I am at least 3 posts behind on this blog. We just went on another trip last weekend of June 17-19 so I’d better get caught up!
April 22, 2016 we left for Norfolk to see the Virginia International Tattoo. It should have been an easy 3 hour drive that took us nearly 7 due to construction, rush hour, rain and accidents (not ours).
On the way, we stopped at a Denny’s. I managed to insult waitress by saying that probably most of the customers were off the highway. She said that there were lots of regulars, not just off the highway – in a very huffy tone. Oh, well.
We eventually got to our AirBnB thanks to our Waze app.
We never would have found it otherwise.
Since we got there pretty late, we did a bit of grocery shopping at a former 7-Eleven. Dinner was just cereal and we went to bed…after watching a few episodes of Downton Abbey on Amazon Prime.
I loved this poster in our AirBnb:
Saturday was the Day!
We got up in the morning and headed to the Scope Arena just after noon.
There were all kinds of Bagpipe groups in competition (a Tattoo Hullabaloo). We wandered around the Scope arena and watched some of the bands warming up. Here’s one doing their competition numbers:
The Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drum Corps (sorry some of this got sideways)
There was this really neat carillon:
Beyond offering star performers from many disciplines, the Virginia Arts Festival is literally announcing itself this year by ringing the bells.
To mark its 20th anniversary, VAF will unveil a 23-bell mobile carillon, something of a mobile ambassador that will be playable by everyone. It’s roughly the size of a semi truck with a car carrier, serving as both mammoth musical instrument and sculptural art. The bells are mounted on a frame that spells out “VAF” that will be driven to venues to ring home the point that each event is associated with the arts festival.
The instrument is engineered so that a person can play it at a keyboard or ring the individual bells by pulling levers.
Impossible to miss, the carillon, which cost $415,000 and was funded by an anonymous donor, will be parked in front of 12 events during the festival, including opening night tonight at MacArthur Center.
“This iconic structure speaks to the tradition that church bells have played in the history of greater Norfolk,” VAF Perry Artistic Director Rob Cross said in a statement.
VAF went with a venerable manufacturer for the structure. It was made by the Verdin Co., a Cincinnati-based company that has been making bells, carillons and large clocks for 173 years. Verdin’s work can be seen at Walt Disney World, the University of Notre Dame and other spots around the country.
While the framework is custom-made, the bells are old and carry an interesting history. They were refurbished from a carillon built in 1928, commissioned by graduates of the now-defunct, all-female Ward-Belmont College in Nashville, Tenn., to honor troops killed in Flanders, Belgium, during World War I.
The 23 bells, cast in England, were mounted in a converted water tower. The carillon was dedicated during homecoming week at Ward-Belmont in 1929. Five years later, the bells pealed “Hail to the Chief” when President Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt visited. But in 1951, as financial woes mounted, the carillon was dismantled and the school closed.
The bells stayed silent for more than six decades. Belmont University, the successor institution, built a new carillon for its campus, and the Verdin Co. acquired the old bells, which were refurbished for the VAF structure.
VAF’s Cross said: “It is a beautiful marriage of the past and the future. What a wonderful way of continuing our goal of taking the festival beyond the concert hall.”
About 4:00, it started to rain, so they moved us all indoors. The Jordanian Armed Forces Bagpipe Band (they played outside, above) kept us entertained while the bands prepared to move inside.
When the rain stopped, they moved us back outside to finish the competition and name the winners. The New York Metro Pipe Band won their category and both bands from Scotland (Inveraray and District Pipe Band and Police Scotland Fife Pipe Band) won theirs. In the DrumLine Battle, it was an easy winner since all but one dropped out.
We were right up close for the walkoff:
At 7:00 the show started.
Here’s my video of part of the closing program with Colin Powell:
A bit of a sing-a-long:
Here’s the entire show, in one long playlist:
In case you’re wondering – yes, we have tickets for next year!
Sunday was pretty uneventful coming home.
