Good morning

Sunset or sunrise?About 15 years ago, the 78th Fraser Highlanders decided that it would play its Megantic Outlaw “suite” as one of its competition medleys. The piece, which can be heard on the band’s CD of the same name, was about six minutes long, and was a musical impression of the tale of a celebrated figure in Canadian history.

The medley/suite was played one time in competition, at the then Canadian Championships at Cambridge, whereupon one judge, Archie Cairns, lambasted it, as I recall, writing on his scoresheet something like, “This does not fit the pipe band idiom.” I believe the band didn’t win as a reult.

After that, the suite was essentially bagged, not played at the own-choice medley events at Maxville or the World’s. In effect, the band caved for fear of risking losing points because the judges might not like the content, no matter how well it was executed.

That was a watershed decision, as I see it now. Had that band played “The Megantic Outlaw” at the World’s, then, who knows, perhaps the predictable HP/Jig/Air/Strath/Reel (the Jig and Reel sections interchangeable) might not be so predictable. Since then no Grade 1 band has competed with anything significantly different.

Until yesterday, that is, when the Toronto Police shook things up by playing a Gershwin-inspired selection that obviously rallied the crowd, but not all of the judges, one of whom once again apparently didn’t like or understand the content. (I didn’t hear the whole contest, so I can’t comment on what the other two bands played or the kind of sound and unison they produced.) The medley includes very little that is musically familiar to the pipe band enthusiast.

Looking back again to 1980, the General Motors band (the forerunners of the 78th Fraser Highlanders) regularly brought down the house with a creative (for the time) medley, but which also didn’t do well with the judges.

I’m a firm believer in art over-reaching its creative boundaries in order to move things forward. Impressionism was almost universally panned. Picasso was a heretic for cubism. Pollock splattered paint and offended many. Warhol called depictions of garbage art.

In my mind, full credit goes to the artists who are willing to sacrifice money and prizes by being courageous and, at times, outrageous. For the rest of us they fall on their swords.

Gestation

I hope that pipes|drums and Blogpipe readers like the new design and all the new features. For various reasons it had to be migrated to a new web developer partner, and I decided that, since all that was happening, then new features should be added at the same time.

That was in November 2007 and it has taken this long to get it done. Recoding thousands of items and migrating data from one language to another, fixing code and such like are things I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But here we are.

Among the things we’re still working on are all the comments posted to the previous version of Blogpipe. Uploading those to the new platform is a work-in-progress, but we’ll get there eventually.

Anyway, I really hope people enjoy the new site. It will always be non-profit effort, which causes some people to ask me, Why do you do it? I wonder about that myself, at times, but I think it’s in the blood.

I grew up with the sound of my history professor dad pounding (and often swearing) away at his Smith-Corona typewriter, writing articles and books and reviews and lectures and letters-to-the-editor. He always had something to say and he would usually say it in writing and he would always sign his name to it.

So, if you want to blame or thank someone for all this publishing stuff, he’s your target.

Personally, I’m thanking him.

Navel gazer

Nice navel!I was thinking the other day about the old adage, “No one ever says on their deathbed, ‘Gee, I wish I had worked harder.'”

I wonder if that can be applied to piping and drumming. Do pipers and drummers ever sit there when they’ve retired from the game and think, “Jings, I wish I had practiced more and spent more nights and days and weekends with the band.”

I have met a lot of players who left family behind every weekend and several nights a week for scores or years while they went out to seek their self-centred goals of competition glory. They seem downright wistful when they talk about how their kids grew up and moved out of the house before they knew it.

It’s a huge quandary for many people. For those who have families, who want to pursue their hobby while at the same time being there for the spouse and kids, the best, and perhaps only, solutionĀ is to get them involved in the hobby. This strategy works well when the spouse is also a piper or drummer, but, if not, it generally doesn’t work.

I sometimes mistakenly fancy that the practice time that I gave up after “retiring” from solo competition has been committed totally to family. Truth is, I replaced much of that time with working on your pipes|drums, keyboarding away in the basement office, on the deck, in the kitchen, wherever and whenever I can.

Does our hobby / avocation / affliction attract a peculiarly self-centred personality-type? And, if so, are non-self-centred people destined not to be as good at piping and drumming as those who are?