Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Proud Moment

I had the good fortune to catch Laura Cortese "and friends" (Natalie & Brittany Haas, and Mariel Vandersteel) last week at The Lyceum in Alexandria. Great show, mostly focused on Laura's songs, showing Laura's continued evolution away from the strict Scottish/Celtic idiom.

Before the show, Kent Murray (who produced the event) was making announcements, and asked Sarah Brenzo, president of the Celtic Society of Southern Maryland, who was playing at their upcoming festival. After listing a couple of names, Sarah, sitting right behind me, proudly added, "The Devil's Tailors are also playing!". Kent nodded, and asked, "Great. Is Peter here?"

Thought that was a nice plug for a band yet to break out, like ours.


Micing the Smallpipes

One of the persistent challenges I've faced is how to amplify all my various instruments, and mute them individually where necessary. I've pretty much worked out the system for my fiddle, big pipes, and finally the flute. I use a 4-input mini-mixer to balance the levels of the various instruments, and a volume pedal (for the fiddle) and stomp boxes to mute the various channels.

The smallpipes have been a tough nut to crack. Previously we'd given them their own vocal mic channel, shared with Chris' bodhran. The levels on these two instruments were so different, though, that it proved impractical. And there's the issue of the sound guy forgetting to turn up the smallpipe mic (as happened at Southern Maryland last year). Chris loaned me a wireless vocal mic package to try to use, and we thought we'd got it balanced in time for the Tartan Day gig - but the mic was so hot it ended up being a feedback magnet.

So I'm going to try a new approach for Southern Maryland this year: I will run a vocal mic through my mini-mixer, and have a dedicated stand for it, which will also host the mic stand clips for my whistles and flutes. The mic and cable will be stored in my pedal case, and the levels pre-set, so it'll be transparent to the sound guy. It would also facilitate me using the border pipes as well, which I'd like to do on Tramps & Hawkers eventually.

Wish me luck!

In other news, look for some minor site updates this afternoon in the "Calendar" and "The Band" sections.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tartan Day 2011 & Band Update

The National Tartan Day Festival in Old Town Alexandria was one of the more challenging gigs we've played this year, mainly because of some very Scottish weather! Despite a forecast of 18% chance of 0.01" of rain through the day, we alternated between bouts of pouring rain and sunshine through the whole day. Much of the day was spent waiting for breaks in the rain to bring out our performers. Scheduling conflicts reduced our turnout of performers this year, but we had good crowds considering the weather.

The City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums put in a fantastic performance during one of our dry spells, and we did a long set early in the afternoon and a short set to wrap up the show. It was a lot of fun to have our friends at the Carlyle House, Celtic Society of Southern Maryland, and Virginia Scottish Games in the audience to hear us, and we appear in the video that the Washington Times put up, shown below:

Especially fun was having fiddler Rosemary Hall play with us again, and we've invited her to join the band for all future gigs for which she's available (what with starting college in the fall!).

We've taken something of a hiatus, performing only two public events, plus a birthday party and a Burns supper, in the last year, but we're back and trying to get into venues and festivals, and are hoping to be playing a lot more in the last half of this year. We've added new songs to our repertoire: Hi Ri Him Bo, John Barleycorn, and Craigieburn Wood; and are working on some new instrumentals, specifically some slip jigs, a hornpipe/jig set and a hornpipe/reel set.

And it's finally that time. Soon we will sit down and begin to record our first album.