Friday, January 18, 2008

A Close Run Thing. A Damn Close Run Thing.

Not as earth-shaking as Waterloo. But it was a fresh appreciation of the perils of playing a bagpipe.

I piped a funeral this morning and the chanter reed died the death. It wasn't it's usual resonant self at the church but I blamed today's humidity. . .or lack thereof. And there were some unaccountable chokes. Yup. Too dry. Moistened the reed a bit and carried on.

At the graveside it was obviously more than low humidity. I had to squeeze the reed open to play the second-to-last tune. The final tune was "Going Home". I walked away while playing it -- the only way you can do a diminuendo on the pipes: no volume control. Three or four bars from the end the reed shuffled off its mortal coil and joined the heavenly pipe band invisible. Just quit playing. Not a note, a squeek, or a chirp. It was far enough away from the congregation and close enough to the end that I think it sounded intentional. The family thanked me and seemed pleased. But it did make the palms of my hands sweat.

Thousands of hours of practice, outrageously expensive highland dress, a quality pipe and yet it all comes down to less than a square inch of arundo donax; if that quits you might as well have stayed home.

The sun was thankfully over the yardarm and I had a beer with lunch.