I have diminishing confidence that there willl be a ‘normal’ pipe band season in 2022. If I accept that the reasons for this year’s wipe out were social distancing, masks, money, foreign travel then, I become even more sceptical.
The UK government has indicated that, despite the easing of lockdown, ‘baseline’ measures such as masks and distancing will stay for another year. Foreign travellers coming here will be subjected to restrictions for at least as long. All the talk is of a third wave next winter or earlier.
And that’s the UK government. As piper and saxophonist Fraser Fifield indicated yesterday on social media, Scotland is even more stringent.
Venues in England are due to open next month with one metre social distancing in place. In Scotland a two metre rule for all indoor and outdoor live entertainment has been confirmed – a devastating blow to the entertainment sector.
Consider too that local authority cash which supports the five pipe band ‘majors’ will be even harder to come by 12 months hence.
And add to that the general opinion out that there that this is for the best, ‘better safe than sorry’. After all, our instrument is just one big bag of portable infection intit?, wrote one correspondent, more or less, to Piping Press. Accept that and we are doomed to silence.
The will has gone and I feel even less optimistic that the ‘greatest sound in the world’ will be heard in anger on the sad sward of Scotland any time soon. Please, someone, prove me wrong.
It is not just the bands that I fear for. Will this year’s solo contests at Oban and Inverness be stymied by ongoing travel bans and quarantine? There are rumours, I hope they are just that, that if the overseas contingent can’t attend, these contests, scheduled for late August and early September, won’t go ahead.
On a brighter note, a huge well done to tutor Anne Spalding and her kids at Ardvreck School in Crieff, Perthshire. Here they are outside having a band practice the other day:
We need to see more of this. There is no earthly reason why not.
Spotted this letter in the national press yesterday: ‘SIR – If the mastery of the Highland bagpipe demonstrated by Colour Sergeant Peter Grant on the occasion of the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh is at one end of the scale, then I am at the other.
‘For reasons I still cannot fathom, I decided to spend lockdown learning how to play this instrument. Equipped with a chanter, some teaching materials from my local Boys’ Brigade pipe band and a patient, highly competent tutor, I began in March last year.
‘Despite the protests of howling dogs, and the cruel remarks of a household who compared the noises generated to those of an elephant in distress, I have persevered. On the chanter I have six tunes tucked under my sporran, but with a failure to grasp the breathing technique on the pipes themselves, I press on.
‘I am glad of my decision: learning the bagpipes has been an antidote to lockdown fatigue and mental health issues – and has proved a great help with social distancing. Dr Clifford Smyth, Belfast.’
Kevin McLean of the Simon Fraser band in Vancouver: ‘I just thought I’d let you know about a new video and recording the band has just put out [above]. The tune is Elliot Finn MacDonald and it was written by Finlay MacDonald. Our setting was arranged by Alastair Lee.