Sunday, May 18, 2014

Like a Room Without a Roof . . .

Yesterday was my first competition as a solo piper.  I competed in the lowest solo grade, which is Grade 4, for both light music and Piobaireachd.  That's pronounced p-brock.  I don't know why it has so many letters to just say p-brock. :-D

Light music - Piobaireachd - What's the difference?  Well, light music is what you probably think of when you think of pipe bands and parades.  Piobaireachd is long and involved and entails multiple variations on a ground (or theme).

For Grade 4 for light music, you get to play a 2/4 March, a 6/8 March and in one competition a Slow Aire.  And for Piobaireachd, you play only the ground and first variation.

My first Highland Games as a competitor was in Springfield, Illinois on May 17, 2014, and I played my Piobaireachd (MacKenzie of Applecross Salute) and my 2/4 March (Arthur Bignold of Lochrosque).

It was unseasonably cold in Springfield yesterday.  I mean it was 38 degrees in the morning when I played.  It warmed up to the high 50s/low 60s later in the day, but whenever the sun ducked behind the clouds, it was COLD.  I have to say that I was grateful, however, because sweating in five pounds of wool will most likely be the norm for the rest of the summer.

I was all alone - which was a little bit daunting.  I tuned and retuned, and then just before I played my Piobaireachd, I frantically tuned again.  My pipes are generally pretty good at staying in tune - once they lock in, they pretty much stay there, but I've never played outside in the cold before, and there were pipers everywhere, playing every tune imaginable - it was hard to hear and hard to concentrate.  My reed was squealing and I don't know how that happens!  Guess I will be talking with my instructor on Tuesday about it - because I don't even know what I could have done to correct it.

At any rate, I do know how to tune my pipes, which is a very good thing, because you know, contrary to popular belief, you DO tune them.  I have had to learn to do it myself this last year, because my teacher, Ian, is in Southern California, and FaceTime is not the same as in person in this instance.  When I was playing in SoCal, I relied on him for tuning.  Not anymore.  I know how to do it myself, even if it takes me a few tries.  I looked around for someone who might be able to help me, but everyone was busy with their own students and band members, so I did the best I could and hoped for the best  :-)

First up was P-brock - I thought it went pretty well.  I was nervous, though, because for weeks I had been playing the opening line of the ground incorrectly.  I had practiced it to death this past week, but I was still nervous about it.  I made a couple of small errors, but overall, I thought it went pretty well.  The judge spoke to me after and pointed out a couple of areas where I can improve.  He was really nice and he said that I had done a very good job with what he said is a very challenging tune for Grade 4.

Then, almost immediately, it was time for my 2/4 March.  Two words:

Train. Wreck.

And I mean a nasty train wreck.  Things went south in the third part - and completely pear-shaped on the repeat of the third part.  You would have thought I had never played it before.  It was bad.  Really bad.  I was glad my teacher was not there.  And glad this judge didn't ask me who my teacher was.

So - I chalked it up to experience.  It was my first time, after all, and the fact that it was about 38 degrees didn't help me.  I'm working this week on trying to figure out what went wrong so I can fix it for this coming weekend, at the Alma Highland Games.

I went back to the car and got my foldy chair, and went off in search of my friend, Paula (of Knitting Pipeline fame - a great audio podcast!!), and her band, Celtic Cross Pipes and Drums, from Peoria, Illinois.  Great pipers and great people - I had a wonderful afternoon with them, and it was so great to finally meet Paula in person, as I have listened to her podcast for awhile now.  They really adopted me and I had such fun hanging out with them all day!  Seriously, they could not have been more welcoming and friendly.  It was so nice to not feel completely alone  :-) 

Here I am with Paula and Kevin (he's the announcer of Paula's podcast!)

See that red ribbon around my neck?  :-)  

Around lunch time I went to find out the results and get my two judging sheets so I would have the judges' comments.  No surprise on the 2/4 March, but I was absolutely thrilled to take second place in Grade 4 Piobaireachd ==:-O

The traditional piping attire is not particularly flattering to my body shape, but I can tell you that mine was not the largest posterior in plaid yesterday (which I have to confess was quite a relief to me).

I was really hoping that the judge from my 2/4 March would have seen me walking around with my ribbon so he would know that I'm a better piper than I presented to him  :-D

It was an all around excellent day, except that OMG ghillie brogues are the most uncomfortable shoes ever.  From now, on, I'm making sure to have my tennis shoes with me for after competition.  I don't care how stupid it looks - my feet were really sore this morning, giving me visions of plantar fasciitis again.  Yeah, no - that's not happening here again, so tennies it is after competion!

So many times in the last month I have seriously questioned why I decided to compete - and so many times I wondered if perhaps I had made a serious mistake.  I was worried about embarrassing myself, and my teacher.  But, I survived and I proved to myself that I can do this.  I can make mistakes and keep moving forward.  How huge is that?!  Really huge.  I mean, am I the only person who when she fails at simething has walked away?  Well, I flamed out pretty royally yesterday on my 2/4 March, but I kept going.  I kept telling myself, "find a note, A., just find a note and pick it back up."  I didn't break down -I kept going even though it wasn't pretty, and you know, I have to give myself props for that.

When I started piping again seriously last May, I knew that I was playing again because I truly love piping.  There is such joy in it for me - I can get lost for hours on my practice chanter for heaven's sake  :-D  I wanted to be a better than adequate piper, and I knew that competing was the best way to do that - to have goals to work toward.  So, after this first competition, I feel like I can really say that yes, I am a piper - and I'm well on the road to better than adequate.  Yay, Me!

New experiences - new friends - really, a very wonderful and happy day, and yeah, I pretty much feel like a room without a roof  :-)