So, this weekend just past, was the weekend World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow. This is an annual event, in which hundreds of pipe bands from all over, get together and compete, including a large percentage of the very best bands in the world. Generally, this is a one day event - Saturday - but this year, it went over two days, which was rather splendid for those of us who get in to that sort of thing.
For a number of years now, the Grade 1 competitions have been streamed live, and for a number of years, I have made a point of catching at least a part of the competitions. The problem with watching a competition in Scotland in real time in California, is the 8 hour time difference, which means pulling one's self out of bed at around 3 a.m. to be there at the start. Since my regular work schedule includes Saturday, it also means that I usually have to leave before the end. This year, however, I decided that I was going to be completely indulgent. I took a day off from work, kicked my room-mate sister out of the house, and spent two days absolutely wallowing in some of the finest piping I have ever heard - and to make it particularly celebratory, I got into the second tin of haggis in my pantry (yes... there are a plurality of haggis tins in my domicile. You never know when you are going to want a Scottish party.) and took it with the customary neeps, of which I have become particularly fond, and the last wee bit of the Glenfiddich which I had been saving for just such an occasion.
It was an excellent competition. The weather on both days was terrible for this sort of thing, ranging from furious downpours, to wild wind, to bright sunshine. The pipes, with the multiple reeds, react to just about ever change in atmosphere, so that tuning can be rather tricky in those sorts of conditions. For all that, the bands held themselves together with admirable steadiness. The sound was consistently fine, the level of performance so good as to make the listener (in person of myself) quite heady with delight. I quite rapidly stopped trying to rate the bands as they played, and just gave myself over to complete enjoyment of the music. There was one medley, however, that stuck out in particular for me, the one that Inverary and District Pipe Band played on Day 2 of competitions. They had impressed me a bit over the whole weekend, because they are a younger pipe band (both in the sense that there are a lot of young pipers in it, and that the band itself hasn't been around all that long.) but they held their own during the entire competition. And they are a particularly musical band. Medleys are fun to listen too, because they are sort of show-case arrangements; varying time signatures, lots of different tunes, and always, a slow air. It is the slow air part of IDPB's arrangement that got me in particular. They absolutely nailed it, and it was stunning. The whole weekend was worth the bother of getting up so unspeakably early. (The Worlds are one of a tiny handful of things that will actually induce me out of my bed before the accustomed hour.) And if there is a faint, lingering feeling of sleepiness, it is of no consequence whatsoever... But if I had to choose a highlight It was IDPB. (And seeing one of the instructors from a Piping School I attended, judging the competitions.)
And here, for your enjoyment, is a video of that medley from a competition earlier in the year: