Single-parent piping

Last week my wife had to go out of town on an eight-day business trip so I was looking after our five-year-old-daughter, Annabel, on my own. Neither of us are from Toronto, or even Canada, so the nearest relative is about 600 miles away.

I’ve been a temporary single-parent before and of course my wife has many times. But this time for some reason really made me realize that participation in piping and pipe bands are simply not feasible for single parents of young children. That might explain why there are so many families involved in the pipe band scene, at least in North America, and why so many marriages are strained when one spouse goes off to play in practices and contests and concerts while the other looks after the kids.

I can’t think of an instance of a single-parent involved in the pipe band scene whose son or daughter is not also directly involved. I’m sure it exists, but it must be extremely rare and, if you’re out there, full credit to you for being able to juggle your hobby and passion while also being a good parent.


This Mortal Coil

Pat Hayes‘s sad, untimely and unfair death can’t help but make one pause for reflection about how fragile life is for us all. Having last seen him only a month ago in Glasgow, he was his usual energetic, strong and positive self. I will always remember his firm handshake, his stentorian voice, and his love of piping. My heart pours out to Andrew and the whole Hayes family: good piping people.

It’s hard on the bigger piping community to lose such a contributor. Anyone who finds time to organize events and lead groups like Pat did so willingly is invaluable. I always recognized his efforts, and always let him know that they didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.

I was also always impressed by Pat’s support of his son, Andrew, in all things piping. Ever since I’ve known Andrew as a 13-year-old amateur piper (his Cardinals cap catching my eye at Georgetown games c.1990), Pat was omnipresent at contests that he competed in. He often seemed directly linked to the success and failures of his talented son. It’s great to see a parent come out to support a son or daughter. Until my daughter was born I never fully appreciated that or completely understood what my own father was up to when he tagged along to contests that I played in.

As a prominent piper wrote to me last week before Pat died: “he’s one of the good guys.” Here’s to fathers and mothers supporting sons and daughters, and to everyone in the piping and drumming family supporting each other.


A decade

Haven’t posted an entry in a number of days due to . . . a combination of forgetting and sloth. Inverne — I mean, Aviemore is done and dusted and well done to Donald MacPhee on his win. A very fine player who I think sometimes does not get as many prizes as he might deserve. Then again, he has won a wheelbarrow-full of awards over the years. Anyway, well done to him and to Euan MacCrimmon.

Friday was my 10th wedding anniversary. In 1995 my wife Julie and I got married at in Edinburgh with lots of piping and Strip the Widdows and general bevying. We took the day off on the 9th to celebrate. As an example of just what a great woman Julie is, we played 18 holes of golf, even though she hadn’t played really since before our daughter, Annabel, was born. Beautiful weather in Toronto and J got around in 100. My girl can play.

Anyway, just something to get the Blogpipe re-started.


Ensemble and drumming

Many e-mails have been received from people responding to the 2004 article on ranking spreads that was reposted after the World’s. As the article discusses, the most common confusion is about two piping judges being far apart. But if input from readers is an indicator, radically different drumming and ensemble rankings are also a huge cause for concern.

There seem to be lots of cases of a band being very high up in drumming and much lower in ensemble, and vice-versa. It begs the question, what use is drumming if it doesn’t help the overall appeal of the band? If the drum section is supposed to accompany the pipe section, and if its sole purpose is to enhance the music, then why do drumming judges continually reward the technical over the complementary?

If the late Johnny Cochrane were a drumming judge, perhaps he’d remark, If the score don’t fit it, you must say “Quit it.”



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