January 13, 2005
Greetings, and Happy New Year. The holidays are over. Today is the first day of classes for 2005 on the Lyon campus.
We started out 2005 on a good foot. Although a sizeable portion of the band was gone on break, we fielded six pipers and played in Jonesboro on the evening of January 4th. We started out playing at a reception sponsored by Admissions and Alumni. It was held in the Convocation Center on the Arkansas State University campus. Attendance for the reception was pushing close to 200, and they really seemed to enjoy having us. We marched down the hallway playing, and into the conference room. We wound our way through the crowd around the buffet tables, formed up at the far end of the room and did a few tunes. We then enjoyed a tasty repast that included mixed veggies, cheese, crackers, and little meatballs. And much punch.
Following the reception, we had been invited to perform at halftime for the basketball game between ASU and our own Fighting Scots. The Scots did a pretty fair job of it out there this year playing against an NCAA Division I school, and we enjoyed our portion of the game immensely. Jim led us out to center court, we performed a few tunes, and then marched off to a standing ovation from a crowd of about 4,000. Here's a lovely photo taken by Grey's mom. We looked awesome on the Jumbotron.
Left to Right: Sergei Kuzin, Fred Bowers, Kenton Adler, PM Jimmy Bell, Grey Abernathy, Danny Vaughn
The four of us who had driven over from Batesville together (Grey and Danny both live in or near Jonesboro) stopped at Village Inn on the way home and had a cup of tea. As we were leaving, several people stopped us and told us they had seen us at the game and told us how great we sounded and such. A most pleasant evening all around. We talked considerably on the drive back about the show we want to design for the future, and some good ideas were kicked around.
Jim and I retrieved The Remarkable Mr. Dean from the airport in Little Rock on the evening of the 10th. We enjoyed a bite of dinner and conversation on the way back, discussing what is in store for the band this spring and into next year. We also listened to some recordings of Jim playing with various drone reed, and chanter combinations as he prepares for next month's Metro cup in New Jersey.
One of the most important things that has happened so far this year (yeah, already) is that the Arkansas Scottish Festival has been selected as a qualifier for the United States Piping Foundation Championship. This will attract top-notch Open and Grade I Amateur players from all over, as they attempt to qualify for that prestigious contest. We are planning to make our event a high-quality affair that will be a premier contest in its own right in coming years.
We have had an influx of drumming students over the last month. Local lads, Frankie and Will Boehm, have come onboard and could potentially be with us for the next eight years, and Curtis Farley from Jonesboro has been accepted to Lyon for Fall of 2005 and has begun coming to band practice to get the material off so he can compete with us this summer, and be ready for when school starts next fall. With their addition to Travis Wheeler, and Allyn Dodd, we expect to have a very strong drum corp in the future. We also have a large number of excellent pipers who are in various stages of application. By all appearances we have the makings of a smart, big, high-powered band lined up and expect continued great things.
Jim, Tristen, and I are off tomorrow on a trip to Kansas City (where the forecast high for Friday is ten degrees) for the Midland Highland Arts Festival. Some good piping, a little hobnobbing, and spreading the gospel according to Lyon Pipe Band. See you when we get back.
For the band,
January 19, 2005
You know it never seems to slow down here in the Pipe Band. We are always going somewhere or doing something across Arkansas or the region. I thought it was going to be a nice two week respite from traveling, but then again I was wrong. As soon as I returned from holiday we were off and running.
This past weekend we (Kenton, Jimmy, and myself) sojourned to the great state of Missouri (known as Missoura to the more genteel folks) to attend the Winter Storm workshops and concert held at the Marriott in Kansas City.
The drive across Northern Arkansas is one of the more scenic areas of the country. I drove the same route when I came to the great state of Arkansas in the summer of '03; back then it was so lush and green that you couldn't see through the thicket, now it is barren, drab, but still beautiful. We saw a lot of wildlife on the way there. We couldn't go a couple miles without seeing a red-tailed hawk, or kestrel. I had never seen that many raptors along the road ever. There must be a lot of food out there or else we wouldn't have seen so many birds of prey. I love driving twisty, turny roads like the ones in Northern Arkansas, but alas Jimmy was at the helm and I in the back seat. As we passed Cabool, Missouri (not the dangerous Khabul) we looked for another sort of critter: the Amish. We saw lots of horse droppings indicating carriages had recently passed by; Kenton told me to get out and feel the droppings for warmth, to determine how long it had been since they passed, but as the say in the South: "Momma didn't raise no fool."
