I’m spending this weekend competing at the Winter Storm contest in Kansas City and visiting family in Wichita. For the past six months I’ve spent almost all my practice time playing three tunes from the 2009 Silver Medal list in hopes of getting a prize in this morning. I still don’t know the results from today but I thought I played pretty well.
I drove all night last night and was first on this morning at 8 AM, playing “Lament for Captain MacDougall”, a tune lasting about ten minutes and one of the lovliest piobaireachd melodies out there. At 5:40 AM I had tried to get some sleep and leapt out of bed at 6:50 overslept and thanking the stars I didn’t miss the event entirely. You might ask why I didn’t leave earlier in the day and not have to drive all night but that’s a secret. I’ve spent the last two months looking for a new set of bagpipes and in the process have met some very disappointing “wheeler-dealers” as well as some very sweet generous friends who’ve helped me out immensely. I ended up playing my old pipes which performed as well as I could have asked and that’s led me to abandon the new bagpipe search for the time being.
Why would somebody who already has no problem playing the bagpipes professionally subject himself to being judged and perhaps found lacking compared to other players who don’t do it for a living? When I was 16 I went out to my first festival gig and had the experience of listening to people tell me what a great player I was all weekend. I really wanted that to be true but I knew that my teachers Mike Cusack and Donald Macphee were truly amazing players with real command of the instrument. They hardly ever played for the general public but their tone and technique and musicianship is still light years ahead of mine. I’m competing to show respect and love for the true music of the Great Highland Bagpipe, the piobaireachd, to be judged by my peers, and because it has been a big stretch in trying to become a better player. Also, I really hate poseurs and would never want to be one. If that means I have to show up and be shown lacking in comparison to 30 other people, so be it. I really tried for this one. I’m going to keep trying.