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Andrew's Competition #15 - September 3-5, 2004

Today is Tuesday, August 31, 2004. The Pleasanton Games start on Friday. My kids started school last week, so I've had a good excuse to get up early and pipe. I've had a number of days this past week where I've been fortunate enough to be able to pipe twice a day (early morning and early evening). I'm have a bit of trouble on my grips in the ground of my piobaireachd and still a bit of timing issues on the variation. On the other hand, we had a "mini-competition" (just a warm up to the real thing, no one wins or loses) after band practice tonight and my pipes sounded great and there were a number of comments on how steady they were. My instructor/PM Jay Salter said even my High-A was very steady. Felt good. My 2/4 is coming along, though still not as consistent as I'd like, once in a while I'll mess up an embellishment. If I play my average in piobaireachd, I should place. If I play toward my better performance, I should place in slow march, at least in my leet. If I play my very best, I could place in 2/4, but it'd be a real stretch.

Friday, September 3, 2004

I drove up with my instructor Jay Salter to Pleasanton and we arrived around 11:30 or so. My performance was to be at 12:32. Fourteen pipers were signed up for in my Leet A, including Emma Trollman, a student of Jay's competing in piping for the first time. Jay helped with tuning, the tuning sounded very good. I was to play at Platform 5, bandmate Paul Llewellyn was to play at Platform 4, as he was in a different leet. Weather was warm, but not bad for Pleasanton which sometimes can exceed 100 degrees, 90s are common.

The Piobaireachd.

I walked over to Platform 5, introduced my tune as the Battle of Auldearn, Piobaireachd Society, Version 2. The judge inquired, "Number 2?" I answered affirmative. He indicated for me to take my time and start when ready. I struck in, the tuning sounded good and away I went.

I played well, it was feeling pretty good, until in the second line of the variation I spaced and went to an A (like the first line) instead of a B. Ack! Competition sure messes me up sometimes. (It's bad when you walk off after your performance and the first thing out of your instructor's mouth is: "What happened?") Once I finished the tune, the judge motioned me over and told me that the tune was actually "No. 1" not "No. 2." Also that I should have tightened up my grips a bit in the ground of the tune, I was "clipping the E of the cadence" a bit, but that the missed note was "the only major thing."

Here's what was on my Piobaireachd Adjudicator's Sheet (picked up on Saturday):
(Labeled "Caledonian Club of San Francisco" in the upper left.)

Place: Pleasanton, Contest: GR IV 1B, Date: 9/3/04, Competitor's No: #762
Competitor's Name: Andrew Lenz, Judge's Name: R. McShannon
Tune: Battle of Auldearn (No. 2) (No. 1)

[Under "Chanter," nothing was indicated. For Drones, Beginning: "Steady" is checked, End: "Steady" is checked. For "Tone": Chanter is marked "bright", Drones are marked "Bright", Overall Blend is marked "Good."]

Quite nicely phrased

Var. 1
Coming off cadence E's too soon throughout and thus losing flow.
Slip middle of 2nd line and into 3rd line.

Points Awarded: [blank box]

Judge's Signature: <Ronald McShannon>

Another case of me thinking too much about the note of the moment versus the overall tune. Foiled again. Maybe I need to try hypnotizing myself!! Don't you hate it when your instructor is right? Jay mentioned the things noted by the judge in advance—aside from the wrong note.

Paul Llewellyn played around 1 p.m., and sounded quite good. He's made amazing strides in his ability to play piobaireachd. (He ended up taking third in the leet and made the playoffs.)

I had to get Jay back for a band performance (one I was missing due to my daughter Charlotte's 6th birthday) so we didn't stay much past Kip Nead's performance around 2 p.m.

Saturday, September 4, 2004.

I was up at 5:45 a.m., and was out the door around 6:30 on my way to Pleasanton. (Pipers are a nutty breed to get up this early for something that they want to do!) The drive up was uneventful, I listened to a CD I had made of my instructor playing my two competition tunes of the day. Handy thing. I arrived a little after 7:30, plenty of time to get ready. I played a bit, the chanter was fine, except I had to correct the E which was a little flat. Nineteen pipers were signed up for my Leet A in 2/4 March.

Paul Lewellyn plays his 2/4 for Roddy MacShannon about half an hour after me.

The 2/4 March.

