Post-St. Patrick's Day Blues

Well, St. Patrick's Day was a week ago today and I'm suffering from a case of the post-St. Patrick's Day blues. It's that lonely time of the year when the fun and energy of St. Patrick's Day is still so fresh in my mind that I want to do it all over again tomorrow, yet I know I have to wait a whole year to do it again!

So in case you haven't figured it out, my St. Patrick's Day was another rousing success. I decorated my drones with green beads, donned my new tie dotted with 4 leaf clovers and met up with the band for tuning at 2pm. By 3pm we car-pooled off to our first gig. At 5pm we boarded a bus and in total we hit 10 bars between 3pm-12:30.

Highlights for me included all of the family and friends that came out to see us. At just about every stop I saw someone I knew. In general, the people were wonderfully enthusiastic at every stop. At our very first gig a bunch of women came up and insisted on having their picture taken with me because I was the only girl in the band. This was fun as typically the girl in the kilt is not as novel as the guys in the kilt.

Another great thing about this year was the reputation we've established. Last year we played along with the bagpipe bit in AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top". At a couple of spots one of our bandmates even climbed up on the bar and led us through it. This year our reputation preceded us, and at several of our stops people came up requesting our AC/DC rendition.

I'm also happy to report that for the first St. Patrick's Day ever, I didn't have to put corks in any of my drones. In previous years my strength and lips have just given out and corking up one or all of my drones makes it easier to play.

One tragedy of the night was one set of bagpipes that sustained some pretty serious damage, two large cracks in the bass drone to be exact. We're not quite sure where it happened, at one of our stops a drunk guy fell into some bagpipes that we thought were safely stowed with another band's instrument. And at another place some of us had stuck our bagpipes down behind some folded tables. Presumably at one of these places his bagpipes were injured. It happened towards the end of the night and they've already been sent off for repairs. We'll see what the bill is. And now our Pipe Major has decreed that we are, absolutely and under no circumstances allowed to set our bagpipes down anywhere when we're out doing gigs. It was a rude awakening but a good lesson for all of us. I am careful with my bagpipes but I do set them down and generally think of them as being pretty indestructible. Has anyone out there really damaged their bagpipes before??

Well, blogging about St. Patrick's Day hasn't really helped with the blues, but it has been fun reliving it here in blogland.

Pipe on!


Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!!

Well, Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!! Remember, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day so put on your green and join the party!!

I plan on celebrating the same way I have the past 2 years, by taking the day off of work and taking part in my band's St. Patrick's Day pub crawl. We have 9 gigs set up all around town from 3pm-10pm. We play for 15-20 minutes at each place, partake in some refreshment and than hop on our bus and off we go to our next gig. Even though St. Patrick's Day is on a week night I still expect every place to be pretty near to packed, especially as the night goes on.

I have to admit that I've been in a bit of a bagpiping slump lately, not practicing as much as I should, but there's nothing like the glory a piper enjoys on St. Patrick's Day to motivate a Piping Girl!

To find out what's going on in your area, this St. Patrick's Day site is still the best one out there I think.

I'm not going to repeat what I blogged about last year on St. Patrick's Day. So if you want to watch New York City's 2007 Parade in 3 minutes, traditional songs, see how to make some good St. Patties Day eats, or learn about the Hot Springs, Arkansas World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade (John Ratzenberger is the Grand Marshal this year!), be sure to check out my post from last year on my St. Patrick's Day preparations.

I've also got some good videos on my St. Patrick's Day post from last year, green Polar Bears, a good Guinness commercial, everything you need to get you in the mood for the big day.

I've got a few new St. Patrick's Day goodies for you to enjoy today...

First, in honor of our newly elected President Barack Obama, the Corrigan Brothers have written his brilliant tune called "There's Noone as Irish as Barack Obama" . Even if your political affiliations go elsewhere, the video is still entertaining.

St. Patrick's Day is featured a fair amount in television shows and movies so next up I have a segment from the movie "The Fugitive" for you to enjoy:

And here's a random Leprechaun sequence from an episode of "The Simpsons":

I know, I am easily entertained.

Finally, I found this amusing segment from Conan O'Brien featuring China Town on St.Patrick's Day

And the best for last, some Fox News affiliate hands the microphone off to some random drunk guy in Denver, who surprisingly pulls off a decent newscast:

Well, whatever you do, enjoy the day, I know I will!

