We were in Hamilton last night for the first piping and drumming competition of the PPBSO-Hamilton Branch for 2016. It's a small venue, a friendly group, and a good way for new competitors to get their feet wet. To me the most fun is watching the audience. You can look around the room and immediately tell who else in the audience is a piper. They can't listen to the music without their fingers twitching. The man sitting behind me was playing his beer bottle. At one point during the evening my husband reached over and took my knitting needle so he could "play along" on it.
It's fun to see the same young players coming up through the different grade levels each year. The ones who were small and nervous-looking a few years ago are now taller, confident, and improving each time I see them. There was one girl there last night that I remember from her first competition, when she came in wearing a cute little dress with a bow in her hair. Her feet barely touched the floor when she sat before the judge to play her practice chanter. Now there she was in full kilt and uniform and winning prizes with her pipes.
The playing ability has gone up in general since I first started piping 33 years ago. What was Grade Two then is now about Grade Four, because people just keep getting better and better and the bar keeps rising. It's exciting to think where these kids will be by the time they're adults. The future of piping is looking bright.