access my email and anyplace on the 'net.
It's been a lot of fun.
The Odd-Year, End of August Curse
I know I've talked about this curse before: how every odd year at the end of August something terrible happens to our family--usually involving broken bones. This August I was pretty nervous about something happening to Daughter #1 who is serving a mission in South Korea (see http://roseegoestokorea.blogspot.com). Rushing to her hospital bedside in Korea was going to be long, expensive, and involve a passport. We've been praying for everybody's safety. She's been worried about something happening to one of us, here. So much so that she sent me a real 4-leafed clover necklace that I have been wearing since Mother's Day in the hopes that it would help.
Well, it's September 1, 2009. We are all intact. Of course, anything could happen any time. I'd knock on wood if there was any here; I don't think knocking on electrons has the same effect. But I'm happy and grateful we made it through August. Very happy.
I think it's this house, actually. We have a couch that puts people to sleep in record time, even people who are insomniacs. We have a bedroom that makes you curl up and read a book. These things never happened when we lived in Minnesota. I can't imagine there is a magical person out there with a vendetta against us. We don't know any people with magical powers.
Just magical people.
Monday, August 24, 2009
We just came back from a cut-short 25th anniversary trip to Quebec (long, sad story: a short, good time was had) where I had little or no cell phone service, to find a voicemail message from Aaron asking if I could help with a gig that started 30 minutes earlier. Of course I couldn't play, but it was nice being asked.
I hope I wasn't the last person on the list.
(I won't even go there.)
I haven't picked up pipes in a WEEK! My blowpipe valve is gonna be SO stuck. To make things worse, we received a DVD from Piper Pat, my bigger little brother, showing him practicing on small pipes or somesuchthing while on his tour of England, Scotland and Ireland last month. Must be nice to have money to just blow on things, including DVDs sent out to the whole family and large suitecases. Hopefully, I'm a better person because of it.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
* * *
We had a big, big windstorm (not a tornado, just straight-line winds) rip through here three days ago (that would be Thursday). You couldn't see the mountains AT ALL for all the dust and smoke that was in the air. Everything dried out in a flash and brush fires started all around the airport and some other places. My brother Tom said he was up on top of th East Ridge outside Butte, Montana with my sister, Erin, and her fiance, Tim, and saw it roll in. He said it was like some monstrous, roiling brown thing attacking the city, containing hailstones the size of golf balls. It was that big that it covered at least the distance from Salt Lake to Butte. It blew pretty much all night and by morning it was apparent I was allergic to something in the dust, because my eyes were red, swollen and itchy, my nose ran constantly and I was sneezing. I hope this makes me sound miserable, because I was miserable.. I'm only now getting over it, even with meds.
Friday night, in this non-breathing condition, we had to go up to the Eccles'* family home on the benches and play a gig for the 75th birthday of Spencer Eccles, which family gave us a grant that procured us our tartan and kilts oodles of years ago . . . so long ago, in fact, that when Ian mentioned this factoid to the Eccles gathered there, everybody was surprised to learn it. Spencer came over and shook everybody's hand and thanked us for remembering their family and said he was glad they had a connection to the Salt Lake Scots. He was having a good time. And no wonder, in a place like that. It was right in a neighborhood, but it was surrounded with so many scrub oak hedges and oak trees and pine trees, that it was a place apart. No outside sounds got in, nor people neither. It looked like Groundskeeper Willie had been hard at work everywhere for the place looked beautiful. The catering staff hovered, the valets parked cars quietly and efficiently, and the whole (extended) family was dressed in carefree smiles and their Sunday best. Spencer Eccles Jr (or possible III) casually and with a worn green felt-tip marker, wrote us out a check for $350** without even checking his balance or doing the math--although he made jokes about the check not clearing.
I don't think that will be a problem.
Our band has other connections to this family, too. Dave served a mission with one of the son-in-laws in Montreal, QC; Sande had scoped out the joint for fire vehicle access when the fire danger got high and knew the key family members and the lay of the land. Good thing, too, because even with the grandchildren guiding us, it was a torturous path we had to follow to get past the tennis courts, down the hill, around the antique automobiles, and through the dining pavillion to our places on the flagstone terrace.
I went home and blew my nose.
*Eccles family: an old and rather well-to-do banking family from this area who has put their name on half the buildings on the UofU campus, and many other buildings in the valley besides.
** Let's see: $350 for 10 minutes work. $350 x 6 = . . . $2100 per hour!
Friday, July 31, 2009
It's very exciting!
Last night . . .
I don't know why I'm feeling so accomplished! I didn't do all the practicing of fingering, grace notes, doublings, "triplings", and all those tunes. But still . . .
Last night, Small Son got his own set of (rental) pipes!
Sean (and Dennis) got them all put together and showed him how to work them. He huffed and he puffed, and he huffed and he puffed, and he finally blew one squawk out of them. Then, Sean showed him how to pack them in the rolling bag case (provided) and we got a soda to celebrate. He's been counselled to practice 5 minutes a day, and advised that it's going to be frustrating at first.
As Marjie would say, "Boy, Howdy!"
Learning how to simultaneously blow and squeeze and finger the tune . . . and march . . . is about the most frustrating thing I have ever done. Right now he doesn't have to march, of course, and all his drones are plugged off to make it as easy as possible. He's gonna need a LOT of encouragement.
In our last group lesson of the season, we went over individually what progress we had made during the year. My report is as follows:
- I got rid of the highhand-low A squeak
- opened up my doublings
- improved my blowing
- greatly improved my confidence in performing and competing
[- got a first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth (so far) in competitions
- played my first solo with the band]
(The last two are probably due to the first four, so I don't know if they count, but they are the most exciting of the lot.)
But not as exciting as seeing Small Son standing there with his own set of pipes on his shoulder, huffing and puffing away!
Thursday, July 30, 2009
First the chanters:
All the pipers stand in a circle with about 3 feet between each. Jason walks around and individually has us play a scale along with him, listening to see if we are in tune with him or not. Usually, after the scale, much adjusting of reeds or moving of tape happens to make all the chanters in tune with him.
