Geelong, Australia – March 1, 2015 – Only seven months after its first practice, the Grade 2 City of Whitehorse Pipe Band of Melbourne, Australia, won its third straight contest, the Victorian Championships at the Waurn Ponds Campus at Deakin University. The band competed against the far more established Hawthorn Pipe Band, also of Melbourne, which won the event in 2014. Built from the remains of the dormant Grade 1 Nunawading / Australia Highlanders Pipe Band, Whitehorse plans to compete in Grade 2 at the 2016 World Pipe Band Championships.
The City of Whitehorse Pipe Band at the 2015 Victorian Championships.
Grade 1 (one played)
Grade 2 (two competed)
1st City of Whitehorse
Grade 3 (four competed) 1st Scotch College Melbourne
2nd Victoria Scottish
3rd Melbourne #1
4th Warrnambool & District
Grade 4 (eight competed) 1st Haileybury
2nd Scots School Albury
3rd Golden City Bendigo
Juvenile (four competed) 1st Scotch College Melbourne
3rd Scots School Albury
The Royal Scottish Pipers Society, established in Edinburgh in 1885 as a males-only club for amateur pipers, voted on March 1, 2015, to admit females. In a statement, the organization said that “members voted overwhelmingly for this change in the Society’s constitution.”
“The Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society is delighted to admit women members after more than 130 years as an all-male society,” Alan W. McGhie, Honorary Secretary, said. “We are glad that our Society will now recognize the excellent contribution made to our art by female pipers.”
In 2008 the organization had come under fire for narrowly voting to uphold its men-only status, leaving the RSPS to remain as an anachronism in the piping world, at least 30 per cent of which comprises women. Since then high-profile no-females clubs like the Augusta National Golf Club and the Royal & Ancient Golfing Society have voted to accept women.
Membership to the RSPS is limited to pipers who have not competed for money and who hold “professional” careers or peerages.
The organization is probably best known to pipers and drummers for the 2/4 singular march by Roderick Campbell, “The Royal Scottish Pipers Society.” Campbell served as the Honourary Pipe-Major and tutor for the Edinburgh-based society in the 1920s, and other Honourary Pipe-Majors include William Ross and John MacDougall-Gillies.
The RSPS has accepted women to judge and play at its annual Archie Kenneth Quaich Competition for amateur adult pipers, including the event on March 7th at which the well-known Edinburgh-based piper Jenny Hazzard will judge.
The RSPS also sponsors piping competitions over the year, including the Silver Star March, Strathspey & Reel events for former winners at the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting.
Female pipers in the UK were not allowed to compete at the biggest competition until the Sexual Discrimination Act of 1976 was enforced. That year Patricia Henderson, Rona Lightfoot, Anne Sinclair and Anne Spalding were the first women pipers to compete in the Highland Society of London Gold Medal events at Inverness and Oban.
Members of the Royal Scottish Pipers Society are traditionally nicknamed the Jolly Boys.
Over the years the story of MacCrimmon piping dynasty and piobaireachds attributed to the family have debated as history, folk-tale and even fictional myth, but the music – from wherever it originated – has lasted through its popularity in competition.
The greatest example of showcasing tunes attributed to or strongly connected with the MacCrimmons is the annual piping competitions on the Isle of Skye. In the Dunvegan Medal and Clasp at Portree, contestants are required to choose from a list of “MacCrimmon compositions,” set by the organizers, including not a few tunes that are generally never played in competition unless prescribed – such as “The Pretty Dirk” and “Lament for the Duke of Hamilton” – due to their lack of appeal, particularly when juxtaposed with great MacCrimmon-attributed ceol mor such as “Lament for the Children” and “Patrick Og MacCrimmon’s Lament.”
But in 2015 comes a quandary. Iain MacCrimmon, the certain hereditary piper to the Clan MacLeod and a direct MacCrimmon descendant, has composed a piobaireachd, “Salute to Malcolm Roderick MacCrimmon,” recently performed by his son, Calum MacCrimmon with his Highland-pipes-led Celtic band, Breabach.
