Sunday, August 12, 2012

The World Pipe Band Championships 2012

This one was always going to be an endurance test. To be honest, even going in I was of mixed feelings: did I want the band to do really well, or did I secretly want them to fall on their faces and come last? The latter isn't a pleasant line of thought, but I would be lying if I didn't consider it.

The bus left for the Worlds at 6:15, but the band weren't playing until 14:45. This ridiculous state of affairs was brought about by the organisers requiring all buses to be on the park by 7:30, no exceptions.

As a result of this, most of the band (ourselves included) elected instead to stay in bed and to get the train in. This made for a much more pleasant morning than is the norm for such things. So we got up, put on the requisite sunblock (which I hate, but which certainly proved its worth), and caught the 10:42 train. A short walk later, and we were on the park.

The band spent the better part of two hours getting ready, which involved a whole lot of messing around with drones, micro-adjustments to chanters, and general nuisance. Still, in theory, all that work should pay off with a much better sound.

Alas, it was not to be. Ten seconds before we went on, a final adjustment was made to my chanter, which moved the High A from "slightly out" to "completely out". And so, every time we hit that note during our performance, I cringed.

(Given the above, I feel I must note that it wasn't me who made that adjustment. So, for that at least, I'm not to blame.)

The performance was, quie frankly, bad. As soon as we'd finished I knew we had no chance of qualification. (Actually, I've known for months, but there are levels of "knowing".) Indeed, although the sound was much better from most of the pipes, the actual playing was considerably worse than in Ireland.

And that included from myself. I had a bad start, made several mistakes, had a bad finish, and of course had a mis-tuned High-A. It was hardly a vintage performance from myself.

Next, we had to hang around for the result, which sure enough confirmed that we hadn't qualified. And then we had to hang around for the march-past...

But not. At this point, the Pipe Major got the train home. The Lead Drummer soon followed. (And a few of the other members followed suit for various reasons.) There was talk that we weren't invited to do the march-past; in any case, we didn't have a band to do it.

Eventually, at half seven, the stewards allowed our driver to extract the bus, and we were able to go home. The day, thankfully, was over.

In hindsight, we should really have gotten return tickets for the train. That way, as soon as the PM and LD left, we could likewise have headed home. But, after last year's fiasco, I really didn't want to run out on the band. Oh well. Won't make that mistake again.

Fortunately, there is now only one competition to go. The two practices this week, plus the competition itself, have served as very strong evidence that I've made the right decision to leave.

Ah, finally, the result: Out of 18 bands in our qualification round, we came 15th, scoring 18th and 16th in piping, and 18th in ensemble. The one major positive was for the drummers, who came 5th. Well done to them. I'm not really sure how that compares with last week - on the one hand, we weren't last. On the other, we came in a worse numerical position. And on the third hand, we would have been last were it not for a much-improved drum corps.

#28: "Star Wars: Choices of One", by Timothy Zahn

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