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Andrew Lenz's bagpipe journeyAndrew
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Andrew's Competition #11 - August 29, 2003

A less busy moment at the bagpiping registration booth at the Alameda County Fairgrounds.

Day 1 - August 29, 2003.

Well, I didn't write anything beforehand, as I've been really busy. Up until today, I'd been working hard about 12 days in a row doing remodelling at work—made me sore, tired, and I couldn't sleep well the past week or so. (The last two days have started with two Motrin for breakfast!)

The first day of my eleventh competition was at the Pleasanton Games on Friday, August 29, 2003. I drove up Alex Willingham (fellow member of Santa Cruz Pipes & Drums) and somehow got 280N in my head instead of 880N and ended up in South San Francisco on the wrong side of the San Francisco Bay from Pleasanton! After a stop at a gas station and the map purchase, we took the 92 bridge east over the Bay toward the Alameda County Fairgrounds. We got there about 11:40 a.m., an hour and a half later than planned. Alex's competition time was already past, but I'd talked to Paul (also in the band) earlier by cell phone and he let the games organizers know we'd be late, so Alex was ok.

I had counted on practicing that morning since I was supposed to be there two hours early. Unfortunately, I'd only played the tune on the pipes twice in the preceeding two weeks so I knew I'd need the time to practice and settle in. But I didn't get it.

My event for the day, Piobaireachd, was scheduled at 12:12, but the event was running early and I was on around noon. I just had time to tune myself up up, practice a few embellishments that I needed to open up and that was about it. I lost the mental game this time. The ground/urlar was good—good fingering and expression—but when I started into the variation, the judge's foot movement caught my eye and I noticed he was writing something. (The band has an early evening performance tonight, so we couldn't stay for the results. I won't get the score sheet until I go back tomorrow, so I don't know what he was writing.) I panicked. I got off the first line of the variation, got totally lost, wound back into what I was thinking at the time was the end of the first line, but it ended up being the second line. Bad. Kicking myself. The judge gave me a pleasant smile, didn't say anything, it was the "we both know you crashed and burned, I feel bad for you" smile. I told him, "I've played it better." I think I'm at the point now that if I can play the tune without losing my place in future piobaireachd events, I'll finish well in the scoring. If I don't keep track, I won't. Feast or famine.

In any case, Kip Nead will be at my house tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. for the drive back to Pleasanton. I'm sure we'll take the right road this time—he's driving!

Here's what was on my Piobaireachd Adjudicator's Sheet:
(This is a different sheet than I've seen before, it's labeled "Caledonian Club of San Francisco" in the upper left.)

Place: [blank], Contest: #4 GR IV, Date: 8/29/03, Competitor's No: #588
Competitor's Name: Andrew Lenz #588, Judge's Name: Steven Small
Tune: Lament for the Old Sword

[The left side of the form shows lines indicating ground and other movements. The second set of three lines shows various "X" marks. Under "Chanter," indicated as Sharp are HiA and C. For Drones, Begining: "Very steady" is checked, End: "Steady" is checked. For "Tone": Chanter is marked "bright", Drones are marked "Full", Overall Blend is marked "Fair."]

Could show phrase endings a little more
Playing confidently and presented the Ground well.
Shame about V1 — a bit lost.

Points Awarded: 66

Judge's Signature: <Steven Small>

Let this be a lesson to any competing piper. A judge writing during your performance is not always bad. My panic in the variation was ironically probably triggered by the the judge writing the line "Playing confidently and presented the Ground well." (!)
(The score of 66 put me in last place, a far cry from where I probably would have ended!)

Day 2 - August 30, 2003.

The band performance last night went nicely, I stayed for the celtic fiddling concert through the intermission (about 9:30). I slept rather poorly, waking up every hour after about 1 a.m. (I tend to do that any time I have to get up really early.) I woke up about 4:40 a.m., tried to get back to sleep then finally got up at about 5:15. Started the day with a couple Motrin again—I only occasionally take them, honest! Kip Nead came by about 6 and we drove up and got to Pleasanton around 7:15 a.m.

Paul Llewellyn was supposed to play in my Slow March leet first, but he was off playing his 2/4 march since his judge was a little late, so I offered to the judge to just get things going and play before Paul, which is what I did a few minutes before eight.

I played pretty cleanly, missed one double C, but felt reasonably good, but I wasn't sure about the consistency of the tempo, my weak area. Once done, the judge asked who my instructor was, he was interested in my traditional alternate High-A fingering (F-finger down instead of E-finger). We chatted for a few seconds and as I was about to head off, he added a courteous "nicely played."