The piobaireachd was composed by the elder MacCrimmon, originally from Edmonton, Canada, and for the last 23 years a resident of Scotland, for his father.
By rights, one would assume that the tune, of fine quality, would automatically be added to the list of allowed MacCrimmon compositions at the Skye events, although Iain MacCrimmon steadfastly said that he has never and will never advocate for that decision.
“I have not spoken to or heard from any of the [Skye Gathering] organizers, as I am not really personally familiar with whoever they may be,” Iain MacCrimmon said. “I must admit that I never pushed this item onto anyone, only thinking of it as a piobaireachd that I wanted to dedicate to my father.”
Convener of the piping competitions at Portree, Cailean MacLean, did not respond to several requests to comment on whether or not “Salute to Malcolm Roderick MacCrimmon” would be added to the illustrious list, or, for that matter, whether . . .
With an objective “to create a more user friendly environment here and secure the long-term future,” Fraser MacInnes, general manager of College of Piping in Glasgow, has worked to organize a fundraising concert on March 28th featuring several word-class pipers closely identified with the cross-town National Piping Centre.
Virtuoso pipers Chris Armstrong, Callum Beaumont and Allan MacDonald and by harmonica-player Donald Black will perform at the £8-ticket event, with the omnipresent John Wilson stepping in as Fear an Tighe.
Fraser MacInnes was appointed to the general manager post shortly after Robert Wallace abruptly left in August after more than an at times acrimonious 15-year tenure. MacInnes described Wallace’s departure in quotation marks as a “retirement,” but there were reports that the former director was on thin ice with the College of Piping’s board of directors, even though he allegedly did not have full-time employment status or a contract with the organization.
Since MacInnes joined, he has looked after the organizational and commercial interests of the College, as the search for a new Chief Instructor and/or Director of Piping went on – a post that is yet to be filled.
The fundraising concert will also help to launch a “Kayak Challenge” along the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness that Willie Park, shop manager at the College, plans to undertake in May. Park has established himself as an adventurer to raise funds for the College, climbing to Everest Base Camp, raising more than £7,000 in 2009; kayaking around the Isle of Arran in 2011. He plans to paddle the 97-kilometre length of the Caledonian Canal from Corpach to Inverness in aid of the College’s educational activities.
The National Piping Centre itself has seen recent departures, with instructors Armstrong, Beaumont and Glenn Brown each handing in their resignations over the last few months, and the organization currently searching for replacements.
Using an online questionnaire, a special review panel formed from members of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association’s Music Committee comprising James McIntosh, Nancy Tunnicliffe and Andrew Carlisle is working to select new Senior-designated judges for its sanctioned solo piping events.
Currently, the EUSPBA has a single level of solo adjudicator, each judge able to assess any level of competition, while other associations, such as the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario, have two levels of judges. The PPBSO, as an example, requires A-Certified adjudicators to meet stringent criteria based on proven successful 15-year minimum competing at the professional level.
“This topic has been under discussion in the EUSPBA for a while now and the current music board decided to move forward with defining what a senior panel would look like,” said EUSPBA Music Committee Chair Robert Minnear. “The basic intent is the same as in other associations: to recognize a senior status of adjudicator that is better suited to judge competitions at the highest level, that is, more preeminent events like Friday night professional competitions.”
The EUSPBA’s approach will apparently be mainly subjective, with the questionnaire asking those interested in being considered for Senior status such questions as “Would you be confident judging a large, indoor Professional event, which includes past Gold Medal winners? Why/why not?”, “A Piobaireachd judge with deep experience and knowledge, and not constantly reading the book, can then focus on the music. How close do you feel you are to this stage?” and “When was the last intense Piobaireachd Seminar you attended? Did you perform on your pipes at that time?”
Minnear said that the questionnaire “is not the sole source of information, and requests both subjective information as well as competition . . .
Willie McCallum with the overall trophy from the Metro Cup.
