The Queen Mary piping, drumming and band competitions finish with one of the most entertaining contests in all of piping. It’s an event held in the extraordinarily beautiful original art-deco Observation Bar at the prow of the ship. Packed with serious partiers letting loose on the final night of the weekend’s events, the competition is an anything goes thing that brings a huge dose of fun, good playing and not a small amount of complete idiocy to the February festival.
The contest has been going on for many years, and was happening well before similar things around the world that it inspired. Last night ranged from the sublime to the absurd, and the absurd won out. While Will Nichols, Micah Babinski, Steve Megarity and others combined technical brilliance with pure comedy and creativity, the piper (sorry, I don’t know his name) who copped the $350 prize, trophy and the coveted chef’s hat, played left-hand pipes while riding a unicycle. Yes, a unicycle.
The guy’s piping ability was nowhere near that of any of the other competitors, but the (mostly non-playing) judges were clearly wowed by his balancing act.
The pipers in the crowd weren’t exactly pleased with the result, but it was all in fun, and there was some serious schadenfreude going down when the one-wheeled player in his encore after accepting the award, twice went arse-over-teakettle on his unicycle, somehow managing not to smash his drones.
It didn’t matter. The Queen Mary is pure California piping: laid back, fun, creative and kind of (in a really good way) weird. Definitely a great place to break up the cold weeks of a long piping winter.
Note: it turns out that the Unipiper didn’t actually win. The judges didn’t realize until days later that they miscalculated their points. First prize went to Marshall German; second to Steve Megarity; and third to Will Nichols. The good piping gods prevailed.