After everybody is basically tuned, we start a set with drones tapped off. Sean or Tyler is assigned to tap to keep us in time, and Jason walks around and listens to each chanter against a background of all the other chanters.
Then the drones:
Once the chanters are in tune, we start another set with drones on and Jason goes around again, sometimes with Sean or Tyler's assistance, and tunes everybody's drones. Usually, he makes one more circuit to hear how everything sounds together. And then we are tuned.
For the moment.
Last night I tuned my drones rather hurridly, and gave a half turn to my reed to bring the higher notes into tune. As I played my march for warm up, I realized I would not make it through even 15 minutes of practice without a major accident. I had to run to the 7-11 and take care of that. I showed up back at practice as everybody was in Chanters Step I. There was much moving of tape and adjusting of reeds taking place with everybody until Jason got to Sean, who had evidently spent a lot of time getting all his notes just exactly right, because he required no adjustments whatsoever. (Or else he practiced a lot, which will keep your pipes in tune, too.) I was envious that Sean was so good at tuning (or practicing) and I was not. A couple more people got their reeds adjusted, and then it was my turn.
Just for a little variety, instead of starting from low G and going up, Jason started from high A and went down. I obediently mimicked the notes he played. Instead of taking out my chanter and adjusting tape or reed, he just . . . walked away! How cool is that?
I was definitely having trouble staying awake, and my fingers weren't taking up the memory slack, so I made quite a few slips. Ugh.
After about 90 minutes of practicing, including marching into the circle, we had the opportunity to have our bags tested for leaks. I took all the drones and chanter off, stripped off the bag cover and plugged all holes. When blown up, the bag did not lose air at all, not even slow aire (sorry, I had to). It was pronounced sound.
NOTE TO SELF: check all my hemping: reeds, all drone joints, chanter and blowpipe. They all need to be tight so that no air is leaking out of wrong places, making the chanter difficult to play because there isn't enough air left to play the tune.
NOTE TO SELF: also remember to dampen the sponge inside the moisture control system.
As the bag was being examined, Jason commented that he noticed my blowing was much more steady when he was tuning drones. Since I fixed the squeaking problem, I've been working on making my blowing more steady. It seems like I am making progress. Yeah! Jack asked me how I had done it. I didn't have much advice to give him, except to concentrate on blowing and keeping the bag inflated and hard throughout the tune.
It was nice of them to say anything.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Nevertheless, it was a wonderful practice.
Tuning went fairly quickly and easily, everyone pre-tuning themselves so they were close to start off with.
Pete brought the DVDs of the March concert and distributed them to those who were willing to pay. I got one to send to Nancy in Burnsville to represent us at the Folks In The Boat gathering this weekend.
We ran through both sets a couple of times, especially working on the reel, Brown-Haired Maid, in the timed medley.
After about 90 minutes when he was sure we had really worked and were drenched in sweat, Jason had us put pipes and drums away and he went over the score sheets from the Payson games. He was pleased with how we had done, over all.
Then he said he was glad we had combined the Grades III and IV, that it was a good move, and that he wanted to keep this group together. He said he was planning to play us as a Grade IV again next year, but that if we kept placing first, WUSPBA would probably put pressure on us to compete as a Grade III band. He said the Seaside/Ventura games would be our test, as a lot of VERY good Grade IV bands compete there. If we do well there, we really ARE good.
It feels very good to be part of a good band/team.
Monday, July 20, 2009
I've got the general idea for the march. The S and R need a little assistance, mainly because I have never heard them played.
I added a big flat net pocket to the inside of my pipe bag for flat things: flag, letters, tuner, etc. Had to do it by hand because the bag wouldn't fit under the presser foot on my sewing machine. So I sewed it while watching Miss Marple last night on Mystery Theatre.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Not-so-good? OK. Here it is:
My march, Lady Lever Park, with which I took first two weeks ago in Billings, netted me zip. I was going to play it slower, according to recommendations, but for some reason I rushed into it, thought I had to finish it at the speed I started, and . . . left out lots of the little black notes with many tails. [sigh] This judge, an elderly gentleman with an neatly trimmed white moustache, gave me the same advice the last judge gave me, only in a much sterner tone of voice (as if he knew I'd already been told this): SLOW DOWN. I tried to pay very close attention, but I was pretty mad at myself for messing this one up.
The next news is A Little Better. Are you ready for somewhat cheerful news? (No doubt.)
I played my slow aire, Loch Rannoch, flawlessly (except for blowing), got lovely comments: very musical, good job. Stuff like that. The 'very musical' is something I was striving for, it being rather difficult to put expression into a piece when it is played at constant volume and on an instrument which can't pause in the middle of a tune without having to start over.
OK, so don't correct the grammar of that last sentence, because I know it's wrong in there somewhere; I just can't put my finger on the dangling participle. Or whatever.
So I got 5th out of 17 on my slow air! That will give me an additional 14 points, giving me a total of 35. Too bad the first and third I got at Yellowstone won't count, as they are under the auspices of Some Canadian Pipe Band Association, not WUSPBA (Western United States Pipe Band Association). So I will work on my march, slowing it down, giving each of the little notes with lots of flags his or her own place in the sun/tune.
Now the Really Good News: The results of the Band Competition.
Quick March Medley: 1st Place: Salt Lake Scots!
Timed Medleyl: 1st Place: Salt Lake Scots!
Pretty Cool Happenings:
While we were tuning up for the 2nd competition, a stiff wind came out of the north and tore millions of little helicopters off the trees and blew them directly south. It was an amazing and glorious sight!
I finally got a really cool Payson Scottish Games t-shirt.
I got another henna design of celtic knotwork and haven't gone swimming to bleach it out yet.
On the way down the mountain from our campsite at Maple Lake, we saw a female turkey and 3 turkey.
People kept coming up to me and giving me hugs all day: my VT companion's friend who is in the Wallace clan but whose name I can't remember was my fan club all day and gushed and gushed. A co-worker, Gladys, and her family each came up individually. Somebody else but I can't remember who.
Jason congratulated me--out of the blue--on my first place at Billings.
