Thursday’s announcement about the GWoS Indoor Solos and Full Band competition caused a bit of a stunned silence. Be there for 1pm, this is unheard of. Pipe band competitions involve early mornings after sleepless worried nights and a possible hair of the dog, character building stuff! This early afternoon jaunt up the M8 in the crisp April sunshine I could get used to.
I, like many of my bandmates, had a vague notion of where Coatbridge High School is; Coatbridge is a given but where do they educate the little darlings? Fortunately the van of Washing Machine Repair Man flew past me on the Kingston Bridge and I dropped into his slipstream along with the Birler and was drawn to the venue. It’s a nice school, and if the paintings on the walls were done by the students, full of talented weans.
Now let me tell you a sad story. By dint of reviewing a huge selection of real ales at the Paisley Beer Festival the night before I was in no position to exert any sort of pressure on a bagpipe with any assurance of safety, so I excused myself (again) and volunteered as Drones Guy and since the Medic was busy elsewhere Photo Guy as well. Being the Drone Guy isn’t all eating Isy’s Aunties sandwiches and drinking tea, there is some actual work to be done and since we were there far too early it was being done slowly. After being abused by Big Stewart for not playing I set to work twisting and listening and metering and whatnot, trying to be a really useful bandsman. All too soon the time approaches when we realise we have no idea where the performance hall is, the setup of the band during said performance and how to leave the hall after. I was nominated Finding Stuff Out Guy and left at a brisk walk to gather the info. I found the hall, witnessed the withdrawal of Kilsyth Thistle, noted the 2 raised platforms but totally failed to see the secret entrance by stage right and by the time I got back the band was on the move and had decided to wing it and play concert style, which as it happens was what was desired. As the day went on I noticed that every band did it differently. Brian led the pipers on in single file and the drummers clambered onto the raised platform. The hall was big, a huge high ceiling so we should get an awesome sound and as the guys got into position a voice behind me muttered, “this’ll be good, 4 tenors and 6 sides in a 4B band, sakes!” Brian turned to acknowledge the judges, “Band! 1 2!” and the guys gave it the beans.
Back at the classroom it’s tea and sandwiches time before Brian and Neil do voodoo on the chanter reeds and Drone Guy does his drone stuff. Because we are last on we miss all the other bands but the Grade 2 competition starts as soon as we’re off and Johnstone are first on. They seem to be marching out forever, this is a huge band, there are 2 crescents of pipers with side drummers on the raised platform and the bass section above and behind them. They fill the performance area. Johnstone treated the hall to a wonderful concert and the tenor drummers white beaters against the black backdrop is mesmerising. Outside I bumped into Craig Lawrie who thought he’d be lucky to get a 3rd in the solo drumming but actually won, that’s his second this year. He’s going to need a bigger mantlepiece at this rate. Some of our guys waited to see the Grade 1 bands but I had a prior engagement and proved to my wife I’m not a total diddy by getting us home from Coatbridge without a satnav or white van to follow .
We are working hard for the first of the outdoor competitions of the 2015 season. Gourock beckons with fearful tales of rain and cold.