Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Another Musical Weekend

This weekend saw some interesting developments on the musical end.

It started off with a gift Anders gave me Thursday night - a 19th century book of Scottish songs, with biographical information about the songwriters. The book is very expansive, and there's a lot of obscure material in there. I can't wait to discover the lost gems in it. Some I might have to set to music, some come with known tunes. The book is in very perilous shape, and I may have to give it over to a conservationist, after carefully photographing each page. Once the contents have been reproduced, it may spend its days under glass from then on. But that makes it even more priceless as a gift, so thanks, Anders!

On Friday, I had the rare opportunity of performing the opening set for up-and-coming country singer Michael Joseph at an American Cancer Society "Relay For Life" benefit. Anders is playing for him right now, and got the idea of having me play a tune on pipes before the main concert. With Anders on guitar, Maggie Drennon Band veteran Matthew Williams, and a great bassist Matt (can't remember the last name), I played Hector the Hero on my A440 pipes. Anders gave me a great introduction, and everyone seemed to have a good reaction to it. Anders set the tempo, which was faster than my slow air delivery, and they eventually pushed it into a waltz - I finally gave in to my inner waltziness the second time through. But in a way, that gave the tune a story, made it develop. It sounded awesome. My first gig backed by a band!

Saturday was a competition at the Western Massachusetts Highland Games. A smaller games again, but the weather was nice, and the drive up marvelous. Some great views of the mountains and clear rivers up that way. I took a 2nd in 2/4 march (out of about 12 competitors) and 4th in piobaireachd (out of about 17 competitors), and was pretty happy with that. The judges main comments, here and at Harrisburg, were about crossing noises. So that's my new area to work on. My blowing has become a lot steadier, so that's one hurdle climbed. I'd like to give a shout-out to Rob Risczk at this point - he took piper of the day, and had just beat me out in the piobaireachd at Southern New Hampshire, and is an example of the really great folks that populate Grade IV Sr.

My friend Kim Dyer joined us for a rehearsal session for "Cairn o' Mount" on Saturday afternoon, and WOW! That girl has a voice. Amateur, like me, but definitely a diamond in the rough. I mistakenly assumed that she was singing in unison with me because her range didn't go high enough for an octave unison (creating what Anders called "a mid-range mush"), but Anders pushed her in that direction, said it was probably what I heard in my head (he was right), and when she gave it a try, things really started to sound awesome. Since she played drums in High School, I've loaned her my bodhran, and she seems to be taking to it. We're not making any firm committments on either side, but it looks as if, though the Devil's Tailors hasn't yet found its third member, it's at least found a very strong candidate. At the same time, Kim, who had never heard me sing before, was very impressed by my own voice, so that was both comforting and promising.

And while I was away, some packages arrived: the complete William Marshall collection, and the Masters of Piobaireachd Vol. 7 CD. Great resource material there.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


The Musical Vacation is Over

I've been talking to my instructor a lot about the cost of competition. Specifically, how it's very difficult to maintain a band repertoire, a competition repertoire (light music and piobaireachd), and learn new tunes all at the same time. It's doable, but you have to have a lot of energy and keep at it.

Well, I haven't kept at it for the last month or so. It's been all about competition and band. I've missed the last two lessons. That ends today. It's been a nice break, but I need to be pouring it on full speed learning strathspeys and reels.

I also absolutely must record Highland Wedding and Mairi's Wedding tonight, for my July wedding gig in July.

Same goes with fiddle. I've been kinda maintaining my Devil's Tailors sets, but haven't been pressing too hard with the session/repertoire tunes Elke and I have been talking about. Again, the vacation ends today.

I head to Anders' tomorrow. Hopefully we'll record demos of all our songs while I'm there.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Two weekends of competition, and Living History

Competition season rolls on.

Weekend before last, I took a 1st in 2/4, a 3rd in piobaireachd, and a 5th in 6/8 march (would have done better, but lost my bass drone) at the Southern New Hampshire Highland Games. I was fairly happy with those results.

I wasn't quite as happy with my showing last weekend, at the Harrisburg Pipes and Drums Festival in Harrisburg, PA. I took a 2nd in Slow Air, and a 5th in 2/4 march, and didn't place in the piobaireachd or 6/8 contests - the former because the judge felt I underblew and played too slowly, the latter because I forgot how the tune went in the 4th part, both on the first time through and on the repeat. I covered it well, kept going, didn't lose the beat, but it was enough to put me out of the running. In all cases, the judges said I played well.

I drove straight from Harrisburg, PA to Leesburg, VA for the Potomac Celtic Festival. I arrived moments too late for the City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums' 2:00 PM set, but was able to perform at their 4:00 PM set and massed bands at 5:00 PM, and did two solos and two sets with three other bandsmen at 4:30. When the band departed, I headed off to the Living History area, and spent the rest of the weekend reenacting with the Appin regiment. We left fairly soon after I joined them on Saturday, and went to group leader Dan Gilbert's house for BBQ, swimming pool, and a couch to crash on. Sunday morning, we returned to the festival, and I put on living history demonstration about 18th century Scottish Highland music all day. Unfortunately, this kept me very busy, and I didn't see much else of the festival, but I still had a blast. Next year, I definitely need to schedule some more "me time".

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?