Beechworth Celtic Festival 2018

The Featured Image was taken by Lynn Buck at the Tattoo.

One of the bigger events on our calendar is the Beechworth Celtic Festival – big day of performances that has for the last two years culminated in a Tattoo. The run through from my perspective is always a solid hit out.

We started at 10am – full band ready to go (more or less) and tuned the pipes.

The magic of the tuning practice. Photo by Erin Smith (nee Allenby).

A brief rest and then another tune of everything, and we were off for our first performance at the market area near the big rock. A crowd was already there waiting, and it built quite satisfyingly as we played. Beautiful conditions too – sunny but not too hot and the pipes were fairly well behaved. As the Pipe Major you’re always worried about big sound changes as things warm up or band members get nervous out in front of the crowd. Fortunately we did not have any issues like this and after a solid set, headed out at the march through the market where we broke off.

With half an hour to our next performance I wanted a quiet spot to check sound etc and we found one nearby. Several big issues had to be addressed as pipes that had warmed up were not behaving themselves. A 15 minute tuning session and we were back on track. We trotted down then and performed in the Town Hall garden which is a lovely setting.

Photo by Phil Smailes. AWPD Bass Drummer Neil watching the PM

There were very few people here but again, a crowd built around us as we played. Gratifyingly (after so much work) one tune in particular – The Atholl and Breadalbane Gathering was possibly the best we’ve ever played it. As the Pipe Major you really hold out for these moments. Often it can be a frustrating and great effort to get new music into the band and played well. Thankfully this is a tune that has stuck and the team did a great job with it. It was another solid performance and then on to get drinks and get ready for the massed bands at the Police Paddocks. By this time, the warmth of the day was definitely dehydrating and I was experiencing some tiredness already. I find a lot of emotional energy has to go into the band when one is out the front and I had started the day tired.

Massed bands were very brief and I think, given the size of the crowd, we could have punched out a few more tunes. Under the circumstances of tight timelines, building warmth and the tattoo practice/performance still to complete I was glad for a short play out. It was nice too to catch up with other band members who had just arrived. Our third performance completed and it was time for a break, then practice for the tattoo.

During the break, my 2IC and I sorted out our camp at Lake Sambell Caravan park. It’s a very nice park and was chock full of super expensive caravans and 4WDs. There was probably $10 million worth of gear there. Back to the Old Gaol for the practise and we endured three hours in and out of the sun, playing/marching/fixing/re-doing…. in short, all the fun stuff one does prior to a performance. We had finished by 5:30 – well roasted I must say (should have brought a hat…. note for next year!) and had a bit of a spell. The local rotary put on a BBQ for us and I thank them – the burgers were excellent indeed (I had 3!) and the canned local spring water (canned!) was also very nice. As a side note, it’s the impurities in water that give it it’s flavour pure H2O has no taste at all!

The members of all bands came together for a massed tuning of pipes and a final run through of some of the trickier sets – hammering things together into some sort of unison. And we were off for the start of the Tattoo! We charged in with much pomp and circumstance (see the Featured Image for a view of the massed bands) and I was very proud of the way we all acquitted ourselves. An error or two here and there, but otherwise a great effort. Two hours later we stepped back out for the finale. I have to admit that while standing at attention listening to the Evening Hymn, Advance Australia Fair, and Abide with Me I started to have mild back spasms which were painful but fortunately brief. The rendition of Hector the Hero was lovely and I was very glad to get started again with the final tunes Scotland the Brave and The Black Bear (very traditional tunes indeed!) and we were out.

We finally got back to camp and started to wind down around 10PM I guess and the temperature in the night dropped precipitously. I ended up wrapped in my coat and a blanket trying to keep warm while yawning hugely. Carl and I crashed around 11:30.

According to my Apple Watch I had 16/12 Stand hours and walked 11.51 km (around 15,000 steps). Last year I had 15/12 Stand hours and walked 12.41 km (almost 16,000 steps). The difference was driving to and from camp! We walked last year (several times) and it just about killed us. I don’t average many steps per day (6000 to 7000) so doing many steps plus piping all day smashed me (and everyone else I imagine). It was a very enjoyable experience and I hope everyone had a good time. I’ve made a few notes on what we could do better for next year (if I’m the P/M again) or to pass onto the new leader.

Thanks to Chris Earl and the Beechworth Celtic Festival organising committee – they did a great job with it all and a big thanks to all the members of AWPD who were there or who supported the band during this huge day.


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