Monday, November 2, 2009

The Competition

I did promise to let you know more about the competition…

So, yesterday morning we drove up to Blair Castle through pouring rain. My Dad did a great job of driving, though I slept through most of it. The drive took about two hours from where we’re staying in Milngavie (pronounced Mull-guy). We made it to the castle around noon and I was shown to my private warm-up room, which had showcase displays of old military relics. We didn’t get any pictures of the outside of the Castle because of the rain.

All the competitors were given free tickets to a very nice lunch of venison grown on the Castle estate. But, as one of the girls said, “It’s a nice gesture, but none of us can eat much because we’re all nervous!” So true, since all I wanted to eat was a salad.

After lunch, I warmed up with Morag in the ballroom, where the competition was to take place. It is a huge gorgeous room with paintings and hundreds of antlers on the walls, spears and suits of armor. On the wall behind the stage is a painting of Niel Gow, a famous 18th century fiddler and composer and also his fiddle. After warm-up with Morag, I went back into the competitors’ hallway.
I was 4th in the order of play so I had to wait over an hour after the competition started. I warmed up, waited wearing my heavy jacket, and then warmed up some more right before the performance. And yes, I was nervous. After they announced my name, which they had a little trouble pronouncing, I went on and played my tunes. It went well, and I was pretty happy with my performance. It makes such a difference when you have a great accompanist! The room was filled with listeners – about 300 - definitely the most well attended competition I’ve ever played in. After my performance there was a short intermission, during which I was very happy to hear that my fiddling didn’t have “an American” accent. :)

Then the rest of the competitors played. I went into the foyer with those who had finished competing and we watched the rest of the competition on the TV. This was fun because I got to talk with the other competitors. They are all such sweet people, and I’m so happy to have met them all!! They were Barbara Anderson, Nicola Auchnie, Graeme Davidson, Fiona Henderson, Shona MacFadyen, Gillian Ramsay, and Jack Smedley – all originally from Scotland!
After the final competitor finished we headed back to our private hall and grabbed our fiddles. There was a short tribute performance and then the “the orchestra mash”--- this “mash” was basically all of us playing a few tunes together with Morag accompanying on piano. The judges used this time to make their final decisions.

After the “mash”, the judges came out and announced the winners from third place to first. The judges were looking for someone who played well in the Scottish Idiom, with beautiful tone, was technically sound, with “lovely dynamics”, “who makes you feel like you’re part of the music,” and “really tells the story for what these tunes are about.” In 3rd place was Gillian Ramsay from Kirriemuir. In 2nd, was last year’s 2nd place winner: Nicola Auchnie from Turriff. I was absolutely stunned and so happy when they called my name for 1st place. Wish you could have seen my Mom’s face. I can still hardly believe it! Everything after that announcement is seriously a blur. Lots of people wanted to talk to me all at once – including the BBC! – and I also had to go have a bunch of pictures taken with the Quaich, my fiddle, and everyone around me!

There is a special quaich that will sit in the Glenfiddich Distillery for this year with my name added as the 2009 champion, along with all the past winners. I get to take home a specially-commissioned silver Glenfiddich Quaich.
I have to admit the first half of this experience was nerve-racking. My dear accompanist, Morag Macaskill, kept asking me if I was OK! The second half definitely made up for the first half.

So there are some really important people I need to thank:

First, to Gregor Borland for believing this was possible and helping me prepare for the competition. I could never have done it without you!

To Morag Macaskill for the incredible and “sympathetic” (as the Scots say) accompaniment! It was absolutely brilliant!!

To Liz Maxwell for putting the event together and keeping me updated about everything through email!

To Hugh McGilp for the last minute pointers which made my air and slow strathspey even better!

To all the talented competitors--- I have never competed against such a high caliber of musicians. You are all so sweet and made me feel completely welcomed even though I was the “girl from America”!

To family, friends, teachers, and fans at home, for your wonderful support and the many lucky coins! :)

Time to go eat dinner! I hope this gives you a better idea of what the competition was like! :)