February 21, 2015 – Newark, New Jersey – Willie McCallum of Bearsden, Scotland, was the overall winner of the annual Metro Cup Solo Piping Competition, held at the Ramada Plaza Newark Liberty International Airport. With a win in the Piobaireachd and a second in the Medley event, McCallum narrowly edged out Alex Gandy, who won the light music and was third in the Piobaireachd. The competition is organized by the Metro New York Branch of the EUSPBA. Prizes in each event were 1st: $1000, 2nd: $600, 3rd: $400, 4th: $200, 5th: $100. The overall winner received a gold medal valued at $1,700.
1st Willie McCallum, “MacNeil of Barra’s March”
2nd Callum Beaumont, Bo’ness, Scotland
3rd Alex Gandy, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
4th Gordon Walker, Galston, Scotland
5th Glenn Brown, Glasgow
1st Alex Gandy, “Stornoway Bay,” “”Ship in the Bottle,” “Miss Campbell of Shiness,” “The Curlew,” “Victoria Harbour,” “Steve and Diane of Cheltenham,” “The Kaimes Lassies,” a traditional reel, “Rip the Calico,” and a reel by Mark Stewart.
2nd Willie McCallum
3rd Chris Armstrong, Airth, Scotland
4th Gordon Walker
5th Dan Lyden, Maryland
Also competing but not in the prizes were Andrew Carlisle, Andrew Donlon, Alasdair Henderson Derek Midgely and John Patrick.
Mike Cusack, Bill Livingstone and Mike Rogers judged both events.
1st Bob Low
2nd Sean Regan
3rd Maeghan Bielski
Judge: Callum Beaumont
1st Tyler Johnson
2nd Bob Low
3rd Harry IsenseeJudge: Glenn Brown
Do you have competition results? Feel free to send them by email to pipes|drums along with photographs and details of the event. Please be sure to use the format above, and send as a standard text file.
The six-time World Champion Simon Fraser University Pipe Band is putting its talent to charitable work at the Simon Fraser University Theatre in Burnaby, British Columbia, with all proceeds going to the BC Cancer Foundation.
The band was moved to action after the diagnosis of one of its greatest members – and one of the world’s best solo pipers – Andrew Bonar was diagnosed with a brain tumour in November 2014, undergoing radical emergency surgery.
A member of SFU since 1981, “Boney” is continuing treatment at the BC Cancer Agency. Following his surgery he contributed an important piece to pipes|drums.
Andrew Bonar competing with SFU at the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships.
The band will be joined by the Heather Jolley Highland Dancers, which include Andrew Bonar’sdaughter, Kate, who will also perform at a ceilidh following the show.
The band is also hoping to stream the concert live, encouraging all those watching to make a donation to the cause.
“If you are able, please consider making a donation directly to the BC Cancer Foundation in honour of Andrew and the impact he has on the worldwide piping community,” said SFU Pipe-Sergeant Jack Lee. “Together, we can make a difference for brain cancer patients now and in the future.”
The pipe band world in recent years has stepped up for charitable causes, including the drive by Fiona Morris and the Grade 1 Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia Pipe Band of Scotland to raise funds for bone cancer research.
We caught up with the legendary piper Jack Lee when he visited Toronto for one of his many workshops, this time at the annual More Ceol Mor weekend session where he and Willie McCallum took 30 or so fortunate pupils through some of their piobaireachd knowledge.
The workshop concluded with a brief recital by McCallum and Lee. We published video of McCallum, and now it’s pipes|drums’ readers’ turn to see Lee as he performs a few piobaireachds and discusses what he’s up to these days.
We will return with further video from watch of these virtuosos, and, for now, we hope you enjoy this from one of the greatest pipers in history.
The Grade 2 band scene in North America continues its ups and downs with the latest down coming with the demise of the St. Andrew’s Society of Winnipeg collapsing after being on hiatus during the 2014 season.
The organization maintains its Grade 3 band, but has revealed that it is no longer affiliated with the local St. Andrew’s Society.
“This year with the loss of some key players we found we just did not have enough members to be competitive in the grade,” said Pipe-Major Wes Sheppard. “With regret, we are standing down for the time being.”
He said that the Grade 3 band is “still very active and growing and will be competing this year.” The group is planning to travel to Maxville, Ontario, to compete at the North American Pipe Band Championships.