All in all, it was a very good day.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Yesterday as we were getting ready to go on this camping trip, Shiloh escaped out the garage door and went galavanting around the neighborhood. SS tried everything to get her to come back, but she would not come when called. I'm sure we are using the wrong name. I didn't have time to go chasing her all over, so I headed for the car. Poor boy, he was in tears that she had left, even though he KNEW she would be going to the Humane Society eventually.
A few minutes later, she trotted back into the yard and into the still open door. "If nobody claims her, can we have her back?" he wanted to know. I explained that we can only have 2 dogs and 2 cats, and Shiloh would put us over that limit.
All of our animals have been strays. (Well, not the fish. It's kinda hard to be a stray fish and survive very long on the streets. Something about 'the air we breathe', and 'the bottom of the food chain'.) That's why my neighbor called me about this dog in the first place: I'm known to be a soft touch when it comes to strays.
SS was ecstatic when she came back.
This is not going to be fun when I take her to the Pound.*
*I should note that we have made every effort to find her rightful owner. All she has is a rabies tag, and the vet has been contacted (numerous times) but said that on the day she got her tag, several other dogs got their rabies shots, too, and somebody messed up entering the info into the computer later in the day, so the phone number they have is incorrect. After almost a week of "research", they said: take her to the Pound, the owner will likely look for her there.
The Moral of This Story: Make sure your pets have ID tags AND are microchipped, if you ever want to see them again.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Well, listen to this:
For my slow aire, I got comments of
"Nice fingering technique, Blowing unsteady, Chanter not 100% with drones", and "consider a smaller bag to help w/blowing", and 3rd place!
Never got higher than 4th before.
For my (much harder) march, the judge put:
Pt 1: D-throw & D-strikes need more clarity and more low G!
Pt 2: Run a little sticky (D-E-F-High A). Nice ending phrase
Pt 3: Watch G-G note between E & F
Pt 4: Nice.
Slow down tempo to achieve more clarity in doublings. Well played and very musical."
I got FIRST PLACE!
A) the lucky pennies worked,
B) I'm better than I thought I was, or
C) The other competitors were just starting out piping and were really not good.
Or D) All of the above.
For myself, I'm hoping B is true.
Monday, July 6, 2009
I tuned before I left home and dampened my sponge, and so required very little tuning at the parade start. Yeah, me!
I was on the left outside, last row. I had Karen to my right, Grant in front of me. I couldn't see Jason at all to see cut-off signals, he being on the front row right side, but I'm pretty sure of the tunes by now that I did OK anyway.
Pete wanted to bet me that we would start with the Mill Set. I didn't take the bet, and good thing, too, because that's what we started with. How did he know?
We did the whole thing at a 4-mile-per-hour walk. Not too many breaks, really, so by the time the last quarter of the parade route came up, my lip was pretty much shot. At the turn in the middle from Main Street to Park Avenue, a motorcycle cop came up and told us to go faster, as the rest of the parade was waaaaay ahead of us. Jack tried politely to explain that we couldn't march any faster as it was a safety issue for the drummers (and for certain pipers, too, but we won't go into that). The cop wasn't getting it, so Jason started a set and then went up and had an in-your-face shouting match with the cop, the result of which was that the cop went away and left us alone and we finished the parade to mighty cheers at 4 miles-per-hour.
I thought there were going to be arrests. Yeah, Jason!
After some near misconnects, I met up with HH and the kids at Kimball Junction. They had gone to see the Provo parade and to see some of HH's friends from high school. We went to the Jordnelle reservoir and actually had a picnic! There were no single family picnic areas to be had, but there was one group picnic area that was reserved for 2-4 July that didn't look like it had been used since June. Remembering our Father's Day adventure, I wasn't real keen to try using this group spot, especially since it actually was reserved. But there was nothing else, and we'd already paid our fee, so we moved into the group area and cooked fast. Our excuse, should the group show up, was that we had started the coals for them, and could we please cook our 4 brats and 3 lampchops on their grill in return for this kindness? HH cooked fast, Small Son went fishing, Red-Haired Daughter watched the gulls, and no group showed up. We ate on the top of the green hill looking down on the blue water dotted with white boats, and under the blue sky dotted with white gulls. It made a lovely, peaceful picture.
We were given the care of a stray dog for the weekend, a stray dog who is afraid of fireworks. This is a fat beagle/chihuahua mix, not the cutest dog I've ever seen, but it has found hideyholes to sit and watch us go through daily life, and the other dogs tolerate her. Monday we will call the vet phone number on her rabies tag and get in contact with the owner. Hopefully she will be gone Monday. I've never met a dog I didn't like, but this one just doesn't grab me. I'm neutral. SS really likes her, though, and she follows him around.
In other piping news, SS has misplaced his chanter. We have looked everywhere (except where it is, of course) and still nothing. Couches, beds, bookcases, even pianos have been moved. Still no chanter.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
They are having a Monday Family Night concert series this year in their mostly-grass amphitheatre, and the Salt Lake Scots were privileged to take part in that last Monday night. We had two performances: one at 6 and one at 7, with an estimated attendance of 500 (we maybe got 200, but that's OK).
The weather, for only the second time this summer, was perfect: 70's, sunny, light breeze. We got to play in a really cool stage (in the shade) to a passle of people seated on the grass that sloped up before us.
This was a gig like many others: half hour of Jason stressing out over tuning, us marching on late and playing through standard band, small group and solo tunes. It was the end of a long day, and many of us hadn't eaten or hadn't had the chance to eat, coming directly from work. Personally, I'd been up since 0200, worked 11 hours, then gone home and mowed the lawn before showing up to play. I forgot to eat. The result was we were tired to begin with. At the end of the first performance I was, as usual, not paying attention. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Jason step forward and say something. Not having heard what he said, I stepped forward to ask what he had announced, and he said, "Amazing Grace. Solo. Any volunteers?"
There I was: stepped forward. I knew that tune. My chanter squeaks were gone. In a crazy instant, I said I would do it.
And Jason, instead of saying, "Um. . . how about . . . another volunteer?", as Jack suggested he could have, instantly said, "OK, good."