Pipe on!


Piping Girl's Christmas Picks

I've been watching the snow gently falling all day. Actually, the wind just picked up and it doesn't look so gentle right now. But it still puts me in mind of Christmas. So, from my snowy neck of the woods to yours, Merry Christmas!

Even though it's probably too late for you to get any of these gifts for the piper on your list, I thought it would still be fun to tell you about the piping picks that made my Christmas list.

First is a really neat t-shirt that you can buy from the official site of the Proclaimers. Although I don't think that they ever incorporate bagpipes into any of their music, The Proclaimers are my favorite Scottish band. The t-shirt has Edinburgh Castle on it, and also features the St. Andrews flag:

Next up is a bagpipe tune book called Irish Tunes Old and New by acclaimed Pipe Major Terry Tully. The tune in this book that I'm particularly interested in is called "Pumpkin's Fancy":

I just think it's an awesome tune!

A couple of other tune books I wouldn't mind having are Santa's Favourite Piping Tunes:

and Privy Piping.

Both books would just be fun to have when I feel like messing around and having fun with tunes that people might recognize.

There's not really any other gear I need for either my bagpipe or my uniform. I've got a nice bagpipe case and my band just picked up the tab for nice new vests for us. The only other bagpiping thing that I would REALLY like to get is a set of smallpipes. I'm still in the very early exploratory and saving up of money stage, so I don't know what kind I would buy...or if I would go with a bellows powered set...anyone out there want to talk up their smallpipes?

At any rate, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all!

Pipe on!


Scotland Post Olympics Update

The Beijing Olympics are over...I love the Olympics so much I am in mourning. Sad, sad, Piping Girl. So very sad.

BUT I was so pleased to see how prominent Scotland ended up being at the Beijing Olympics. And I don't mean just the athletes.

Opening Ceremony-What's That Sound??
I was watching the Opening Ceremony marathon and started when, as the first of the European athlete's marched in, the bagpipes struck in and began playing Scotland the Brave. About every 15-20 minutes they'd come in again and play a bunch of tunes. The silly American commentators never said a word about them, and there was no footage of them either, so I thought, maybe this was where China decided to save a dime and it was a recording.

But later, I was excited to find out that it was an actual bagpipe band. And an amateur band at that! And those stupid commentators went on and on about all sorts of random facts, you'd think they would've commented on the awesome musicians playing their hearts out on the biggest stage in the world. At the very least, they could have given them a little camera love.

It turns out it was the Mains of Fintry Pipe Band from Dundee, Scotland.

It turns out the Chinese were looking for music that represented Europe and they decided on the bagpipes! They heard the Mains of Fintry Band in France and were impressed enough to invite them to play at the opening ceremony. Apparently, at first they thought it was a joke, so they didn't reply to the invitation at first. But when they accepted, they were sworn to secrecy for the past year. What a secret!!

I found this story to be particularly inspirational because I play in a very amateur band. It's good to see these kinds of bands get their chance to shine in the sun too. Granted, the Olympics were very close to World Bagpipe Championships, so perhaps a higher graded band would've turned down an invitation, but I have yet to read anywhere that the Chinese extended an invitation to a higher grade band. Good on you Mains of Fintry!!

Scottish Athlete's Find Success!!
So, the athlete's that I featured in my previous post fared really well at the Olympics. I did watch some of the cycling events, and Chris Hoy found great success. He won a gold medal in the Sprint, Team Sprint, and the Keirin events. In fact, he was so successful that he was honored by the British contingent at the Closing Ceremony where he carried the flag for the most successful British team in 100 years.

Lee McConnell also did well. In the 400m she made it to the semifinals where she ultimately placed 19th in the semifinal round.

Other Scots who fared well were:

David Florence: earned a silver in the Slalom Canoe event.

Katherine Granger: earned a silver in Rowing Quadruple Skull.

One of the best Olympic-Scotland stories I've run across is about a guy named Andrew Aitkens who was practicing his bagpipes outside an (unbeknownst to him) secure area in Beijing. He was practicing up for a charity walk along the Great Wall. A small crowd gathered around him and than all of a sudden a bunch of police cars pulled up. The poor guy almost got arrested because the Chinese thought his bagpipes were a weapon! Thankfully a bystander stepped in and explained that it was a musical instrument, and (at least in this moment in time) not an instrument of war. I guess they don't have too many bagpipe players in China!

