Sunday, January 18, 2009

Winter Storm 2009: The Pipes Come to KC

For a few days, Kansas City, or at least a part of it, was transformed into the Highlands of Scotland. It was Winter Storm 2009, the annual highland bagpipe and drum competition and festival. Some of the most phenomenal pipers and drummers (dancers too) from around the world converge to compete and then demonstrate their rare talent to a huge, enthusiastic crowd.

I tried to play the bagpipes one time in my life, still have my practice chanter and could get a tune out of it. That was not the hard part. The trick is getting the maze of pipes and bags to produce a recognizable tone, not a huge bleating fart. If that were the case, I'd be a champion.

Suffice to say the pipers and drummers here were world class; 8 gold medal pipers, 11 champion drummers and the winners of the 2009 competition turned the austere Community Christian Church (a Frank Lloyd Wright design) in to a wee bit of Scotland.

I had never heard such incredible playing. This was far and above "Amazing Grace" (thankfully not heard), it was like having Callas, Sills, Caballé, Domingo and Pavarotti on stage along with the newest talented singers just singing for the hell of it. Fred Morrison, equally adept on the small or lowland pipes, Irish uillean pipes and whistle, brought the house down with his bravura display on the small pipes, "a bit of Jimmy Hendrix on the pipes," as he described his performance.

Equally impressive were the snare, tenor and bass drummers. The tenor drummers impressed with the acrobatic twirls of their sticks, visually as well as aurally stunning.

The finale with the massed champions and newly crowned winners created a wall of sound and pageantry that resonated long after the show ended.

The ranks of the pipers and drummers and even the audience were filled with younger folks, boding well for the future of this ancient instrument and its colorful history and traditions

No comments: