Monday, October 24, 2005


2005 Competition Season - It's Finally Over

Competition season ended this weekend with a whimper, instead of a bang. I tanked in all my solo fiddle and pipe contests at Richmond, and a chanter squeal from me dragged the band down at least a notch. I did have a wonderful time with the reenacting, though.

I also think I made huge strides in my new Cape Breton competition set on fiddle from Elke's advice, I just got terribly nervous and couldn't transfer my warm-up skills to the competition - though it apparently sounded very good to the audience, I knew the difference, and so did the judge.

The next order of business is to submit my regrade request form this week to the Eastern US Pipe Band Association, and then it's a year of study and technique exercises, to become a better player.

And it's also time to start concentrating on the band. Kim, my candidate for female lead singer, has been out of touch for long enough for me to think that I won't be able to convince her to stay with the project. That's a pity - she would have been a magnificent addition, with her surplus of native talent and charisma. Back to square two.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Piping in the Rain / Knocked off the Top

All things considered, the Anne Arundel games went well, despite horrible weather.

On the plus side, I took a 1st in the 2/4 march and got my second Above Grade Level - further improving my chances of making it into Grade III. On the down side, for reasons I'm not clear on, I didn't place in the piobaireachd contest. I felt I was in tune and played very well, despite playing in the driving rain (the other contest was moved under cover). The rest of the top 3 in the grade were there as well, though, and placed in both their contests. So I've dropped to at best 4th. One more contest for the year, and it's over.

I took 2nd in the fiddle contest (out of only two contestants!), but it was very close - I was only 2 points out of 400 behind Daryl Murray, a fact that judge Bonnie Rideout made sure to mention. I think I've done this very technically challenging 3-flats set justice, and it's time to prepare to do something different for Richmond. The junior competitors were all extremely good, but reluctant to play in the post-competition session, and I was called upon to lead them, something I got high praise for from one of the parents afterwards.

The band's showing was okay - 3rd out of 5 - and it showed the areas we need to work on.

Elke has got me looking at the tunes of Marshall and Gow, and I'm enjoying that. John has me playing my tunes agonizingly slowly, with total control over every ornament and note change, and it's radically improved my playing, especially in the 2/4 march. More of my F and E doublings are coming off correctly, and my tachums are much less crushed.

I've also been noodling on the new wooden whistles a bit; I'm really enjoying the C whistle. I transposed all my F-major and D-minor tunes up a whole step, so I can play them on the C whistle as if I were reading music for a D-whistle, and several of the tunes sound very good on whistle. The D-whistle is also quite nice, and I'm trying to get used to the G# key.

The first fiddle club meeting of the season had a lot of good tunes, and the session was enjoyable. I kept switching between electronic chanter (w/ computer speaker), fiddle, and tenor banjo.

Monday, October 03, 2005


I'm #1 (for now)

The EUSPBA stats are in, and I'm currently ranked as the #1 Grade IV Senior piper, out of more than 780 in my grade.

It won't last. Apparently more people scratched at NH than I'd thought, so I only have a 2 point buffer. And it's a real horse-race - everyone in the top 5 is within 8 points of each other. And there are much better pipers, like Rob Riszk and Nate Green, among them. I'm pretty much guaranteed to end up in the top 5, and I would be more than happy to see one of my colleagues end up in the top spot for the season. It's been a fun run, and I'm hoping this is enough to qualify me for Grade III.

The session at the Royal Mile was fun, but other than Doug Scott, I was the only melody-line player. This makes for a poor session, because it ends up being just a concert. I need to encourage more fiddle club players to show up for the express purpose of drowning me out.

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