Pipe on!


Scotland in the 2008 Beijing Olympics

I dearly love the Olympics, I should've put an olympic countdown clock up on this blog now that I think about it. So I thought it would be interesting to do a little digging into the history of Scotland's Olympic athletes and look at their prospects for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

The Summer Olympics started in 1896 but the first Scottish medals didn't come until 1900 when they won silver and bronze in...golf of course. (Golf is no longer an Olympic sport today by the way.) Their first gold came in a big way in 1908 when 5 Scots brought home the gold in steeplechase, 400m, coxless fours (a rowing event), water polo, and 12 metre class (sailing). And home wasn't far away as the 1908 Olympics were in London.

Since than, there's been a Scot who has medaled in just about every Olympics. The only one's they didn't medal in were 1932 and 1936. There were even some Scots on the 1920 tug of war team that brought home the gold...obviously no longer an Olympic sport, but it brought a smile to my face :)

There are many notable Scottish Olympic athletes. Track star Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame of course. Shirley Robertson picked up 2 gold medals for sailing in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, the only Scotswoman to have ever won 2 gold medals. And Rodney Pattison is the most decorated Scottish Olympian, winning 2 golds and 1 silver medal between 1968-1972.

Scotland has always competed as part of Great Britain's Olympic team. But it seems there was some effort by Scotland to bring their own seperate Olympic team to the 2008 summer games. They do have their own parliament after all but they are still not entirely independent from England. It seems that the issue was brought up because Scotland's Football (aka. soccer) Association didn't want to participate in a British soccer team for the Olympics.

Former British Olympic Association chairman Sir Craig Reedie had this to say about the whole situation, "The International Olympic Committee charter says that to take part in an Olympic Games you must have a national Olympic committee. You only get a national Olympic committee when it's granted to you by the IOC. When Scotland is an independent nation, I am 99.999% sure the IOC will grant them an NOC, but not before then. Until then, no Scottish athlete is disadvantaged by the current situation."

The official website for Great Britain's 2008 Summer Olympic team is a bit confusing. You can search their athlete's by country, but the results include both country of birth and country of residence. So while they list 25 athlete's as being from Scotland only 18 were actually born in Scotland. Two were born in other countries but basically grew up in Scotland. Mostly men (there are only 5 women) Scotland is represented in swimming, canoe, rowing, shooting, cycling, steeplechase, track, tennis, kayak, triatholon, and field hockey. Their dominant sport is swimming where they have 5 athlete's competing.

Scottish athlete's to watch for seem to be Chris Hoy, 9 time world champion in cycling and Lee McConnell who runs the 400m has also picked up a lot of press.

I'll mostly be cheering on Team USA but the beauty of the Olympics is the international stage and being able to cheer on international players so if I recognize a Scot I'll definitely give them a shout out.

Pipe on!


Carillon Piping

I'm afraid I haven't done quite as much bagpiping this summer as I'd like. Certainly not as much as I did last summer. Various things just kept getting in my way. Remember that my band isn't a competitive band, we're a hobby band, so we play in a lot of parades and charity events and most of these are in the summer when the weather is better.

One neat thing my band did get to do was play a concert with a carillon. The World Carillon Federation defines a carillon as, "A musical instrument composed of tuned bronze bells which are played from a baton keyboard. Only those carillons having at least 23 bells be taken into consideration". And Wikipedia says it's the heaviest instrument because the bells can weigh several tons. So it's basically a huge set of bells in all shapes and sizes and it's very loud. The picture at the top of this post is NOT the carillon we played with, but it gives you a sense of what one looks like. There are all differents types and sizes of carillons.

The carillon player does various concerts and I guess he decided a bagpipe band would be a nice compliment to his carillon. The carillon we played with is at the top of a tall office building. We went up 14 flights on an elevator, up 2 flights of regular stairs, and than up about 2 flights of a spiral staircase. I'm afraid my poor drones suffered a few nicks in the tight quarters of the spiral staircase.

At the top we found ourselves standing on a narrow ledge with a fantastic view, but no worries, there were solid concrete waist high walls so even though we were high up, we felt secure.

