Published: February 15, 2021

‘We won’t shed a tear in our glasses of beer, cuz the judges know bugger-all’

“Oh, the sound of a well-blown E, me boys, the sound of a well-blown E. A cracking attack from the drums at the back, and the sound of a well-blown E,” is the chorus of a clever song that the fun-loving Grade 2 City of Regina has sung on bus trips since the 1990s and, with the recent peculiar popularity of sea shanties, the band has put together a video to keep the troops engaged as they wait out the latest pandemic lockdown.

The release of the video comes when the band would normally be holding its Mid-Winter Ceilidh Fundraiser to help the Saskatchewan group travel great distances (often by bus) to compete across North America and occasionally Scotland.  It’s the first time in 30 years that the band hasn’t been able to stage the fundraiser.

Describing “Well-Blown E” as a song that has been a feature of post-games band trips, the lyrics were written by band members Barbara MacDonald and Barry Robinson and set to the music of Canadian songwriter Stan Rogers’s “Rolling Down to Old Maui.” Day-long bus rides across the Canadian Prairies with wheat fields as far as the eye can see, might be a bit like being adrift at sea.

“The video was a reaction to the sea shanty trend, and also a way to ‘cover off’ the festival we usually have,” said Pipe-Major Iain MacDonald. “It’s really hard to feel like a band these days, and this is a reminder to us of what it means, and we hope fun for others also.”

Any competing pipe band in the world can identify with the sentiments in “Well-Blown E.” Here are the full lyrics, courtesy of the band:

Well Blown E (lyrics by Barbara MacDonald and Barry Robinson. Sung to the melody of “Rolling Down to Old Maui,” by Stan Rogers)

It’s a damn tough life full of toil and strife
We pipers undergo.
And we don’t give a damn at the end of the day
How hard we had to blow.
Six snares in back give a thunderous attack
As we roll off the start line
The tuning was fun now there’s work to be done with a tone so bright and fine.
And the . . .

[Chorus]
Sound of a well-blown E, me boys,
The sound of a well-blown E
A cracking attack from the drums at the back
And the sound of a well-blown E.

Oh the day was fine ’til the pipe-major whined
‘Bout our lack of focus and desire.
So ticked was he at my flat-blown D
That I thought he might expire.
Six hellish hours we will pass today
Waiting for some judges’ call
But we won’t shed a tear in our glasses of beer
Cuz the judges know bugger-all
About the . . .

[Chorus]

Oh, the day was long and the band played strong
And the pipe-major seemed content.
And now the question that all of us dread —
Is it massed band or the beer tent?
Then we’re homeward bound from the contest ground
On a good bus with TV.
It’s a band weekend and we’ve money to spend
Now we’re ready for a ceilidh
And the . . .

[Chorus x 2]

For whatever reason, sea shanties have become a trend recently, with people making TikTok videos of both traditional compositions and well-known songs ranging from Drake to Nickelback arranged in the style.

City of Regina has been a staple of piping and drumming in the Canadian Prairie provinces for decades and has often come up with creative ways to engage the community and band members. They help to coordinate the Conservatory of Performing Arts youth pipe band teaching project in the Regina community.

MacDonald is a frequent contributor to pipes|drums, and was voted one of the 15 Greatest Living Canadian Pipers & Drummers by a 2017 pipes|drums expert panel for his more than 50 years of commitment to the art.

“We have been meeting on Zoom most weeks and have learned a new MSR and are currently working on the project to learn one of Inveraray & Districts’s classic medleys,” MacDonald added. “We had Jack Lee and Reid Maxwell come to help us with the MSR and we’ve engaged Stuart Liddell and Steven McWhirter to help us with the IDPB medley. It’s for sure not ideal, but my sense is that members have enjoyed connecting and playing new music for an hour or so each week. My hope is that it sustains us until we can get back on the bus.”

 


Related

Happier Father’s Day with surprise City of Regina tunes
June 11, 2020


Canada 150: the 15 Greatest Living Canadian Pipers & Drummers
July 1, 2017

 

 

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