Bagpipes – you either love them or you hate them, I’ve never met a single person out there who sits on the fence when it comes to these divisive instruments.
As a Scot, my inner patriot stirs every time I hear a piper, but after my latest Give it a Go Girl I’m pretty sure I’ve destroyed the iconic instrument’s reputation.
The Celtic Pipe Band Nelson have been together for 10 years and this weekend are hosting the 2017 New Zealand and South Pacific Pipe Band Championships at Trafalgar Park.
So I popped along to give it a go and see the masters at work, ahead of their national competition.
Pipe bands are made up of four instruments, the classic bagpipe, snare drum, tenor drum and bass drum, and in my complete naivety I thought I would be able to play any of them to a certain degree.
As soon as I walked into the Stoke School Hall where the Celtic Pipe Band Nelson practice each week, I was assigned to Leah McConnon, a 10-year old tenor drummer, and Johan Banks, a 14-year old piper.
Why is it that doing Give it a Go Girl I always get shown up by people younger than me?
I followed Leah, who was all smiles, over to the back corner where the drums were and got a tenor drum strapped onto me.
I was keen to get some drumsticks and get into it, but what she brought out were not your standard drumsticks.
They looked like hybrid poi-drumsticks and as Leah spun them around while simultaneously banging out a rhythm on her drum, I knew it would be as hard as patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time.
My eyebrows came together and my concentration face was out, and what ensued was a very little amount of successful mallet- spinning and not a lot of control.
Windmills, flourishes, rosettes, wheels, and flats all went completely over my head. Even just the simple task of copying Leah and keeping a rhythm was too challenging.
I then went and joined Johan and his bagpipe, I was hoping that my Scottish heritage would help me out, but after the ordeal I don’t think I can ever wear tartan again.
To play a bagpipe, you have to inflate the bag with the lungs of the big bad wolf. Then you have to blow into the blowpipe while squeezing the bag with the inside of your arm to keep a continuous sound and use your fingers to produce different notes on the chanter.
Despite being perfectly healthy, my little lungs have the strength of a chain-smoking asthmatic, which meant that while I could blow up the bladder, I couldn’t produce enough pressure to push the air out through the chanter, otherwise known as the melody pipe.
Because the air didn’t reach the chanter, all that came out when I finally managed to make some sound were terrible, inconsistent, groaning noises.
I could’ve made any bagpipe lover cover their ears and contort their face in disgust, in fact the words ‘that actually hurts’ may have been used by a bystander.
Everyone, including myself, was in fits of laughter with each terrible sound that floated out of the pipes.
After that, everyone was given earplugs. I really wish I was kidding at this point but, unfortunately, that’s how bad I was, even Johan only gave me a two out of ten for my efforts.
I have decided that although I still love bagpipes, for the sake of everyone around, I will never play them again.
The pipe band champs at Trafalgar Park are on March 10 and 11. Entry is $10 and children are free.