We were going to be playing "Amazing Grace" and "Highland Cathedral" with the carillon. The carillon player picked the tunes and while we know AG, we didn't know HC. So, because we weren't playing in front of a very visible audience, we cheated and taped the music up to the walls.

It was not our greatest performance. We had to stand in single file and I was stuck in between two of the biggest guys in our band, so it was impossible to see our pipe major. We had 10 pipers and amazingly, when we were playing with the carillon, we drowned it out. So it was impossible to tell if we were playing with it...and more often than not, we weren't because the carillon plays a lot slower than a hyper charged up bagpipe band.

Afterwards, we went down and played a nice concert in a park at the base of the building. We could all see each other and we were sans carillon.

Pipe on!

Piping, Piping Girl, Where Are You?

You've got a blog to write now! (sung to Scooby Doo song)

I know, I know, I've been so neglectful of this blog. Blah, blah, blah, busy life, same excuses as every other blogger out there who lets so much time elapse between blog entries. And grrrr, it's so hard to get back into a blog once you've left it for a while.

So what has Piping Girl been up to in the world of bagpiping. Well of course St. Patrick's Day was a blast. I took the day off, slept in, and took my time getting ready. My new special bagpiping jacket arrived just a few days before St. Patrick's Day and I put it to good use. It was cold outside and I actually wore it a lot inside as well. After tuning we went off to our first two gigs, than we got onto the bus we had hired to drive us around from 5pm on. We played several sets at each bar, probably 15 minutes. The best part of the night was when the youngest piper in our band, a college kid, jumped up on the bar and led the rest of us in playing along with ACDC's It's a Long Way to the Top. Towards the end of the night I confess that I had to cork some of my drones, but after 6 hours or so of playing who can blame me.

Since than I played at a cancer charity event with the band and at this neat event welcoming veterans back from visiting war memorials in Washington D.C. I also had the opportunity to play in a massed band setting at a local Scottish fair. Playing in the massed bands was awesome! We marched forward and than, spinning on our heels, marched back through the lines behind us, I think it's called counter-marching. It was amazing!

Well, I hope to be a better and more consistent blogger.

Pipe on!


Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!!!!

I'm off to my pub crawl today, but what kind of a Piping Girl would I be if I didn't post on the technical date of St. Patrick's Day. I know a lot of you might have celebrated this past Saturday but for me, St. Patrick's Day is today.

Just a couple of quick reminders, if you didn't make it to a parade on Saturday, chances are pretty good that you can still find one today. And don't forget that the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade is streaming their parade live at 11am Eastern Standard time of course

You can also check out Dublin's St. Patrick's Day webcam or check out a bunch of other webcams of Dublin.

Here's a video from last year's festivities in Dublin:

Here's another good video of a bagpipe band playing in a parade in Cork, Ireland 2007:

If you're after other St. Patrick's Day events like finding pubs that are celebrating or creating a tune list for your own party, don't forget to check out my St. Patrick's Day Preparations Post.

And if you're looking for some history on just what it is we are celebrating, check out my post from Saturday.

Here a couple of other amusing videos I found to get you in the mood for whatever it is that you do on this St. Patrick's Day. First, a video from the Oregon Zoo last year demonstrating that even Polar Bears celebrate St. Patrick's Day:

Finally, did you know that the beer company Guinness is lobbying to make St. Patrick's Day a federal holiday? They have an online petition and their grassroots effort has been titled Proposition 3-17. They have over 250,000 signatures so far.

I'm not a particular fan of this brew of beer, but I find the proposition interesting and this commercial amusing:

Happy St. Patrick's Day Everyone!!!!
Pipe on!!!!


Getting Ready for My St. Patrick's Day

So tomorrow is my band's big St. Patrick's Day pub crawl. There's also a deeper significance to tomorrow, it marks my one year anniversary of playing publicly with my band. I played the practice chanter for a year, than was a year on the pipes, and than made my debut with the band last year.

St. Patrick's Day is also important for my band, because, while we aren't a competitive band, we march in parades all summer long, and St. Patrick's Day is the unofficial start of our parade season too.

Last year St. Patrick's Day was on a Saturday, this year due to leap year, it's on a Monday. It will be very interesting to see what a St. Patrick's Day pub crawl is like on a weekday.

So what have I been doing to get ready for St. Patrick's Day?