Later in 2014, six new Grade 2 bands were added to the western North American scene, with the rise of the Rocky Mountain Pipe Band, North Stratton Pipe Band and Viscount Park Pipe Band, each from Alberta, and, in the United States, the Bushmills Irish Pipers of San Francisco, the Queen City Pipe Band of Denver, and the Wasatch & District Pipe Band of Bountiful, Utah.
Brian Lamond with the trophy for the Freestyle event.
Edinburgh – February 7, 2015 – Brian Lamond of Inverkeithing, Scotland, emerged the overall winner of the annual Pipe-Majors’ Wheel of Fortune solo piping contest at the Danderhall Miners Club in southern Edinburgh and put on by the Grade 2 City of Edinburgh Pipe Band.
Lamond was first in the Freestyle event, which required contestants to spin a wheel to determine some of what they had to play. Lamond had to include a tune by G.S. McLennan, a hornpipe, Irish jigs, Irish reels, a polka, and two of his own compositions, “The Illywhacker” and “The Sleepfighter.” He was also first in the Joke event, where pipers had to tell a funny story or joke, which was judged by the audience.
Lamond, age 46 and the former pipe-major of the Grade 1 Dysart & Dundonald Pipe Band, competes infrequently, but was the winner of the first Wheel of Fortune competition in 2006.
First in the MSR event was Niall Stewart of Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland, while Alasdair Henderson of Dunoon, Scotland, was overall runner-up and Callum Beaumont of Bo’ness, Scotland, was third.
Angus J. MacColl, Angus Nicholson and Lee Moore also competed. Back-to-back winner Douglas Murray withdrew due to illness.
For the piping events, Gordon Campbell, Barry Donaldson and Ian Duncan judged.
Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, Ireland – February 7, 2015 – Margaret Dunn won the Bratach Depaor, a banner in honour of Stephen Power, co-founder of the Irish Piobaireachd Society, which was started in 1997 and hold the annual solo piping competition. This year’s event was held almost in the shadow of the Kilworth Hills, where G.S. McLennan was inspired his the famous march while on training there with the Gordon Highlanders. The event is sponsored by R.G. Hardie & Co. and receives financial support from the Cork Arts Council. Colin MacLellan was guest adjudicator and after the competition led a well-attended piobaireachd master class.
Piobaireachd Former Winners
1st Margaret Dunn, Gartcosh, Scotland
2nd Connor Sinclair
3rd Andy Wilson
4th Ben Greaves
5th John Revells
Judge: Colin MacLellan
1st Connor Sinclair, Crieff, Scotland
2nd Ryan Cupples
3rd James Stone
4th John McElmurry
5th Sean Maloney
Judges: Alastair Dunn, John Revells
1st Ryan Cupples
2nd Dion Boyle
3rd John McElmurry
4th Rachel Maloney
5th Sean Maloney
Judges: Margaret Dunn, Colin MacLellan
1st Ryan Cupples
2nd Dion Boyle
3rd James Stone
Judges: Alastair Dunn, John Revells
1st Alastair Dunn, Gartcosh, Scotland
2nd Margaret Dunn
3rd Andy Wilson
4th Connor Sinclair
5th Ben Greaves
Judge: Colin MacLellan
The Grade 2 MacKenzie Caledonian of Dundee, Scotland, will officially release A Big Step Forward, a studio CD and the band’s first commercial recording, at their February 27th concert at the Gardyne Theatre in Dundee.
The band also said that the nearly 400-seat venue is sold out for the show, which will also feature the Tayside Young Fiddlers.
The “MacCals” have been planning the concert along with a ramped-up 2015 since the spring of 2014, before the band enjoyed its most successful competition season ever, featuring in the prize lists at three of the five major championships, including a second at the European and fifth at the World’s. The band ended up fifth in the aggregate Grade 2 Champion of Champions table.
In a statement, MacKenzie Caledonian promised the concert to feature concert arrangements, solo performances and “weel kent street tunes.”
