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Andrew's Competition #6 - August 4, 2001
Sigh. It's almost embarrassing to type up these things.
My sixth competition was at the Monterey Games on Saturday, August 4, 2001. Eric Seib (fellow member of Santa Cruz Pipes & Drums) and I drove down and arrived at Toro Park south of Salinas at about 8:10 a.m. He was scheduled to play in the Slow March at 8:45 or so, and I was to play at 9:06. Weather was decent: overcast, no breeze, though it got hot later when the fog burned off, so spectators were packed under the shade of trees.
We warmed up and Nancy Fredrick (who was competing in Grade III Piobaireachd for the first time) tuned me a few minutes before my performance. The chanter reed was closing up a bit, with hindsight, I should have pinched the sides of the reed, but it was a tough call, the reed was new—only a couple weeks old—and if I opened it up more, then the top hand would have been more likely to cut out, which was the other problem I was having with the reed as I've been breaking it in. My hands were cold and stiff, perhaps I should have dug out those chemical hand warmers out of my pipe case. Probably would have helped getting my fingers up off the chanter holes.
I didn't feel super nervous—more anxious—this is my third year of doing this after all. The slow march went marginally ok, I was trying to hold the dotted notes for more expression as Jay Salter, my instructor, had rightfully suggested, but I overdid it and lost the "groove" right off the bat. The chanter did cut out once as I feared it might.
Contest Site: Toto Pk #4, Date: 8/04/01, Name: Andrew Lenz Jr.
<from the comment area:>
1st — Timing not solid from the start
2nd — Bottom hand movements not clean—grips
Take a look at your chanter—needs a bit more UMPH!
Points Awarded: 66
Judge's Signature: <Scott MacDonald>
Regarding the chanter, I'm supposing that having all the holes were taped up from D affected the "umph." High A, certainly was pretty quiet. However, the judge for the piobaireachd made no such chanter comments.
My next event was my piobaireachd at 10:46. Eric played at the time I was tuning up and Nancy was scheduled to play at about the same time I was so I wasn't about to ask her to help me retune. As it turned out she probably could have since she ended up playing quite a bit later. My fingers were feeling more limber and I spent part of my warm up time playing relatively slow and even taorluaths, not that it helped much apparently!
I played the tune and expression felt good, but I started losing air around my mouthpiece about halfway through the tune. Again. Very, very frustrating. As a result, the drones were a bit off at the end and messed up my execution a bit, I suspect. Hard to let things flow when you're concentrating on keeping your bag inflated, but I got through the tune. There were two instances of the E (or F, can't remember) almost cutting out, but still sounded. The judge considered these chokes. The chanter cut out fully once. On the sheet he made it sound like chokes were constant and catastophic, but they weren't.
At the end, the judge called me over in a friendly manner, smiled and said, "A judge once wrote on my sheet, 'nice lip noises.' I won't write that your sheet, but you need to bulk up—eat some potatoes. Nice tune." He wasn't speaking about my physique, as I could stand to lose about 5-10 pounds!
It's a drag to feel very confident with a tune and, for whatever reason, have things go awry.
Here's what was on my Piobaireachd Adjudication Sheet:
Contest Site: Toro Pk #4 Date: 8/4/01, Name: Andrew Lenz
<from the comment area:>
Blowing — slight choke in the 1st line. Need to work on endurance as the chokes grew more frequent & serious towards the end of the ground.
Spend a bit more time on final tuning — drones not quite in at start & drifted further out.
Good music. Some very nice expression which would be helped by more consistent execution (basic movements, especially the numerous taorluaths in this tune).
Keep up the good work.
Points Awarded: 60
Judge's Signature: <R. Boyd>
We had a practice piobaireachd competition earlier in the week before band and Jay also "graded" me at my lesson the night before the competition on my slow march. My judging sheets echoed his notes with regard to embellishments. Not consistent, occasionally crashing. Expression good.
So where do we go from here? The easy answer is Pleasanton. But that's not what I meant. More work on fundamentals. Getting the embellishments consistent and even, maybe working with a metronome on those as well as the slow march. That and remembering to use a light grip as my wrists have been mildly bothering me for a few weeks.
On the bright side, my scores have been going up. At this rate, I should be up to 100 points in about 2005-6. I hope it's a lot sooner.
[Much later note: Comparing scores from event to event is pointless as each judge uses his or her own scale for points. A "60" could easily be a better performance than a "70" from another judge, for instance.]