I headed off to help Christina (one of my instructor's students) tune up for her event. Matt Willis, a piper from Texas introduced himself, he's a frequent visitor to Bob Dunsire's Bagpiping Forums as I am—well, heck, Kip too. I met Jan Richie, the PM for the McIntosh Pipe Band for the first time (who I'd talked to via e-mail before) and bumped into Jimmy McColl who remembered me once I gave him the context. Kip and I wandered about for a couple hours waiting for the score sheets to be available, bumping into Paul Llewellyn and his young nephew Chris a few times.

Kip got his sheets—I wasn't expecting both to be available already—then I got mine. As the woman handed me my Slow March sheet, "1st place. Doesn't that say first place?" I gave it an incredulous inspection, "Looks like a first place." She produced a gold medal. I asked, "Isn't there a playoff? Are you sure I'm supposed to the get a medal?" I tried to hand it back. She pulled back a raised hand, "You get a gold medal." Kip offered me congratulations while I was perplexed over how I ended up with a first place. Piobaireachd is my strong event. How did I manage to finish ahead of the other pipers in my slow march group? I didn't hear the other competitors, but there were twenty in my leet (a big games), though I don't how many no-shows there were.

My second ever medal, Gold Medal,
my first in a non-piobaireachd event.

Here's what was on my Slow Air WUSPBA Adjudication Sheet:

Contest Site: Pleasanton, Date: 8/30, Name: Andrew Lenz #588,
WUSPBA Registration Number: [blank], Grade: IV, Event: #15B Slow March
Tune: Mist Covered Mtns

Tone and tuning - F a bit sharp
Chirping on G gracenotes
Pipes set fairly well.

Execution - Good clean fingers. Couple of B grips rough.

Expression - Good.

Tempos - Good & Steady

Is tune selection appropriate? - Yes.

Points Awarded: 76

Judge's Signature: <Charles Rosenbeger>

Kip and I returned to Santa Cruz by 12:30 p.m. and I went to work (we were shorthanded, they were very glad I came in). I was debating whether or not to make the third trip in three days to the Bay Area. Paul called from Pleasanton and told me I'm scheduled for 10:12 a.m., a reasonable hour. I've decided to go. I'll probably be beaten by a twelve-year-old, but what the heck, you have to try, even just for the experience.

Day 3 - August 31, 2003.

I got to Pleasanton at about 9 a.m. Sun was shining and but it was mild. I had plenty of time to store my pipe case over at a Tearlach Sinclair's (a friend) clan tent then warm up and tune up.

John Partanen judging a piper later on in the Grade IV Slow March Finals at Platform 10.

In this instance, it was probably actually detrimental that I had that much time. The #10 judge's table was in the sun. So I warmed up in the sun, tuned up in the sun, waited with my pipes in the sun—which is what you are supposed to do. I struck in and the drones which I had dead on about 10 minutes before were now way off. Instead of taking the time to retune, I forged ahead. A mistake I won't make again. I've never been comfortable with the idea of tuning under pressure in front of the judge, but next time I'll be courageous and do it if it's necessary. (I'm fully capable of good tuning.) As it was, it was off enough that—even though I tried not to let it—it affected my playing. A taorluath—the judges seemed to like to call it a grip, maybe it's a grip in an alternate setting—became a doubling in the first part. My middle tenor drone cut out. It wasn't meant to be. But, hey, at least now I have playoffs experience.

Here's what was on my Slow Air WUSPBA Adjudication Sheet:

Contest Site: Pleasanton, Date: 8-31-03, Name: Andrew Lenz
WUSPBA Registration Number: [blank], Grade: IV, Event: Finals Slow March
Tune: Mist Covered Mountain

Tone and tuning - Lots of small chirps. Drones not tuned well.
Big chanter sound, but overblowing and unsteady.

Execution - B grip in first part.

Expression - OK

Tempos - OK

Is tune selection appropriate? - Yes.

Points Awarded: 62

Judge's Signature: <John Partanen>

Tearlach and his wife were there to cheer me on and Tearlach offered me a small shot of whiskey from his home town in Scotland, Wick. I'm not much of a drinker, but I figured if there was any time for rare wee sip, this was it!

Tearlach tries to make the post-competition blues a little better...

After I picked up my score sheet after an hour or so, I said good-bye to a few people and headed home.

After placing in the last two games, I have high hopes for the Loch Lomond Games in early October. I just need to get more practice in.

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