Sunday, 10 May 2015

Off To A Good Start

Yesterday was the Ottawa Branch Indoor Games at a high school in Kemptville Ontario.  This is a smaller piping competition but is the first of the season in these parts and is good for seeing how we do in competition with this years "set".  There were 3 grades competing in the band portion of the competition.  Grades 5, 4 and 3 played in that order.  There were five Gr.5 bands, two Gr.4 bands and two Gr.3 bands.  The order of play always starts with the lower grade (5) first and works up from there.  We were scheduled to play 3rd out of 5 which means we do not get to see bands who play before us as we are far too busy tuning and getting our "sound" just right.

A quick aside on bagpipe sound:
For anyone who is not familiar with bagpipes and how their sound can shift with the smallest of changes in any one of a number of factors may be surprised to learn that a band going into compete, even at the lowest grade, will spend at least an hour warming up the instrument, getting it fine tuned, re-tuned, then don't play too much or it will go out of tune, then play a little bit to keep the reed just "warm" enough, then fine-tune some more right up until the last second before going into the circle.  It's very important that everyone's instrument sounds exactly the same and that can be very difficult in a lower grade band as a person's blowing is not as refined as a higher grade player's is and blowing affects the sound too.  The chanter reed is also a sensitive element as no two are alike.  This year our band members all have new reeds from a different manufacturer.  They are loud and hard but makes for a big bright sound.  We also have new chanters which also have more volume and nice sound.  It makes a big difference as not all reeds or chanters are created equally.

After playing our set and heading off to our classroom to drop off our instruments we returned to the cafeteria to watch the rest of the bands compete.  We saw the final gr. 5 band play and they sounded good.  We then watched the gr. 4 bands play followed by the gr.3s.  Following this the awards for the solo competitors from earlier in the day (the solo competitions are for another post) were handed out.  The band results were then announced and to make a long story short we placed first in our grade.  We were all very excited and pleased with our result but we also know we still have a lot of work to do to eliminate mistakes and improve our unison (playing exactly together).  It was a good start to the season but the next competition, The Kingston Scottish Festival, near Kingston Ontario, is outdoors and that is a whole different thing.  All mistakes and errors are so much more obvious when playing outside and there is no hiding.

Cheers for now

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