The band’s CD, A Big Step Forward, was recorded in the fall and early-winter of 2014, and is one of few studio albums to come out from a band in the top grades. MacKenzie Caledonian also runs a highly successful Novice Juvenile band – nicknamed the “MiniMacs” – teaching pipers and drummers from scratch, feeding into the Grade 2 band.
MacKenzie Caledonian with 2014 season hardware at the Pitlochry Highland Games, September 2014.
According to a statement from the band, MacKenzie Caledonian’s goal is to achieve Grade 1 status by 2018, its centenary year, and expects to “progress to become one of Scotland’s top 10 bands in the coming year.”
Founded in 1918 at the end of World War I by James MacKenzie and originally named the MacKenzie Pipe Band, in 1958 it merged with the Caledonian Pipe Band, also of Dundee, to form MacKenzie Caledonian.
The Dundee-based City of Discovery Pipe Band was recently announced as a new Grade 3A band, emerging from the 6th/8th Boys Brigade Pipe Band.
Willie McCallum, prize for prize, could be the greatest competition solo piper in history, and when his path crossed with that of pipes|drums at the annual More Ceol Mor Workshop in Toronto on January 31, 2015, we captured his brief piobaireachd recital.
We also sat down for a few minutes to see what he’s up to these days, how life is a full-time professional piper, and what makes his instrument tick.
Thanks to Willie McCallum and the More Ceol Mor Workshop for permissions to capture and reproduce this performance.
Stay tuned to pipes|drums for more video from this recital.
Highland pipers John Mulhearn and Calum MacCrimmon are known for their creative exploration of piobaireachd, the classical music of the Highland pipe, which has been both praised and criticized for being steadfastly traditional at the cost of musical evolution.
The two have combined to organize the Big Music Society, “to create new performance opportunities and contexts for pibroch and engage a wider audience in our undeniably powerful heritage, while encouraging new developments and collaborations.”
For the last 100 years the music has been promoted and largely controlled by the Piobaireachd Society, with competition being the primary performance platform, with standardized settings of tunes published and prescribed for major solo contests. In the last 10 years especially the Piobaireachd Society has worked to broaden its horizons and is even working with the Big Music Society, fully supportive of the new group’s efforts.
The first performance produced by the Big Music Society is on March 6th at the National Piping Centre with piobaireachd competition legend Murray Henderson and the well know performance piper Duncan Grant presenting interpretations of tunes with the Big Music String Ensemble, a group led by bassist James Lindsay. Grant’s background as “Cain,” an electronic music producer, according to the organizers, “gives him a very different perspective and we can expect some real sonic exploration.”
“The Big Music Society is not a ‘society’ in the traditional organizational sense,” Mulhearn said. “It’s a bit of a play on words whilst also implying that the society is anything that we get involved in. The genesis of the name and idea was a few years ago at Celtic Connections where I brought an ensemble together to re-imagine pibroch for a more diverse audience.”
Mulhearn added that the original concept evolved into the partnership with MacCrimmon. “Our hope is that this first show will be a springboard for further innovative programming and promotion. We have several further plans up our sleeves that I can’t really go into yet but suffice to say we’re seeing this first show as just the beginning, over time who knows in what direction it will go. Our parameters are wide open.”
Coexisting with the Piobaireachd Society in the UK might have been difficult some years ago, but current President Jack Taylor has helped to coax the once-stodgy society from protectionist to progressive.
“Our objectives and impulses are different from the Piobaireachd Society,” Mulhearn continued. “It’s important to say that we aren’t looking at this as a reaction against the Piobaireachd Society and the pibroch orthodoxy, more just a natural progression. Remaining independent means that we have complete creative control and that is crucial for us to allow things to evolve naturally.”
The multi-instrumentalist Calum MacCrimmon, a Canadian who has lived in Scotland for several years, is the hereditary piper to Clan MacLeod, and a direct descendent of the MacCrimmon piping dynasty. Not one for the competition side of the Highland pipe, he has developed several musical projects, most prominently his Celtic band, Breabach.