1) Practicing

I got a bad cold last weekend and wasn't able to practice for several days, so I'm trying to get a bit of my playing stamina back. I also figured out that my bass drone reed was really loose, making it really tough to play too. Stuck into the bottom of each of the long stocks that stick out of the bagpipe bag is a drone reed. This fell out of my drone and into my bag. Well when I figured out how to get it out of my bag, it became loose again, this basically prevents an airtight seal from taking place and me feel like I was hyperventilating when I was trying to play my bagpipes.

Now that my drone reed issue is resolved and I'm feeling better, I've had some super good practice sessions over the last coupe of days so I feel a lot more confident about playing tomorrow.

Here are the sets that I've been focusing on, and that I'll be playing tomorrow:

"Scotland the Brave"-"Murdo's Wedding"-"Wings"
"The Green Hills of Tyrol"-"Balmoral"
"Bathgate Highland Gathering"-"Suo Guan"-"Tenny Penny Bit"-"Lady Carmichael"
"Argyll's Crossing the River Po"-"Battles O'er"
"Amazing Grace"
"Gardens of Skye"-"Leaving Liverpool"
"Cockney Jocks"-"Bonnie Lass O'Fyfe"

There's a quartet of pipers in my group that will be playing an Irish set that includes "Oh Danny Boy","Minstrel Boy" and "Wearing O' the Green".

2) Getting my uniform in order.

St. Patrick's Day last year was also the debut of all of my cool bagpipe uniform stuff. I have a white dress shirt, kilt, sporran (black purse like thing that hangs around my waste), belt, hose (socks), glengarry (hat), flashes (little bits of cloth that hang off the socks), kilt pin, hat pin and sgian dubh (little ceremonial dagger tucked in my sock).

Tomorrow I'll also be wearing my new ghillie brogues, these are special shoes my band decided would be part of our band uniform. I did wear them at our Burns Dinner back in January, but that was just for a few hours. So I'll be curious to see how they hold up to pretty much a whole day of wearing and moving about.

I'll also be wearing my brand new argyle jacket. This is something else my band decided to add to its uniform and at the Burns Dinner, I realized I was just about the only one not to have one yet. So I ordered it about a month ago, it was on back order, and it came in the mail on Friday! More importantly, it also fit. The weather tomorrow isn't supposed to be the greatest so I think it will definitely come in handy.

3) Making Sure My Bagpipes Are Ready

I already talked about my bass drone reed, but there are a few other maintenance type things I've been doing like taping up my mouth piece, my chanter, and my drones. Over time they can get loose, so I use tape (hemp can also be used), to make sure they're all set. One time at a practice last summer a piper in my band had their chanter literally fall out of their bag when we were marching, it was too loose! And it scared me, because chanters can pretty easily crack and break. I also bought a new cord for my bagpipes, this is the bit that holds the drones all together, I haven't replaced this yet, but I still might do it yet tonight...we'll see.

And that's about it. My band is meeting at 2pm tomorrow to tune and than we'll hit our first bar at 3pm. We'll make 9 stops total (although some of those are repeat stops at the same bar), and our last scheduled stop is at 9:30pm.

We're all going to ride around on a bus together for part of the pub crawl too. We were able to have the bus the whole day last year, but we won't be catching it until 5pm tomorrow. The bus totally made the experience perfect last year, we didn't have to worry about getting quickly to the next bar, finding a parking place, and waiting for everyone to trickle in. With the bus, we could all be together and than make our grand entrance.

I probably won't post on the pub crawl until later on in the week, I suspect it will take me a few days to recover!

Pipe on!


Happy St. Patrick's Day! (If You're Celebrating Today)

Well Happy St. Patrick's Day! If you're celebrating today that is. Many pubs are celebrating all weekend long and into Monday, and there were plenty of parades today as well.

If you're looking for information on the history of St. Patrick's Day, you can't go wrong with The History Channel's website. We all know that St. Patrick's Day celebrates the life of St. Patrick, actually, it really celebrates his death, which was supposedly on March 17, 460 A.D. For an entertaining version of what we do know about St. Patrick's life, check out this Veggie Tales version of events:

I'm not really celebrating today...I know, I'm such a die hard purist! Monday from about 2pm-9:30pm I'll take part in my bagpipe band's annual pub crawl. And I'm sure we won't be the only one's celebrating St. Patrick's Day on the 17th.

Pipe on!
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