I stepped forward and began.
This was a momentous occasion for me: my first solo with the entire band. Contrary to normal conditions, I was NOT nervous. I watched Jason's foot carefully as it kept time, played every note clean and clear . . . in short, it was perfect.
When the rest of the band joined in, I kept playing and stepped back. I would have taken a deep breath, but I was already taking lots of those.
(We won't talk about how it completely escaped me that I would have to play the first part twice through.)
Now, several days later, I can't remember if this happened in the first performance or the second, but I think it was the first. Not that it matters. What really matters are two things, actually:
1) that I played my solo perfectly, and
2) more importantly, that Jason didn't ask for somebody else when I volunteered.
This makes me want to laugh for joy! Still!
What This Means
This means I am good enough as a piper to be "showcased" as it were, and good enough as a public performer not to let nerves get in the way of my performing. Yesssssssssss!
What This Doesn't Mean . . .
. . .is that I don't have room for improvement. OK, that's a double negative. What I mean is, I still have LOTS of things to work on, primarily blowing and opening up my doublings so that you can hear every grace note. I'm sure there are other things, but I'll cross those bridges when I come to them.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
On Friday night, the massed bands sounded very good. Even we did, thanks to Jason fanatical tuning. I got my drones very close, thanks to Sande's handy Sharpie marker. I can't remember what we played--probably Scotland the Brave--, but I cut off early and so faked it the rest of the time.
Instead of driving the 25 miles home, I stayed at the Draper home of a co-worker, Gladys, who is probably best known for her enthusiasm for everything. When I pulled up under glowering clouds, the whole family was assembled, and they asked for a tune. The McCallum chanter had been giving me problems with squeaks and I hadn't had time to work out why, but, I thought, I'll just play one or two and be done. As soon as I started playing, neighbors started peering in the open windows to see what the noise was, and Gladys motioned them inside. Pretty soon we had half the neighborhood in her living room. I played Amazing Grace, Scotland the Brave, Loch Rannoch and Lady Lever Park, the Mill Set and the Timed Medley. I ended with Farewell to Camraw. Everybody was very excited. One of Gladys' neighbors is a parishoner of Lee "Posideon" Mashburn, so we chatted a little, and they all went home. I microwaved my kitty litter and retired. I slept like a log.
Saturday dawned bright and clear, and I got to Thanksgiving Point in plenty of time. My first solo, the 2/4 march, Lady Lever Park, was played for acting judge Aaron Shaw, piper from the Wicked Tinkers! He was very kind, and gave me some pointers. He looks much older close up than he does from the audience. I flubbed once, but carried on. My slow aire, Loch Rannoch, was played for judge Seamus Coyne. HH was acting as his steward, so he got to hear me play, first time ever. I thought I did very well. I wasn't nervous at all, really. Then I forgot about my solos, and wandered around with HH, Small Son, and Red-Haired Daughter looking at all the stalls and vendors and getting caught up in tuning for the band competitions. I got a henna tatoo while they were looking at swords.
Our first band comp, Quick March Medley, for which we played the Mill Set (again), went very well. A bit of rushing (I was standing next to Lee), but we kept it in check. Then it began to darken and blow, and by the time tune-up for the second comp came, it was pouring rain and tents were blowing over. Some bands had to compete in that, poor guys! It let up a little about 15 minutes to our time, so we tuned in the rain and went out and competed. We couldn't feel our fingers, birls just didn't happen, and the drum heads had standing pools of water on them. We rushed a little again, but kept it in check again, although we barely made it over the wire as far as timing went, then escaped back to the relative shelter of the relative tent.
People were leaving in droves; others were enjoying the bands in the food court, or were over in the barn staying dry and doing whatever was over there. They changed the evening concerts to the barn, but the Massed Bands still had to be held on the tatoo field in the elements.
Meanwhile, I went over to the piping tent to check how I'd done on solos. At least it had stopped raining by this time. Out of the 13 people competing for the Grade IV 2/4 march, I took 6th. And out of the 17 people competing for the slow aire, I took 4th! That's really good for me!
At the closing massed bands, they announced the band winners.
Grade IV Quick March Medley first place: Salt Lake Scots!
Grade IV Timed Medley first place: Salt Lake Scots!
I don't know if the Grade III people upped our performance quality, or if we would have done well on our own. We did take first at one competition last year--I think it was the November games--and second at Payson--or something like that. I can't remember. Anyway, we did very well. Maybe we just all did well together.
Maybe we're good.
Small Son and I drove home basking in the glory.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I feel like I've been chewed up (by Cerberus, the 3-headed dog who guards the place), spit out, beat up, tortured and left to drown.
It all started on Monday. I went to a weight class with HH--nothing wrong with that. Tuesday night my muscles started to ache, and this lasted--well, they still ache.
Wednesday morning I started working at 0315, same as always, even got an hour off from 0500 to 0600, but at 0615 my phone shut down, my computer shut down and I had one hour to either fix them or get to Sandy and work from the Center.
I neglected to write down the time at 0615, and was deep in the throes of talking to the Xmission guy and trying to get the computer to reboot when I should have been winging my way South.
I was 21 minutes late, and for this I will get black marks.
When I finally got home, I had to take Red-Haired Daughter to her orthodontist appointment. I didn't have time to get soccer socks for Small Son to go with his kilt and he was sad. I did get a nap in for about 90 minutes, and Dear Mother-in-Law cooked a lovely Chinese dinner for us all, and I whisked off to band practice.
Except the meds hadn't kicked in yet, and I was in my "couldn't-finish-a-sentence--or-a-tune" mode.
This was the last practice before competition, and I really needed to participate, so I stuck it out. I kept messing up, and Jason kept noticing, and by the time practice was over at 8:30 pm, I was pretty much OK.
I'll probably be cut on Saturday because of this. Oh, well. I'm prepared.
Jason ran us through both sets about 5 times each, and my lip and jaw (?) are pretty sore.
My head and my eyes hurt from scrambling to reboot the computer again this morning because it was all non-functional when I woke up, and I really didn't want to drive to Sandy again today.