Today’s Original Schedule:
- 10:30AM Brunch with Lingyi at Open Kitchen
- 11:30AM or 12 See Scotland on the Fountain Terrace concert at Bryant Park
- 2:00PM See Hamilton on Broadway
- 6:00PM Dinner at Rossini’s
- 7:30PM ? Observe Jupiter with the Amateur Astronomer’s Association at Lincoln Center
What really happened:
Woke up fairly early, got dressed. I listened to the soundtrack from An American in Paris on Spotify. Michael and Lingyi met us downstairs at our building and we walked over for brunch at Open Kitchen. We’d been there before so I got some old favorites from the buffet.
Michael walked her to the subway and we Ubered to Bryant Park for the bagpipe concerts. By then, it was pouring rain.
The scale of the chanter is in Mixolydian mode, which has a flattened seventh scale degree. It has a range from one whole tone lower than the tonic to one octave above it. The drones are tuned to this tonic note, called A. The nine notes of the chanter scale “low G, low A, B, C, D, E, F, high G, and high A”. However, the A pitch of most pipers and pipe bands currently is somewhere around 480 Hz, which is actually sharper than standard B♭ at 466.16 Hz. Historically it was indeed flatter, as evidenced by recordings, and extant instruments.
Highland bagpipe music is written in the key of D major, where the C and F are sharp (despite the key-signature usually being omitted from scores). Due to the lack of chromatic notes, to change key is also to change modes; tunes are in A Mixolydian, D Major, B Minor, or occasionally E Dorian.
Traditionally, certain notes were sometimes tuned slightly off from just intonation. For example, on some old chanters the D and high G would be somewhat sharp. According to Forsyth (1935), the C and F holes were traditionally bored exactly midway between those for B and D and those for E and G, respectively, resulting in approximately a quarter-tone difference from just intonation, somewhat like a “blue” note in jazz. Today, however, the notes of the chanter are usually tuned in just intonation to the Mixolydian scale. The two tenor drones are generally an octave below the keynote of the chanter (low A), and the bass drone two octaves below, but they may be retuned to suit the mode of the melody. Forsyth lists three traditional drone tunings: Ellis, A3/A3/A2; Glen, A4/A4/A2; and Mackay, G3/B3/C2.
The first group was Shamrock & Thistle Pipes and Drums from New Jersey.
They even had a djembe (drum) which was cool. Unscottish but cool.
We found the “best public bathrooms in the world”, according to reviews Michael had on his phone.
Then another group played. Some of them were very young.
We saw a high school group wearing raincoats and playing actual band instruments waiting to line up for the parade. Raincoats. Ha!
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little.” ~ Billy Connolly
Here’s the Shamrock and Thistle in the parade:
We walked to the theater for Hamilton. Just as well we had tickets for that since it was pretty cold/rainy for the parade. The concert in the park was a better substitute for the parade. We walked by Un Deux Trois again. I said no to lunch there.
We were early for Hamilton so we got coffee, banana and pastry at Corso Coffee across the street.
When we saw the Hamilton line moving, we went over. Michael had to buy these tickets from a reseller so we didn’t have seats together. He and I sat together and Tom was about 20 seats away.
Fantastic show. Tom liked it. I was afraid he wouldn’t because of the hip-hop music / rap but I was wrong.
We walked to Rossini’s for dinner. We stopped at those restrooms in Bryant park and I tried them out. Drama between women’s matron and men’s attendant over a water bottle in trash. <Sigh>
We got to Rossini’s early for our reservation. I had cream of broccoli soup and spaghetti, key lime pie and coffee. I also had a Black Russian which meant no Vicodin later.
We were so early that we missed the opera singer, although she came in just as we were leaving. Just as well since we didn’t have any obscure selections for her this time.
We ubered back to our place. We listened to a bit of Hamilton (The Kings first song), watched some stuff on YouTube, including the king teaching Steven Colbert how to do the walk, Bicycle band (video coming tomorrow!), Top Secret Drummers, Geocaching, handbell Pirates of the Caribbean and more.
After Michael left, we watched some Downton Abbey, had ice cream and off to bed.