Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Red Butte Garden Gig 6/22/09

Red Butte Garden is, I believe, associated with the University of Utah, as it is located in their campus, way up on the side of the Wasatch mountains. It's a beautiful place with lots of drought tolerant, native Utah plants--and other plants, too. The view of the valley is incredible from way up there!

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.
(photo courtesy of Mindy Pitcher)

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

Salt Lake Highland Games 6/12-13/2009

We had sunshine, we had rain; we had heat, we had cold.

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

Yesterday was a day from l'enfer . . . if you'll pardon my French.

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.

Murphy's Law.

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


I survived.

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


The drummers play an exercise called "Fear" which is a pretty cool rythm, followed by everyone yelling "Fear!" They do this several times in a row (I guess depending on how much time they have to fill). It's supposed to install fear in the hearts of the opposition, I guess. It's not that scary, really.

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.

Sort of.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Ogden Nash

I love Ogden Nash's poetry.

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.