Monday, November 22, 2010
Another great season of piping has come and gone and the winter season is upon us. For many pipers, the summer was full of long hours hard practicing and many weekends full of performances, parades, travel, and competitions.
Although very rewarding, it's easy to get burned out after such a taxing schedule. It is natural to let up on the playing for a bit after such a long season. Remember, however, that the offseason is the most important time of the year for a piper who wishes to progress. Use this time to reflect on your progression as a player and to set goals for the upcoming year. Don't let your pipe box collect dust. If you don't play your pipes regularly you will risk taking a step back. Instead, carry the momentum you have achieved forward into the new year.
Here are a couple suggestions for the off season:
Play your pipes as often as possible. The practice chanter has its place, but I don't recall the last time I performed with one. You worked hard over the summer to feel comfortable playing for long periods of time, that hard work can be lost in as little as two weeks without playing. Keep it up!
Go back to basics. Have any bits of technique been getting you down? Now is a great time to pull out "Rhythmic Fingerwork" and hammer out these bits so they don't get in the way of your music.
These investments now will pay great dividends next spring and summer. Keep up the good work!
Posted by John Miner at 10:21 PM
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
This past weekend was the Pacific Northwest Highland Gathering in Enumclaw Washington. I competed with the Wasatch and District grade 3 and was generally happy with how the band played. We received many positive comments from judges and spectators alike; however, there is always much room for improvement. Competitive piping is as much a mental game as it is physical. Sometimes a split second loss of focus can be the difference between where you want to be and where you actually end up. The band is making huge strides this year and I am hoping that all the pieces will come together next month at Pleasanton, which is the largest and final competition of the year for us.
Other than playing, the highlight of the weekend was listening to all of the world class pipers and drummers. The current world champions, SFU, as well as the very impressive grade 1 band, Dowco Triumph Street were in attendance and put on a spectacular show for all who were lucky enough to witness it.
The professional solo class was very well represented and the competitions were a real treat. The highlight for me was listening to the professional piobaireachd competition. World famous piper, Jack Lee, won the competition with a captivating performance of “The Unjust Incarceration”. Piobaireachd played at this level has an amazing ability to move the listener. Many members of the newly formed Utah Piobaireachd Society were in attendance and soaking in all of the world class performances.
We have the rare treat as pipers to be able to rub shoulders with the very best in the world and this weekend was no exception. The playing was an extremely high caliber and several performances will certainly leave a lasting impact on me as I continue to strive to be a better player.
Posted by John Miner at 1:04 PM
Thursday, July 15, 2010
The competition season has been underway for some time now and is just beginning to heat up. I would like to congratulate all the bands in Utah for their hard work and dedication. That hard work is really paying off and the standard of playing is rising in our area.
This year, in addition to playing with the Mt. Timpanogos Pipe Band, I have had the great pleasure of playing with the Wasatch and District Pipe Band (grade 3). The band is sounding great and it’s very rewarding to experience the fruit of all the hard work and practice. After several preliminary competitions in Utah and Las Vegas, the competition really starts to heat up as we will be heading to Enumclaw, WA and then to Pleasanton, CA to conclude the competitive year. The band is looking forward to the challenge.
As you reflect upon the season, remember, no matter what the results of your band or solo competitions, be humble, gracious, and enjoy the experience. We all have good days and bad days. I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum many times and it’s easy to have a poor attitude. We represent a great tradition and I believe that it’s important to show respect for our craft by acting gracefully in winning and defeat. Always try to learn something valuable, and most of all, have fun!
Posted by John Miner at 1:42 PM
Monday, April 12, 2010
That’s a tough question. There are so many stellar albums to choose from. Solo vs. band? Traditional vs. contemporary? Piobaieachd vs. light music? Pure piping vs. mixed instrumental? I have favorites in all of these genres, but over the years the ones that tend to get the most play time are the live pipe band concert albums. I love the tangible energy that comes across in the recording from the crowd as well as the feel of adrenaline in the music that is a product of live performances.
With so many stellar live concert albums to choose from, narrowing it down to one choice is a difficult order. If I were to base my pick on sentimentality and sheer enjoyment, the clear winner for me is Simon Fraser University’s “Alive in America” album.
Although not as well known or acclaimed as their “Live at Carnegie Hall” album recorded two years later, “Alive in America” captures the band on a high right after their first win at the worlds in 1995 and shortly before repeating in ‘96. The album is almost entirely pure pipe band playing with no tricks or gimmicks. From the opening track the bright tone and extremely musical playing draws you in and holds your interest until the last note is played, leaving you wanting more.
I practically wore out my walkman listening to the cassette tape of this album over and over during the formative years when I was just starting out on the pipes. Listening to the album today is somewhat sentimental because it brings back the feelings I had then, when my sheer excitement to play the pipes and passion for the music was in its formative stages. Whereas I am more prone now to listen with a critical ear, back then I was utterly awestruck with the brilliant and seemingly impossible music which seemed to be flowing so effortlessly.
Part of the reason why I find this album so enjoyable is that it helps me to remember those feelings I had and the passion for the music which is so easily overlooked in the ever obsessive and sometimes frustrating quest that is piping. I certainly don’t expect this album to have the same effect on you as it does on me, but by all means I recommend you pick it up if you can find it. You won’t be disappointed.
What is your favorite piping album and why?
Posted by John Miner at 5:47 PM
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
"Always recollect that excellence of any sort is beyond the reach of indolence. If you allow yourself to believe that it is impossible for you to do what you see others perform, your despair will not allow you to succeed... facility will always come with diligence and labor."
-Lt. John McLennan writing to his pupil and son G.S. McLennan, widely regarded as one of the most talented musical prodigies to ever lift a pipe.
Posted by John Miner at 11:39 PM
Monday, January 18, 2010
The Utah piobaireachd club recently had its third meeting. The club was formed in order to "advocate and promote scholarship, instruction and inquiry within the form of Highland Bagpipe music known as Piobaireachd, Pibroch, and Ceol Mor."
The first three meetings have been informal gatherings of local piobaireachd enthusiasts. The strucure has been as follows: learn a new tune together on chanters followed by a recitle of tunes on pipes by those who desire to participate. The results have been most enjoyable and informative. If you are interested in attending, follow the club on facebook and its blog page to learn about the next meeting.
Posted by John Miner at 8:49 PM