At 8:24, I was to play at Platform 5 for McShannon again. After tuning up my drones beforehand, I thought they sounded on, but when struck in for the performance, they sounded out. After last year, I wasn't about to throw away a performance on bad tuning, so I turned my back to the judge, took a step or two and retuned my drones. This was first for me, I've always been leery of tuning in front of a judge. But I tuned them up and lo and behold, just like at home, they locked in. Around I turned and entered the tune.

The Siege of Delhi went decently, though it wasn't as clean as I was possible of playing. The embellishments should have been more crisp and while it was my best performance of a 2/4 in competition—well, heck it was only my third one, so that wasn't hard!—I wasn't super happy with it, and resigned myself again to no medal.

Once done, the judge simply nodded, said "thank you" and off I went to Slow March which was immediately after.

Shortly after judging my performance, the Captain (Ken Eller) listens to Paul playing his slow march. Paul took fourth, just missing the playoffs.

The Slow March.

The judge for the slow march, 8:30 at Platform 6, was Ken "The Captain" Eller. Twenty pipers were in my leet. The pipes sounded good. I started into the tune. I was playing great, good expression, good embellishments, up until the point where I spaced and came up from an A taorluath to a B instead of a C as in a different bar—sound familiar? ("You are getting sleepy... sleepy... watch the watch... back and forth... sleepy...") Aside from the two embellishment boo-boos, all went really great. No medal for this one either. (Sound of kicking oneself.)

Waiting for score sheets.

I helped Paul tune up his pipes, the chanter needed a little bit of work. For whatever reason, I have a hard time tuning someone else's bass drone with the chanter engaged—tenors, no problem. Unfortunately, one of his tenors shut down during his 2/4. (Or fortunately, I am off the hook if the tuning wasn't good!) We moved to Slow March, and again, I had trouble tuning the bass. If he had comments that the bass was out, I feel at least partly responsible.

After I first arrived, I put up a sign on the registration booth telling people to meet me at the picnic tables to see the " drone reed collection." I hung out with Kip Morais and his group for a bit after my performances. Just before 10 a.m., I retrieved the drone reeds from my car then spread them out on a table. I had a number of pipers interested, including the instructors for the Sir James MacDonald Pipe Band out of Portland, Oregon—Mike, Bill and Jeff. Nice guys. It's always neat to show reeds that people have never seen or heard of, that and explain the history and progression of reed development. I got a few 'thank you's from people, nice to hear. One judge, I didn't get his name, had said in advance that he wanted to see the reeds, but I guess he was busy judging as I didn't see him.

Checking at the booth, Margaret Hokeness, the hardworking registration woman, told the controversy* of waiting pipers that the score sheets were still 30 minutes away. (*Supposedly, the correct name for a group of pipers is a "controversy"! Like a "pod of dolphins" or a "gaggle of geese"!) While waiting, Paul MacKinlay—a periodic student of Jay Salter's—reintroduced himself to me. He had just competed for the first time in the slow march. After chatting for a bit, I said 'good-bye' and only to see him walking back a minute later. "Congratulations!" (I was thinking: "How could I have possibly placed in slow march?") "For what?" "You got third for 2/4 march!" I was astonished. This was my weakest event, yet I'd outplaced at least a dozen pipers. Hmmm. Maybe I am getting to be a better piper!

Well, heck, if it isn't in print. If someone told me in advance it was going to happen, I would have been very skeptical. ("2/4?")

Here's what was on my 2/4 March WUSPBA Adjudication Sheet:

Contest Site: Pleasanton, Date: 9/4/04, Name: Andrew Lenz,
WUSPBA Registration Number: #762 [actually my kilt number], Grade: IV, Event: 2/4 March [circled] 21+
Tune: The Siege of Delhi

Grips to C sluggish causing loss of flow

Also hits to B in the 3rd part not clean

Ditto in 4th part.

Overall tune a shade untidy technically
which is causing tune to flow less
easily than that expected.

Points Awarded: 3rd

Judge's Signature: <Ronald McShannon>

I knew that the hits down to low-G were not as sounding as long as they should have. 2/4 marches are not slow tunes, so it's easier to flub the embellishments.

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

Contest Site: Pleasanton, Date: 9/4/04, Name: Andrew Lenz,
WUSPBA Registration Number: #762 [actually my kilt number], Grade: IV, Event: Slow [March is circled] 21+
Tune: Hearken My Love

Tone and Tuning:
A full, robust tone — well tuned

Sound maintained from start to finish

First part, couple of note errors

Second part - good technique

strong accents, with a nice flowing tempo

- good flow
- basic technique well articulated
- pipe resonant and in tune
- playing in time

Points Awarded: 72

Judge's Signature: <Ken Eller>

Man. It kills me to type this in. Everything is dynamite except those two bum notes. Sigh. (Sound of someone kicking themselves repeatedly.)