Small Son got sick in the middle of the night, too.
Arms, legs, head, eyes, lip, jaw, Small Son . . .
Whine, whine, whine. Just shut up and do your job.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Yesterday was my fiftieth birthday (aaaaaauuugh!) and I'm still alive and pretty much the same as I was on 6/6/09.
Although I didn't think I would survive the Relief Society sing-along, led by the RS president, featuring Happy Birthday To Ròs, followed by How Old Are You Now. I was hoping to get away with being invisible. No such luck.
I hope the president realizes she/we will have to sing to EVERYBODY now. Serves her right.
Second Daughter made marinaded chicken and spinach-and-strawberry salad and mashed potatoes and invited some of my friends over for linner. Brother-in-law George and neice Nora also came out from South Carolina, and conversation was entertaining and funny. I'm always afraid there will be long, awkward pauses, but everybody was willing to contribute funny or poignant stories and/or listen to funny or poignant stories. So the afternoon passed enjoyably, with the highlight being chocolate cheesecake that did NOT set off the smoke alarm.
Small Son took me to Tracy Aviary on Saturday as a present. HH got me a pair of gardening gloves several weeks ago AND showed up early from his camping trip to be present for the party, and Second Daughter did the party for me. First Daughter sent her birthday wishes from Korea. South Korea. Third Daughter was sick. I finished Small Son's kilt on Saturday night while I was still young. Hah. This was all good.
The bad part was that I did not get a chance to practice, not even the 5 minutes required by Jason. Not even my competition march. Saturday was the same. Too much company. Now the timer says only 4 days until I have to actually play the march . . .
I hate that timer. It makes me scared. I'm trying to quell the fear. Think I'll go read my Mind Gym book . . .
Friday, June 5, 2009
Last night at group lesson Pete remarked that he hadn't heard a squeak out of me all night, and I realized how much I had been afraid of playing my low A and having it squeak. Last night when I played it time after time and it sounded beautiful, such a weight was lifted from my shoulders. [deep sigh]
I still have to struggle to make sure my fingers are place correctly on the chanter so as not to let even the teensiest breath of air escape (thus making the whistle, or squeak), but I have the general idea. I wonder why I didn't have this problem before, or if I did and nobody mentioned it because there were so many other issues to address first.
Wednesday's practice was somewhat disastrous.
I had been pushing my limits: had stayed awake too long or taken too short a nap or had woken up in precisely the wrong part of my sleep cycle, such that I could not concentrate on one thought for more than, say, 2.27 seconds. I tried playing through the March set with the band, but right in the middle I completely lost my Train of Thought for a millisecond, came back to the Station an instant later but could not remember where we were in the tune. I knew this was going to continue until I got some sleep, and be frustrating to the better players and embarassing to me, so I gave it up in the middle of the set, in the middle of practice. Jason showed actual concern and asked if I was OK. I avoided that question and said I had to go home, could I please? He reluctantly gave his permission, but asked again if I was OK. I said I would explain it at group lesson, and turned, walked to the car and drove home.
No, I shouldn't have been driving in that condition.
I hate disabilities.
I dreaded giving that explanation, and went over and over it in my head before Thursday night, but then Jason had to leave early so I didn't have to say anything. My Achilles Heel is still secret.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Here is the poem for the day:
A mighty creature is the germ,
Though smaller than the pachyderm.
His customary dwelling place
Is deep within the human race.
His childish pride he often pleases
By giving people strange deseases.
Do you, my poppet, feel infirm?
You probably contain a germ.
Mr. Nash wrote from the early 30s until his death in 1971. He grew up in Savannah, GA and Rye, NY, dropped out of Harvard after his freshman year, and went to work as an author with Doubleday in New York.
My favorite of his poems is one my dad quoted to us repeatedly on road trips:
I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall,
I'll never see a tree at all.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
HH looked over at me and said, "How are you doing that?"
Then we realized it was the Humongous Screen TV in the lobby advertising for the Highland Games on June 12.
It was me playing!
I didn't hear any mistakes.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
My friend Dave says this is all in my head and he recommended a book I could read that would help me make more of my days good piping days, and I actually now own the book and have read the intro and chapter one. I get the idea, but so far I haven't done any brain-ups or brain-curls or anything.
It would be so cool if I could just DECIDE to play beautifully and then . . . do.
Today turned out to be a bad piping day. For no reason, and that is the most unfair bit of all. I wasn't too tired. Not foggy from meds. Not playing new turnes. Not under a mentally stressful situation. It was just that . . . my fingers seemed to stick to the chanter. I had to yank each one off to get it to another note.
This is not an excuse; it is the truth.
I embarassed myself by playing the Grade IV march set--which I could not only play while asleep, but could also play in an unconscious, even vegetative state--horribly.
I withdrew into my own little world centered around yanking my fingers, one by one, from the chanter. I went home confused.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Melbourne G. Black
I had a total of 6 solo gigs this weekend, plus 3 band gigs. I like solo gigs because I don't have to be in tune with--or in time with--anybody but myself, I'm not on a tight schedule, I can wander around and read tombstones between sets. Nobody yells at me; in fact, I usually get many thanks and compliments. All weekend long, the weather was moderate, the sun shining, the birds singing, the breeze lightly blowing, and as I was wandering toward the Little Girl's Room between sets at the Redwood cemetery on Saturday, I crossed a grassy place where there was only one grave. There was no flag nor any flowers on or by it. Curious, I stopped to read the information.
Melbourne G. Black
A2C US Air Force
You probably know that Memorial Day is for remembering the armed forces personnel who have served our country, and that usually the Veteran's Admin or somebody like that puts American flags on every serviceman or -woman's grave. You may know that the Korean war lasted from June 25, 1950 through July 27, 1953, so this gentleman survived the war. You may or may not know that my oldest daughter is serving a mission in South Korea, with the North Koreans shooting missiles over her head. For these reasons, this grave caught my attention. This Airman Second Class served in Korea and apparently nobody remembered him. This would not do. I instantly adopted him.
