Good Advice from MacStig on Playing in Arena 1

By MacStig

‘They seek him here, they seek him there, those pipers seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven or is he in hell, the elusive pipe band pimpernel?’ 

The MacStig algorithm and spreadsheet stack is more complex than the Cameronian Rant. I’m trying to keep tabs on who is where and when this hectic week. I have been a moving target all week, dipping in and out of practices around Glasgow and beyond. The other MacStigs have been doing the same thing. Quartets, bands in George Square, Drumming for Drinks, the Concert, et al, and it’s only mid-week.

In Stirling, close to the newer Stirling Bridge (the original would have been made of timber) and in the nearby university accommodation, both G2 Worcester Kiltie from New England and City of Dunedin (Florida) are preparing for their date at the Green. Also tucked away in another block of apartments Colum Cille (G4) from Cape Cod.

With the G2 Qualifiers being a Medley, I had a chance to listen to them on a sunnier day than we have witnessed for weeks. Worcester are fresh in from the Glengarry Games (Maxville) and winning the G2 Medley. City of Dunedin, under P/M Donaldson and lead tip MacNeill arrived over the weekend and into Monday, some taking in Bridge of Allan Games. The latter drum line switched to Premier this season and using the new Andante heads. Nice sound. They play towards the end of the list in Qualifier 1 at 11.59am. Worcester are on second in Qualifier 2 at 12.09pm. Practices going well and both bands enjoying their time in Scotland.

Over in the west end of Glasgow, and at another university accommodation, St Thomas Alumni from Texas, seem to have dried out well from both soakings at North Berwick and Bridge of Allan. They too are on new Premier snares. Practice was drilled and it’s another neat Medley to listen too. They step forth as the first band on at high noon, in Qualifier 2. More about the other G2 bands in due course.


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The excellent news confirming my analysis that the G2 Final could be facilitated in Arena 1 has been met with excitement by all three of the above, given the attraction of reaching the final and having it beamed live back to their many friends, families and followers back in the USA. The time zones mean the Texans will be tuning in for the final at 9.30am their time, and the East Coasters at 10.30am. I’m sure there will be hastily arranged breakfasts, gatherings and big screen watching over in North America. Burritos all round. The Aussies supporting Pipe Band Club and St Andrews will be up late into the night given their eastern direction.

I also got to hear MacMillan in George Square, under P/M Donlon, no stranger to the Highland solo circuit, and they seem to be settling in well to the Glasgow surroundings and atmospheric conditions.

As for the Final, getting through a Medley qualifier to play a drawn-at-the-line MSR set in front of the Arena 1 spectators and a global streaming audience, must make this even more attractive. Three things you will learn if you make it to a coveted place in the final and Arena 1. The uncouth refer to the march from Final Tuning to the Line as sphincter alley. As in, if you don’t know what a sphincter is beforehand, you will when you walk down the alley, worrying about which MSR your P/M will draw.

Second, Arena 1 has its own micro-climate being sheltered on two sides by stands, and a hospitality tent to boot. It has a swirling wind, most likely hitting the drum line in the back. Third, the televising and broadcasting means there is a massive amount of technical kit around, including microphones everywhere (mind the language)  plus a boom camera and cameraman wandering around. Do not get distracted by it – you are in the movie, not making it. One big final warning – don’t look at the ‘big screen’ as there is a time delay of a couple of seconds, and it looks like you are out of synch.

Many newbies to the arena have fallen for the ‘fly to blue light’ attraction of the screen and lost the plot.  And remember, after you get off the hallowed turf via the tunnel, the cameras are still on you, and Mr Worrall might even be saying nice things about tunes, drones and tenor voicing – so congratulate each other, smile and mind the language. Even if there was an early E, trailing drone, dropped stick, burst skin or worse. It’s the Worlds, you are in Arena 1, and beaming live to the world!