Sunday, February 6, 2011

Stepping out of your comfort zone

Or… how I played with the Symphony one day.

You know in all the time I played with the band I had never done anything ‘like this’ before.  Sure, my first day ever playing with the band at a gig we played Mull of Kintyre with the Diamonds in the Rough, but that wasn’t so hard.  And we did play with the symphony at another point in time when we played for the McCartney night.  But again, that was just Mull of Kintyre, and we spent some time ensuring we could reach the pitch.  (bit of music/math geek… typical Concert Pitch is a low = 440Hz.  Pipebands tune their “A”, which is really a B flat, at 480Hz.  In order for us to match, A=440Hz means B flat would tune for “A” at 466Hz – which means quite low for us).

This however was a bit more of a stretch – not only was I pitching differently but I was given a bunch of ‘scores’ to learn for it.  “SCORES”?  Pipers don’t have scores.  We have a rudimentary sheet music notation we follow and that’s about it.  Really it’s only 9 notes, and there’s only us and drums and they have their own notation to follow, so reading music for me hasn’t really ever been ‘difficult’ … until now.

Kam Valley FiddlersPierre Schryer had contacted me some time back as the ‘recommendation’ from Dylan for somebody that could play well together with others.  He at first gave me a list of the tunes to play and I did my own research, then as it turned out, there were actual scores to learn.  I did my best to figure them out – but I’m no real musician.  But I got close.

The real shock tho’ was learning we were going to play MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart.  Hrmm… wait, that’s a PIOBAIREACHD!!  I hadn’t played piob’d in years.  And even then I had a basic ‘rudimentary’ understanding of what to do.  The biggest issue was taht I couldn’t just read the sheet and know how to play.  In piob’d you need to be ‘shown’ or sung to for it to make any sense.  So I went to my local resource – Bill Peters – to see if he could help shed some light.  In my research I also used him and a youtube video as my basis of what to do for this tune.

wait… 10 minutes of playing????

So, that’s what I had to work with to figure out what to do.  Then it turns out there’s another score for that.  Well… I had one setting, I was going to go with what I “knew” or at least knew I could learn.

The day of the 1st rehearsal came and after some ironing out the medley set.  Not a major worry there.  We never got time to practice the piob’d.  Hrmm… But did sit down with the conductor for about 10 minutes to go over it on the practice chanter.  Second day we went to it first and got maybe 4 bars into it when Pierre made the appropriate choice to say “Ryan, just play it solo".  *Phew* Okay, I didn’t have to worry about playing it ‘symphony style’ – when really all I knew was the piob’d style.  But playing a piob’d by myself brought it’s own case of nerves.

I’ve competed dozens of times.  Look on the blog space – I have them all listed out.  But I had never been so … nervous about this playing.  I live tweeted the crap out of the night.  I felt so weird… like I was some diva, requesting special treatment; and really I was only playing like 2 sets.  I felt like everybody else automatically just ‘plugged in’ where I need special ‘handling’.  I even got my own special room (even tho’ i know it was because they needed someplace that was remote enough that my tuning wouldn’t affect them).

To compound to my nerves, the medley set had dancers dancing as well, so I wanted to ensure that it was up to speed – then for the piob’d I would do some little introduction on the tune and what is piob’d.

All in all – it was a great experience.  Despite some of the difficulties it was really worth it.  Gave me the incentive to practice as much as I could.  Who knows I might even give piob’d another shot when I compete (if I compete this year, and I REALLY want to).