Monday, October 27, 2008

Tanunda 2008


In reality the band played well ---- by which I mean that it sounded much better than I expected on such a hot day. However Ringwood and SA are both currently stronger bands than we are, and as such I am happy to come 3rd to them this year -- but we are improving and if things go as I hope then I think we should be a truly competitive Grade 4 band by this time next year. So Tanunda 2009 should see us hunting for a higher placing, and as such we need to look at where we can improve.

So what were the main points for us the remember from the weekend?

Well, on the positive side strengthening some key chanter reeds allowed us to get much better tone than last year, the expression in the main tunes has improved a lot , the drone sound is much more solid and we had pretty clean finishes. The time we spent on setting the chanters (truer and flatter) on Tuesday really paid off .. … don’t believe we would’ve been able to keep going if the 35C temperature had been allowed to pull up the pitch any higher. (so, thanks Dad for this effort ). I also think that water bottles will soon be seen as essential for all street marches in the future and suspect will see other band using them by next summer! And of course getting Jason, Gordon and Steve blooded on the contest arena was also a worthwhile investment into our future.

On the negative side there are still far too many slips and errors in the tunes (need to concentrate more – and watch fingers more closely), and we had a couple of bad starts. Will let you hear the recording later, but it's interesting that the biggest issues seem to be when we are marking time (perhaps meaning that we don’t do that often enough - or could just be initial nerves) and with the more heavily pointed tunes (eg Dark Island and Liberton Polka) still not together, and that in general the playing got more solid as each set proceeded. And unfortunately this may well be Gordon's last engagement with us --- his work contract finishes at the end of the month so he is heading home to Geelong.

So what should we focus on next? Well for the pipers it comes down to
  • MAKE LESS ERRORS !!!!!!!!!
  • More accurate expression --- we need to have every dot and cut exactly together. To do this it's essential we all watch fingers. In a circle I try to get a pair of strong pipers at the heart and at the two ends -- they stare at each others fingers and everyone else needs to lock into those 4.
  • Better attacks. In particular need to get the first E coming in accurately and together.
  • Tighter embellishments. Need to get gracenotes and doublings being played together
  • Better blowing. In particular we are getting too much variation in the sound of B, D and high A (and sometimes other notes). Listen to those around you and try to lock in.

Having said that, I think that the attacks are probably the best thing to target now since this shouldn't be too hard to get right --- so think will focus on this for the rest of this year :>


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sherryl was out and about yesterday and took quite a few photos. I've included a selection here for your enjoyment.

Scotch College performance at the Tanunda Rotunda

Our Mini Band

Full Band

Massed Bands

The Street March - 2nd Place Our best result for the day

Scotch and Elizabeth Bands march together

Barossa Band Festival Results

For those that didn't see the master sheet from yesterday, here it is. I'll bring all the comment sheets to practice next week. Overall I think we did pretty much as expected. Even though there were a few problems I thought we sounded better than we have before, but then the other bands are improving also. I'm sure Angus will give you the run down next week.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A sad loss

I have just had word that Murry Montgomery, Mt Barkers Pipe Band Drum Major for many many years has passed on this morning. I will post details of funeral as they are known. Murry was a very close friend of mine and was the MC at Davids and my wedding. He was always a very friendly and welcoming man and had a very hard time over the last couple of years. We will miss him greatly.

Also for those who know him... Jimmy Stevenson from Queensland passed on last week. He ws a member of the Queensland Highland Pipers' Society.

Sue & David Kempster

***Wednesday 22 Oct 2pm Carr & Kleeman, 1 Morphett St Mt Barker

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Funerals through Scottish eyes

To continue on the cheery subject of funerals, it is a fact that the Scots have a worldwide reputation for being the only race that can generate humour from such occasions.

A couple of my favourites:

Conversation overheard at the graveside: "It came as a terrible shock ....... I thought he died years ago!"

And another: "He didn't die of anything really; he was a hypochondriac !"

I'm sure there are plenty more you can add.

Old Angus

Symbolism at Military Funerals

There is some remarkable symbolism attached to service funerals. You may have seen this on film, television or even experienced it at a service.This is only a small brief explanation of some of the more notable features of funerals.

Reverse Arms (Rifles - when the rifle is placed under the left arm pit on an angle with the butt of the rifle level with the left eye). The reverse arms are an acknowledgment of the shame of killing and was first used at the funeral of the Duke of Marlborough in 1722. Death puts the rifle to shame and the reversal of the barrel is a fitting sign of reverence.

The National Flag on the Casket. In token that the person died in the service of his country and that the nation takes the responsibility for what it ordered him or her to do.The Australia Flag is the appropriate flag for covering coffins of all Navy, Army and Air Force personnel.

The Three Volleys (The firing of blank rounds/bullets). These have been traced back as far as the funeral of Sir Phillip Sydney as being fired in the name of the Holy Trinity. An old superstition has it that the doors of men's hearts stand ajar at such a time and the volleys are fired into the air to ward off imaginary devils/evil spirits. The firing of volleys appeared in orders of 1573 where it was stated that matlocks (type of musket/rifle) would be fired over the graves.

The Last Post (Bugle Call). This call is well remembered during ANZAC and Armistice Days. It is also used in the military as the closing of the day. This call is the "Junc Dimittus" of the dead soldier, sailor or airman. The significance of the high ascending note with which it ends is one of hope and expectancy. It is the last bugle call, but it gives promise of reveille which ultimately the Archangel Gabriel will blow.