What to do about the starkness of the grave? I looked around. "Borrowing" stuff from other peoples' graves is verboten, so I couldn't do that. But hark! and lo! the electric cart shed was just there, with the door open and one cart inside. And dangling from the seat of that cart was an American flag! After a quick look around to make sure the coast was clear (or the "ghost" was clear, to quote certain younger members of my family, which seems a more appropriate phrase in this situation), I appropriated the flag and adorned Airman Black's grave. Well! That looked much better. Not quite good enough, though, for somebody who helped make South Korea safe for my little girl to be there, so the next day I brought some pink roses and white irises, and then it looked much better.
Bird Brain Drummer
If you are a drummer and are already taking offense at this title, please don't. I have every respect for drummers, having been one myself. Read on . . .
For one full-band ceremony, we-all had to march in formation up a hill (avoiding graves) and stand in a half-circle around a flagpole while the Speech, the Pledge, the Prayer, and the 9-gun salute happened. (Nine-gun salute? What happened to the other 12 guns?) I was standing next to our bass drummer, Matt, when suddenly a fledgling starling flapped awkwardly down the line, past my nose, and landed flustered and grateful--plunk!-- on Matt's tenor drum. (No, he was not carrying both drums; he got promoted this weekend from bass drummer to tenor drummer.) A quick look around revealed to our avian visitor that she was in fact not out of the frying pan, but in the fire, so she flapped hastily and erratically away. She did NOT leave a present.
The Pipe Major's Wrath
Tune-up for our performance at Mt View Cemetery on Monday morning was at 0830. It was a beautiful, sunny-but-temperate day. Tyler called me by name and said hello, and Nicholas asked to borrow my tuner. I felt accepted and needed.
But the tune-up itself, and the concert, went badly.
1) My chanter kept coming in early during tune-up (although it did not do so during the concert, I hasten to add) and
2) I couldn't stop my squeaking low A. Jason, stressed out as usual before a performance, was upset.
3) Jason said, "Remember: No E. . . What'd I say?" We chorused, "No E!" "What's that mean?" he asked immediately, smiling, figuring that we'd got it. "No E!", we chorused again. Whereupon he called out the tune, and we struck in. And somebody played the E (not me). I could see steam rolling out from under his glengarry.
4) Going up the hill, dodging graves, I cut off correctly, but missed the start-up for the second half of the set, so I came in when I could.
5)The space we were stationed was squishy, so we formed a V instead of a C, such that when playing Amazing Grace after the ceremony I couldn't (and most of the people in the right-hand line couldn't) see Jason to get the beat. I tried to follow Tyler on the other side, but he was awfully far away. Finally Jason got mad and moved forward a half step (where I could see him) and we got it together. But that didn't improve his mood, and he gave us a stern and glowering (I'm assuming he was glowering; I couldn't see his face for the steam whistling out of his ears) lecture at the bottom of the hill afterwards. It was a horrible performance.
We corrected everything at the next cemetery--except the late strike-in for the second half of the Mill set, but this time I didn't strike back in: I just faked playing while the drummers went beside me and got into their places, and then I got into my place. In the semicircular C. I was so lost, tune-wise. Jason seemed mollified by the second performance and went away happy.
Piper, Tune Thyself
Monday afternoon I got acquainted with Mountain View cemetery out near Sandy. Angus (pipes) had been sitting idle for a few hours, so when I struck in to make lots of noise for a little boy, I sounded terrible (he loved it). I quickly adjusted my reed, and lengthened my tenor drone a little (the bass seemed OK), tried it again, and Voila! In tune (mostly) and I did it myself. I can be taught!
Heather Krantz and the Green Balloons
During my break at Mountain View, I joined an elderly couple under the awning and we talked of this and that. As I was going out to play another set or two, they asked how they would contact me if they should need a piper. I gave them the Celtic Center's info, and told them to 'ask for Rose, nobody else would do', joking. They laughed, but agreed.
I wandered from tree to tree around the smallish cemetery, found James E. Faust's grave, played this and that, and ended up at the lowest part of the property, under a tree. I played through 4 or 5 tunes, all the while watching a family grouping of 10 or 12 seated near a mausoleum wall and handing huge bunches of green balloons of various shades around among themselves. There must have been some logic to what they were doing, but I couldn't get it from 500 yards away. Heading for my car and home, I passed within 20 yards of them, and was surprised to suddenly hear my name called several times! There were my elderly friends from under the awning earlier, seated at the center of the group, apparently the grandparents!
After returning their greeting, I approached them and asked could I know what they were going to do with the balloons, and they tearfully explained that this was Heather's 25th birthday, and they were going to send love and messages, attached to these 25 green balloons (her favorite color), heavenward. They said I could watch, since I knew the family (for all of 30 minutes). Off the balloons went (one slight hitch: a 6-year-old girl had 3 balloons tied to a rolled up letter, but three balloons was not enough to get any altitude. Her dad hastily added his 3 balloons to hers and off it went). Someone suggested a song, but this was hastily and tearfully vetoed. Then the grandmother asked me, did I know "Happy Birthday". Indeed I did, and I played it through twice while everybody cried. Everybody.
I don't know how long ago Heather died or what she died of, but if her family is any gauge, she was a sweet, kind young woman who probably didn't die very long ago, because even the 6-year-old remembered her.
Get an extender for my tenor drone reed.
For next May, I'm going to increase my repertoire again, adding The Navy Hymn, The Marines Hymn (if that's possible), American the Beautiful, that slow aire that Dave really likes that he got from Jason, and the slow aire that EVERYBODY played for their solo in competition last year that I nearly have memorized by now, having heard it so often, which will bring me up to 19. Maybe I could add Taps to bring it up to an even 20. I already know Taps.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
We had a little trouble making the Big Noise concurrently, and some people messed up due to nerves or squeaking. I mastered my squeak about halfway through, so that when Jason asked me with a look had I squoken? I was able to shake my head. (Yessssss!) Lots of other people appeared to have squeaking issues, including Dave, Ryan, Karen and . . . Tyler (hah!) (no, that was mean of me; besides, his squeak appeared to be a mecahnical issue rather than operator error (of course!)).