It was pretty cold in KC when we got there and it stayed about ten degrees for the whole duration of our stay. Luckily we had warm accommodations at the ever comfy and classy Marriot. The next day we awoke bright and early for the seminars and workshops. Par to none it was a great experience; it's not very often that you get as many Gold medalists such as Stuart Liddell, Mike Cusack, Alasdair Ghillies, Willie McCallum, John Cairns, Andrew Wright, and Jack Lee together. I walked away with a lot of knowledge to digest over the coming weeks. Jimmy sat in on the piobaireachd seminars, hosted by the meek Andrew Wright. I particularly enjoyed his canntaireachd and analogies. He is quite knowledgeable and very approachable. Kenton opted for a nice weekend off from piping. Instead of going to the seminars he stayed in the room and worked on tunes on the Deger pipe, attended the concert with us and talked with all the EUSPBA members, PIPERS-Lers and various band friends. He especially enjoyed visiting with Chris Hamilton a bit on Sunday morning.
The concert wasn't quite what I was expecting but overall it was really good. I thought the drumming well out-compassed the piping section of the program. Jim Kilpatrick, Reid Maxwell, Tyler Fry, Haggis MacLeod, John Fisher, Scott Currie, and many other great drummers. I really enjoyed watching Tyler Fry and John Fisher play; they really get into the music with their contorted facial expressions and swaying. I thought Alasdair was by far the best piper, he had no slips, he kept it simple and well expressed and he didn't try to impress the crowd with all that fancy fingerin'. Andrew Wright played a beautiful rendition of "The Men Went to Drink". He still plays excellent piobaireachd.
The Midwest Highland Art Fund has really got its stuff together. This weekend alone is proof of their sincere and well executed efforts. Kudos to those guys for their excellent program and kudos to the judges who had to travel great distances to teach and perform.
Kenton, Jimmy, and myself had an excellent, intellectually engaging weekend in Kansas City. We hope to take the whole band next year; it will no doubt open their eyes onto the happenings of the rest of the country and piping in general.
Am Faoilleach 25, 2005
Hallo agus fa’ilte gu an litir-naidheachd Lyon Pipes and Drums .
Since last we wrote, the band has practiced and had a couple of performances. Our first performance together for the semester was at the International Dinner here on the Lyon campus.
We opened the show and (of course) we closed the show. Some of the various performers were Serge Kuzin who hailed his nation of origin- Russia, and played some Russian folk songs he arranged himself for the Highland war pipes.
Tristen Dean later donned traditional Japanese garments (whilst
wearing our beloved tartan) and sang in Japanese we’re told, but who knows what
he was really saying… a beautiful highlight to the evening was when both Jimmy
and Tristen played for Brooke Hollis as she presented “The Highland Fling” and
“The Sword Dance”.
It was great sampling the traditional dishes from various nations, and enjoying some of the other performances. As we had an abundance of pipers, and a lack of bass, Kenton filled the bill for the performance.
The next morn, bright and early (and may I stress early!) we headed out for Jonesboro, AR. We performed a Kirkin’ at the First Presbyterian Church of Jonesboro. As a band of twelve, we thundered our way through the sanctuary playing “Cock of the North”, then “Amazing Grace”, and left on “Scotland the Brave”. During the offertory Kenton played “Suo Gan” into “Going Home” on the Farilylore pipe. All in all, we had a great time and were able to meet a benefactor of the pipe band, Sgt. Cecil Tennant, who gave us a brand new Prince Charlie coat. Thank you to all of First Presbyterian of Jonesboro, we enjoyed ourselves.
On our way home Jimmy took us out for lunch, which always makes an impression anywhere we go. With our bellies full t’capacity, good humour and great company carried us home. We hope you enjoyed your visit. Do it again some time, we’d love to have you!
Yer Laddie (Fred "Sixfinger" Bowers)
Photos by Dr. David Thomas