Most of this information can be found through the Australian War Memorial. Military Customs and Traditions were part of a Warrant Officers Class Two's Course in my day. I believe it's optional reading if the individual is interested these days.

Tea Gardens Bill

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Books of Interest

During my career serving under the Queen's and Regimental Colours I have read and collected some interesting reference books which I used at the Pipes and Drums School, School of Infantry, Singleton, NSW. I would like to share some of the titles with you should you be interested to purchase. The books are;

"The Highland Bagpipe and its Music", (new edition), by Roderick D. Cannon;
"Pipers", (a guide to the players and music of the Highland Bagpipe), by William Donaldson;
"The Piper in Peace and War", by C.A. Malcolm;
"Uniforms and History of Scottish Regiments", by Major R.M. Barnes.

And if you fancy tales of Jacobites, Clans and Pipers then , Stuart McHardy has a fine collection worth reading these are;
"The Silver Chanter", (pipers' tales); "The Well of Heads", (tales of Scottish Clans); and "The White Cockade", (Jacobite tales).

In Roderick Cannon's book "The Highland Bagpipe" he mentions that some years ago (1973), Thomas Pearston, a well-known piper and teacher, put forward an interesting list of the feelings associated with different notes. These are;

low G the loudest note;the note of the Gathering;
low A the piper's note;
B the chiming note, or note of challenge,
C the most musical note,
D the angry note, the note of battle,
E the echoing note,
F the note of love. Look out ladies, if he plays around the house playing only the F note,
high G the note of sorrow or lament, and
high A like low A, the piper's note.

I have experimented using this list when writing music. Angus (Snr) can comment on that. It's worth trying.

From the coast of NSW, Tea Gardens Bill

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

History of the Bagpipe.

"Counterpoint" on ABC Radio National this week featured an item on the history of the bagpipe.

If you have ten minutes to spare you may find it interesting.

Click here to hear the broadcast.

Old Angus

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Notes: From Military Customs & Traditions 2

The Military Funeral: In the time of King Henry VIII bands were not on establishment, but every body of fighting men boasted a party of "Drummers". King Henry directed that these instruments should be employed in funeral ceremonies for high ranking officers.

The coffin or cask was carried to the place of burial on a wagon normally used to move the heavy cannon of the period, because of the size and weight, and drawn by draught horses. The pace was scarcely above a crawl.

Behind the wagon marched a party of "Drummers" playing what was then called 'Dede Sounde' to a pace beat in keeping with the extremely slow rate of progress, of the wagon ahead.

Thus was born the 'Slow March' and 'Dead March' of the present time. Even over time as speedier vehicles were introduced, the original slow step was retained as more befitting the dignity of the occasion.

Next series,number 3 will cover, 'Symbolism at Funerals'.

Tea Gardens Bill WO1 P/D ceremonial (ret)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Notes from Military Customs and Traditions

Tune: "Dumbarton's Drums". During the period 1678 to 1704 pipers were officially placed on establishment in the Army and the Regimental March of Charles 1, known as "Dumbarton's Drums" was played. This tune dates back from the Colonelcy of Colonel Dumbarton, Earl of Dartmouton, during 1678 to 1684. It's interesting to note that the Seventeenth Century version is still played today and is the Regimental Quick March of Britain's Senior Infantry Regiment, "The Royal Scots" (The Royal Regiment).

Tiger and Leopard skins, so beloved by bass and tenor drummers had their origin among coloured performers of the day. The Drum Major also was adorned, and at one period something of a dancing devil in the centre of tremendous percussion din. I couldn't see Marshall as a period boot scooter.

Tea Gardens Bill

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A few more notes on our tunes.

Wae’s me for Prince Charlie

The song was a apparently a great favourite of Queen Victoria.

An interesting angle on the song is given by Alistair Hulett, the well-known Scottish folk singer. According to his belief -“Wae’s Me For Prince Charlie”, written by a Glasgow weaver called William Glen in the early 19th century, tells us much more about the plight of the labouring poor than it does about Bonnie Prince Charlie. It goes, “On hills that are by right his own he roams a lonely stranger/On ilka hand he’s pressed by want, on ilka side by danger.”

William Glen’s song can only be understood as a declaration of the misery that spurred weavers such as him to take on the capitalist class.

Willy-nilly, it is a pleasant little tune, and sits well on the pipes.

Waltzing Matilda.

In truth, this tune does not fit comfortably within the range of the bagpipe scale, so there is a little “cheating” going on to make it sound presentable. However, there is no tune more Australian, and it is a worthy addition to the local piper’s repertoire. It might be mentioned that the original melody was
Scottish, under the name “The Bonnie Woods O’ Craigielea” – but we should probably keep that quiet in the “Big Brown Land”. !

Westering Home.

This traditional song (sometimes known as “The Islay Song”) evokes the wistful longing of homesick sailors returning to Scotland perhaps from long voyages around the world. The tune is ancient and variations are found in “Bonnie Strathyre” and the more fast and furious “Muckin’ o’ Geordie’s Byre”.

When the Battle’s O’er.

Over the years this lovely retreat has almost become married to what is probably the most popular of all retreats – The Green Hills of Tyrol. They are, more often than not, played together. Sadly, the composer is unknown.

Wi’ a Hundred Pipers.

Traditional melody with words added by Lady Nairne (1766-1845) recounting an incident from the 1745 Jacobite Rising, when Scotland's Bonnie Prince Charlie led his army, accompanied by a hundred pipers, into Edinburgh and occupied the Castle.