The fun part came when we tried to get that full band to march into the circle. Our first geometrical attempts were more amoebas than circles, and it was finally decided that the drummers should be a growth on the piper's circle, rather than a part of said circle. I thought it looked rather odd, but who am I?
As we were standing there in our circle waiting for other changes to be decided, I quoted a line from Garrison Keillor, "Let's all go out and form the letter 'M'." There were small chuckles, but the M was questioned. "OK, how 'bout 'S'?" Ryan suggested the pipers could form the letter 'S' and the drummers could do the 'L', as there were fewer of them. I then remarked that we would be making s'es of ourselves, which got a laugh.
We finally got the circle worked out to Jason's satisfaction, voted in Dan and Karen, listened to Ian drone on about Memorial Day weekend, signed up for some more solo slots for said Memorial Day and went home with much laughter floating up from the parking lot.
One uniform note: since we will all be playing together, it has been decided we should all have the same type of sporran; specifically, the fox fur one that the Grade 3 have, Dennis having determined that we have enough for everybody to have one. I'm not particularly keen on the fur part, but as long as it doesn't have eyes and teeth, I can live with it. Besides, the fox fur sporrans are bigger and easier to access. Anybody with a leather sporran is supposed to trade theirs in. I'm sending mine in with Small Son tonight.
Monday, May 18, 2009
I arrived early, as per my instructions, but nobody (and by this I mean no other Salt Lake Scots)was there. I even did a three-quarters tour around City Hall but saw and heard nothing. Eventually I found Nicholas and Tyler playing at the Scottish Association tent, along with Laura (drummer), and upon returning to the quiet side of the building, I found pipers tuning up away from the madding throng. It wasn't anybody I was comfortable with, so I tried to remain invisible by not making eye contact and being silent, and since nobody spoke to me one way or another, it must have worked.
Eventually Jason turned up, notice me and said 'hi'. Then Grant came, and Aaron, and finally Pete. The invisibility trick doesn't work on friends, so they all saw me and said 'hey' and I felt much more comfortable. Not entirely, because the pressure was on to play Grade 3 quality in public. I kept repeating 'I must have been invited for a reason, I can do this; I must have been invited for a reason, I can do this', and tried to focus on the tunes.
I think Pete and Jason did try to put me at ease a little bit. Pete told funny stories, and Jason said to the group, "We've got a good group here, . . . ", meaning me, too. Even Triona warmed up after awhile.
1 timing flub, when trying not to squeak
2 early chanters on strike-in
3 fingering flubs
a few squeaks, but not many
Mill Set: I did not come in early, and I remembered the drum break
Battle Set: Great
Grade 4 medley: It sure made us 4 look important cuz we were the ONLY ones who could play that set (hehehehehe!)
AG: Played the correct ending both times
STB: Opened up my doublings
Squeaks: very few. How sweet it is!
Afterwards (45 minutes later), Erin said the Utah Scottish Society wanted a few pipers to go over to their booth and play a few tunes. Jason specifically asked me if I would like to be a part of that group. I don't know if he was being nice to a newbie or if he just needed people desperately, or what. We played 2 tunes ( I forget which) and Jason went right into the solo part of Highland Cathedral (and I didn't mess up), we all joined in, and at the cut off, we were dismissed.
Tyler still treats me with contempt and distain. Not that it matters, but I don't know what I could have done that offended him so much, and he just back from a 2-year mission. Let's see. Possibilities are: a) be a not-so-hot piper; b) not practice 3 hours a day; c) be an old lady piper (how DARE I start learning pipes so late in life . . . ?!); d) have a sense of humor (pipes ranking 4th on the Amazingly Hilarious Things list after giraffes, elephants, and duck-billed platypii, how could you NOT laugh at them? But I defer . . .); e) be taller than he is, and thus a threat to his ego; f) he just does, so there; I guess as long as I don't have to deal with him, and if I do have to deal with him, I play well, I'll be fine. Not too much to ask, is it?
Friday, May 15, 2009
I believe somebody lit a match, though: I was invited to participate with the (former) Grade 3 at the Living Traditions festival this weekend.
WARNING: If you don't really care about the he-said/she-said, stop reading right now, go back to real life and weed your garden or fix your carburetor or do your algebra-- whatever you would normally be doing instead of reading this blog, because it's going to get detailed.
OK, now that we've gotten rid of those guys . . .
Last night was my group lesson, but it was a small group, because Sande was putting out fires, Lee was (probably) working on his sermon, and John didn't make it up from Provo, so it was just me and Pete and Jason.
First we discussed the Drummer Drama and peoples' reactions. There definitely had been complaining from the (former) Grade 3 (I know they are going to hate me referring to them like that), understandably, and even though Dave says he complained at band practice on Tuesday, it didn't sound much like complaining to me on the other side of the circle. But complaining from anybody involved is understandable. Nobody likes change.
We both played through a selection of the more difficult of the Grade 3 medley tunes rapidly and perfectly (yay, us!) on practice chanters. Jason then began tuning and tinkering with drones and chanters, which took another 20 minutes. We played through the Grade 4 medley twice (I still squeaked; I hate that!) and then our time was up.
As we were putting things away, Jason asked what I was doing on Saturday. I said I was going to the Whatsit to play for the Whozit at 2:30 at the north stage. He didn't remember our previous conversation last week,
[TIME WARP to last Thursday]
wherein I asked if I could participate because Ian hadn't known if it was just (former) Grade 3 who would be playing at the Living Traditions festival or could everybody go, so I had asked Jason and he had said um, ah, um, yeah, sure, you can play.
[TIME WARP back to yesterday]
I recalled this conversation to Jason's mind, and he drew a complete blank. So, he said, the gig was for (former) Grade 3 and invited people, and then . . . he invited me to play, too.
This is so cool.
Anyway, I've got to practice the 9/8's, Green Hills/Battle's O'er, Minstrel Boy/Wearin' O' the Green, Amazing Grace, and some others that I've now forgotten, just to refresh them in my mind. . .