Third place, 2/4 March, 21+, Leet A, Pleasanton Games 2004
My first 2/4 March medal!

Well, I drove home, hit some Labor Day weekend traffic, but not terrible.

I doubt I can take another medal in the playoffs, but I hope to be respectable. Back up very early tomorrow, the 2/4 playoff starts at 8:30 a.m. The organizers hadn't determined individual playing times by the time I left, so I have to assume 8:30 a.m.

Sunday, September 5, 2004.

It's just wrong to get up when stars are still out! Dedication, I guess. Or some kind of psychosis, one or the other! Jay Salter decided to sacrifice some sleep as well to support his two students who made it into the playoffs, myself and Paul Lewellyn. Like Friday, I gave Jay a ride up. We got there a little before 8:00 a.m. I found out that I was to play fifth, and Paul was first up in the piobaireachd playoff at 9:00, which meant we were going to be playing very close to the same time. Jay helped tune us up and also did his best to impart last minute tweaks in timing and expression. I was having some timing issues with the leading bar to each line and was having a hard time correcting it.

The 2/4 March playoff was at Platform 1, with John Wilson. Platform 1 was the closest table to all the band tents, meaning more noise and distractions, but reasonable. Jay stood off to the side and kept an eye on things. (Jay's a helpful guy to have around. On Friday, after he noticed that Platform 5 had lost its shade, he arranged to have it moved under some trees. If someone decided to tune up close to a platform—his student or not—he would notify the steward who'd take care of it.) I struck in, the drones were a tiny bit off—change in my pressure or the reed shifted—but I knew that this was going to be the least of my worries so I opted to proceed anyway. Sure, I know, it probably cost me a couple points. My fingering wasn't as clean as I'd like for some of the low hand embellishments, but I stayed on the tune, didn't hit any wrong notes, blew steady and maintained an even tempo.

John Wilson writing comments for a piper a little while after my performance.

After I played, we sought out Paul and discovered he had already started his piobaireachd. He played nicely, but didn't place.

Jay Salter contemplatively listens on as his student Paul Lewellyn performs his piobaireachd for judge Hal Senyk during the playoffs at Pleasanton.

Paul, Jay and I wandered around the games for a while, it had to be in the 90s. Jay kept running into people he's known in his over 35 years of piping. Aside from me running into people I know pretty well from the games, I had a couple of people I hadn't met before come up and introduce themselves, having seen this website. I have to admit that it's kind of fun when that happens. Our little group did a little shopping while waiting for the score sheets and listened to the Silver Thistle Pipe Band warming up. Nice sounding band.

Here's what was on my 2/4 March WUSPBA Adjudication Sheet:

Contest Site: Pleasanton, Date: 9/5, Name: Andrew Lenz,
WUSPBA Registration Number: [blank], Grade: IV, Event: 2/4 March [circled] Playoff
Tune: Siege of Delhi

[In the upper left corner of the comment area is a hand-sketched grid of two columns of four rows—representing a part and its repeat—each cell has a check mark in it.]

Good uptake on to March.—
You need to 'balance' the
phrasing a bit more by
ensuring that you don't

clip the short notes between
the beats in the march.

The phrasing at the moment is
a bit stilted because you
are not maintaining a steady
balance between the strong
pulses. Don't rush towards
the next beat.

Technically sharpen up on your
delivery of the grips on 'C',
+ birls + 'C' doublings.

[Written to the left diagonally almost as an afterthought:]
Chanter pitch a shade 'dull' flat.
Drone not quite in tune.

Points Awarded: 54

Judge's Signature: <John Wilson>

Good news and bad news. I found out that my 54 was tied for last, but there were some scores of 56, 58, 61, etc. with the top score of 70, so I was at least in the mix. It wasn't like I was 10 points less than the next best playoff competitors. I'll definitely take it, especially considering my first ever 2/4 competitive attempt was only 10 weeks ago!

The drive back to Santa Cruz with Jay was a little slow again due to Labor Day Weekend traffic, thank goodness for air conditioning!

The last competition of the year is next up, the first weekend in October at the Loch Lomond Games. I'd like to win at least one gold medal in piobaireachd this year! Work to do with Jay.

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