Saturday, May 30, 2009


As we were walking out of the Gateway theatres after seeing Up, we heard pipes playing . . . playing Brown-haired Maid . . . followed by Summertime, Summertime!

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

Sticky Fingers

For me, some days turn out to be good piping days and some . . . don't.

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

Memorial Day Stories - 5/25/09

Spending Memorial Day Weekend piping at cemeteries is an introspective (usually) way to spend this holiday. Interesting things always happen, so I though I would share a few of the more interesting stories.

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

Full Band Practice 5/26/09

We had our first full band practice since March, due to our decrease of drummers, of which there appeared to be no lack last night. We had 14 pipers, and 3 or 4 didn't show up for one reason or another. We also had 3 or 4 snares, depending on if you counted Teagan who threw a skateboard at his nose and had a killer headache as a result and was there, in the car, but couldn't make himself play til second half; 3 tenors; and a bass or two, depending on if you counted Dennis who didn't actually play, but directed Matt's playing. We made a Big Noise. Hopefully the motorcycle cop, who was hiding 'round the corner west, toward the park, and pulling people over every 10 minutes, appreciated pipe music, and especially the Mill Set ad nauseatum.

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

Living Traditions Festival Report 5/16/09

Living Traditions Festival

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.

Score Card:


1 timing flub, when trying not to squeak
2 early chanters on strike-in
3 fingering flubs
a few squeaks, but not many

Bright Sides:

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 have been invited

I have to admit I do not know the customary procedure for moving from Grade 4 to Grade 3. It feels like I am walking around in complete darkness in a foreign environment, trying to find the light switch.

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.

Five years.

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

BJ Explains and Apologizes

In an email to the band, BJ wrote:

"Hello everyone,

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.


B.J. Gunn"

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

Drumline Abdication

I got an email from the Salt Lake Scots Executive Committee as follows:

"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"

(punctuation corrected)

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.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Marching, Marching . . .

Last night's band practice was our first of the year outside. Usually we don't start practicing outside until we have to: when the school closes for the summer. But it was just perfect for piping yesterday: just cool enough so that once you got piping, you still weren't sweating, and just warm enough that your fingers didn't freeze.

Aaron, with his usual shennanigans and despite being "burned out" (a half hour in the Las Vegas sunshine on Sunday with no sunscreen, gave him a very red belly!), marched us into and out of our competition circle (elipse?) over and over until we could pipe (or drum) and march and form an "O" all at the same time.

We didn't take a break. Aaron seems to forget breaks. But nobody seemed to mind, we were all laughing so hard at . . . everything: some guy trying to sell a motorcycle to a lady with a kid in the parking lot, some kids driving by with their feet out the window yelling "Go Team!", marching errors, piping errors, drumming errors, water and gatorade bottles lined up like yellow construction cones but actually acting more like obstacles, likewise successes of any kind.

Everybody was happy for that hour and a half.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Made in Montana

Don't go to the dentist before piping.

Yesterday I had to get a crown (thank you very much. "Your Majesty" will be fine.) The whole staff was very excited for me to arrive, because they have been getting crowns made in California and Nevada, and 2 out of 3 were faulty. This one they had gotten made in Montana where the dentist and I both used to live, although independent and ignorant of each other, and they had high hopes that it would be perfect.

The assistant first tried to get the temporary crown off by applying pliers and yanking, but it felt like my tooth was going to break right off, so they came at me with a needle, dripping some toxic substance, which the dentist proceeded to inject into my upper left gum. While he was waiting for the toxin to go in, he was explaining something complicated to the assistant, not paying attention to how much toxin was being injected, or what arm and hand motions he was making while holding this needle, with the result that the whole needleful went into a rather large hole in my gum (due to the gesticulations).

The good news was the crown (made in Montana!) was apparently perfect and attached itself without problem to the stump of tooth left in my mouth.

The bad news was that the whole left side of my face slid down 2" and refused to follow instructions from my brain as to any further movement (i.e. smiling, chewing, blowing on a chanter, etc). I looked like a stroke victim.

I thought the numbness would wear off in 2 and a half hours, or by the time it was my turn for Group Lesson.


By 1900, I still could not form my lips around the chanter. I stayed long enough at the lesson to get the new tune, The Piper's Wedding, which will be the last tune to the Grade 3 Medley, and pretend to run over it a few times, and get permission to play at the Living Traditions festival in May (with Grade 3!) and then I took Small Son home.

This morning I can pucker with power, but my tooth feels . . . odd. Hopefully, it is just something I have to get used to. After all, how could a crown from Montana be flawed?