. . . maybe I'll email Pete to see if he remembers what the other tunes were that Jason mentioned . . .
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
As some of you have already have heard, I'm staying with the LA Scots G3 for the rest of the season. I've been getting e-mails asking me why? I'm staying with LA Scots for education reasons. I don't have anyone here in Utah that can advance me beyond what I already know. I know this has upset some of you and I'm truly sorry if I've caused anyone any inconvenience. Please understand that this wasn't anything personal but more then a move to educate myself. I know some of you are going to be upset with me for a while and I understand that it'll take time to repair the damages.
Some of you have been asking me about Dustin and Malarie and why they quit. I need to clarify to all of you that Dustin and Malarie DID NOT QUIT. I told them that the SLS kicked them out. This was a poor decision on my part and I'm truly sorry. In fact, Dustin and Malarie was faced with the same decision that myself and Patty had to make. I used them to soften the blow so that when I announced I was leaving it would be as bad on me. This was a coward's way out and I owe I'll of you a apology. I'm not sure why I thought this would help my situation, it just made it worse. Dustin and Malarie didn't deserve this and again I'm truly sorry.
Dustin and Malarie wish to remain as playing members of the SLS. I think they're planning on staying with LA Scots for the rest of year. (they'll need to discuss this with the band) Again, I've made some really bad decisions and I understand if you guys don't trust me anymore. Some of you said that you wish for me to remain as the D/S. I think this needs to be re-thought-out. The D/S position is a position of responsibility and I haven't been very responsible lately. The D/S and the lead position are totally two different positions. I would like to relinquish all personnel and decision making responsibilities over to the P/M and the executive committee. I will still remain as the lead drum for the G4 but will not have any decision making responsibilities until otherwise noted. Think of it as suspension if you will.
I've painted a horrible picture of them. They need to be the ones to tell you their position. I'm asking Jason and the E/C to consider my proposal and to please let me know what decision will be.
In our little "chin-wag" last night, Erin M was very clear that we were all valuable, that the band had put a lot of time and effort into training us, and it did not want to lose any more of us, so if anybody had any issues that maybe they did not want to express before the whole band, she would be more than happy to listen to them. It seems they are trying very hard not to offend anybody else, not to lose anybody else to inactivity or other bands. I can understand their position.
I intend to carry on. (Most of) These people are my friends now, and not seeing them every week would be very hard for me. As I said some months back, I'm a social piper. Practicing with Grade 3 will just reunite Grade 4s that have moved on with Grade 4s who are still in Grade 4. That is a good thing.
Monday, May 11, 2009
"Dear fellow band members,
We want to take this opportunity to let you know what is happening with certain members of the band. We wanted this information to come officially from the Executive committee rather than from a secondary source. Dustin Gunn and Malarie Reddoor have decided to stay rostered with the LA Scots and leave the Salt Lake Scots organization. As quartermaster, Dennis will follow up with them to collect all band uniform parts and equipment. Kathy Gunn has also decided to leave the Salt Lake Scots organization, as she is not able to travel from St. George to be to practices on a consistent basis she felt it was not fair to the band for her to monopolize a band uniform and equipment.
BJ Gunn and Ian Paddy Tate have also made the decision to stay rostered with the LA Scots; this decision was made as they may possibly have an opportunity to play with the LA Scots grade I. However they are very interested in maintaining their association and non-competitive membership with the Salt Lake Scots organization. On Wednesday BJ and Paddy attended the grade III practice and informed us of their intentions. The grade III drummers and pipers were able to express their thoughts and feeling regarding this matter, and despite disappointment we determined that we would very much like to have BJ and Paddy continue their association with us and remain part of the Salt Lake Scots organization. BJ and Paddy will still participate with the Salt Lake Scots in performances etc. BJ will also continue as an instructor at The Celtic Center.
With the loss of so many drummers from our competition roster the band cannot continue operating as presently organized. After discussing various ideas and options we decided to contact WUSPBA with a few questions before making any official decisions. Jason spoke with Bob Mason, WUSPBA music committee chairman. Bob suggested that for the 2009 competition season we roster everyone as the Salt Lake Scots grade IV; for the 2010 competition season, if we choose and circumstances allow, the band would still be able to register a grade III competition group.
So for the 2009 competition season, all band members will be rostered together as the Salt Lake Scots grade IV with Jason Killpack pipe major and William Gunn drum instructor. For the Thanksgiving Point games, we will be competing in the grade IV QMM and timed medley. Band practices will be held on Wednesday nights (7-9pm) beginning May 20th; however practice will still be held on Tuesday May 12th.
While the timing and outcome of the situation is not one that we would have chosen, we can choose how we react to it. Let’s view this situation as an opportunity to come together and strengthen every aspect of the organization. We will weather this storm; this is only one of many set-backs the band has experienced over the last 47 years.
If you have any suggestions, comments, concerns or questions regarding this or any other matter, please feel free to contact Jason. Thank you for your participation and dedication to the Salt Lake Scots!
Jason Killpack and the Salt Lake Scots Executive Committee"
Once again everybody will be practicing together. Nobody likes change, and I'm guessing there will be a lot of whining from the Grade III about this, but their other choice is to not compete at all this season. We will now have to practice Making The Best of a Bad Situation, and realize how much we need drummers, how hard they are to get, and how easy they are to lose. I'm grateful for Erin, Jim, Matt, Tiegan, and the rest who are sticking around. Hopefully, Dave's wife Mindy will join us soon.
For all that the bagpipes are such a novel instrument, it seems now that pipers are a dime a dozen, and it's drummers who are sought after. Whoda thunk it?
For my part of MTBOABS, I'm hoping I will be challenged to keep up with the Grade III players and thus improve my skills.
I'm hoping that the Grade III pipers don't Take It Out On Grade IV. It's entirely Not Our Fault. We've been feeding them drummers for a long time, and here they go letting them escape! Whose fault is that? Now I ask you!
Also, it's funny that suddenly I went from having "a few" buddy passes to none at all. Hmmm. I guess my brother and his family used up all the rest to go to San Diego last month. Dirty rotten ratchefratch.