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The sheepskin is soaked!

It's been a huge weekend of bagpiping and I'm almost out of hot air.

At the inaugural Ipswich Piping and Drumming Solo Championships, following a mountain of running around as part of the organising team, I played for 11 drummers performances - including multiple pre-contest runs. Particular congratulations to Carlie for winning both D and C grade bass!

I also watched on as our Greater Ipswich College of Piping (GICOPAD) students took their first steps into competitive piping and drumming, with a big shout out to Hamish (1st) and Euan (2nd) in the learner chanter and Jackson (3rd) and Abbey in the learner snare - you guys have worked so hard to get to this point - very proud! As a side note, if you know any young ones of any age looking to try out pipes, snare or tenor please contact me. 

I also managed to find time for my own solos - finally, playing without a drummer to distract me! My MSR consisted of Colonel Maclean of Ardgour, Pipe Major Hector Maclean, and Alec C McGregor (just need to change the reel and I'll have my own Maclean Highland Gathering 😂 sorry, terrible joke). My hornpipe/jig set included Rhonda Blair and Bob Worrall's James Drew McIntosh. I was very happy with the tone and balance of my 1920 McRae bagpipes. The drones came up to pitch within half a part of a warm up air and stayed locked nicely with a mix of cane bass and Canning tenors, while my wooden Sinclair and Chesney reed had very minimal tape. The extra moisture around this time of year certainly helped, along with the cooler night time playing compared to the hot afternoon. 

Playing wise I was happy with the control and expression I got from the tunes, although a few inconsistencies with some movements need work. Overall I came away with 2 2nds which I was stoked with for A Grade. Maybe I've finally made it in with the big boys?

Sunday got even bigger, with almost 100 performances of Floras, Lilts, Flings and Jigs. I've done a little bit of dancing piping in the past but was quite pleased to be able to set a tempo the judges liked straight up, and maintain it with solid concentration through the day. I found it important to have reference material with tempos along with a metronome available before each dance set to get a good reference, although a good understanding of the nature of the dance helped me to play for the dancers - I got some good comments of my Caledonian Society of London Fling, with one dancing teacher preferring it to Gordon Walker (I think she was trying to entice me to play for her dancers in the future).

By the end of the weekend my pipes were soaked. While my preference for dancing would have been just to use a Ross bag with moisture control system I took the opportunity to get some time onto my sheepskin before the NZ season. However I switched between sets, and let the sheepskin air between sets which helped.

I would say it's time for a day off, but the spark is still alive and practice goes on... next up, Square Day in (hopefully) sunny Palmerston North, New Zealand with the Mighty Tu!

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