Regarding the Big Music Society, MacCrimmon said, “Another one of our commitments will be to identify the musicians and bands who have already explored exciting and fresh arrangements of ceol mor, such as the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, the 78th Fraser Highlanders, Allan MacDonald, Fraser Fifield, Martyn Bennet and many more. We hope that this approach will be something intriguing to the competitors and the enthusiasts but it may also help to bring in more of the piping/drumming community who claim to ‘not understand’ or ‘not like’ pibroch. Even more ambitious than that, we want to bring in new followers from outside of the piping and folk scene all together. It may be a long time before we see any of these results but it is certainly an exciting prospect.”
The organization has released a teaser video with Murray Henderson, previewing part of the March 6th event:
It predates the, the Scottish Piping Society of London (1932), Scottish Pipers Association (1920), and even the Piobaireachd Society (1904), and now the Pittsburgh Bagpipe Society, first known organized piping society in the United States (1898) is getting a new lease on life by pipers in the Pennsylvania city known more for steel, beer and football than piping, piobaireachd and pipe bands.
Taking the cue from the highly successful resurrection of the Eagle Pipers Society in Edinburgh, the Pittsburgh Bagpipe Society is organized by top-flight local solo pipers local professional pipers Andrew Carlisle, Nick Hudson and Palmer Shonk.
“The Pittsburgh Piping Society reignites the long-snuffed torch of the original society,” Hudson said in a statement. “Though the 19th century iteration was noted for its teaching of Scottish immigrant children, the newly formed society aims to be more social than pedagogic. In short . . . hoping to unite a long talented but somewhat fractured local piping community.”
Hudson said that the PBS will hold regular meetings in an informal atmosphere to “give pipers another stage outside of the competition platform whereupon they may simply turn up and have a tune.” Like the Eagle Pipers, each meeting will feature a piobaireachd, “giving the non-pipers and enthusiasts in attendance an opportunity to encounter our big music.”
The first meeting of the new PBS is at 8 pm in Pittsburgh on Friday, January 30th, and those interested can contact the organization by email for details of the location.
Carlisle will play the piobaireachd, and “a bunch of local players” are also scheduled to play.
Hudson said the organization’s logo is “a fusion of elements from Pittsburgh’s crest and Scotland’s national animal, because [the USA’s] national animal was already taken by a prominent piping society.”
The Eagle Pipers Society was restarted in 2009 after a hiatus of more than 20 years, and since its resurrection has held popular monthly meetings at the Scots Guards Club in the Haymarket area of Edinburgh.
Since Carnegie-Mellon University started its piping degree program in the 1990s, Pittsburgh has enjoyed a piping renaissance. The Scottish émigré and steel baron Andrew Carnegie was a strong supporter of the Scottish arts, and employed several pipers as part of his estate.
The William Livingstone Senior Memorial Invitational Solo Piping Competition a few years back shortened its name to “The Livingstone” and made its format a recital-dinner with only a handful of contestants entertaining the audience and judges.
The event didn’t happen in 2014 after two years with the new format, but it is back on May 9, 2015, “returning to its roots,” according to organizers: a Piobaireachd in the afternoon and a MSRHPJ in the evening, abandoning assigned tunes, fancy catering, and the “recital” format.
In 2012 the competition was held at the swish Hamilton Club with only six contestants. In 2013, the event held the same format, but returned to familiar Officer’s Mess of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders of Canada headquarters at James Street Armories in Hamilton, Ontario.
The event also returns to familiar cash prizes for first, second, and third winners in each event and a spiff for the overall winner, with travel stipends available for those coming from afar.
The competition was started in 1979, and is organized by the Niagara-Hamilton Branch of the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario. Bill Livingstone Jr. had played a part in the redevelopment of the contest in 2012 and ’13, but is no longer involved. Livingstone refused to comment on the competition’s return to the old format.
The annual Glasgow Uist & Barra Association Invitational Piping Competition will again mark the first significant event of the Scottish solo piping calendar, and the 2015 contest on March 7th at the College of Piping will feature almost all of the UK-based top prize-winners at the major solo events of 2014.
Chris Armstrong, Callum Beaumont, Glenn Brown, Bill Geddes, Alisdair Henderson, Faye Henderson, Finlay Johnston, Angus MacColl, Roddy MacLeod, Willie McCallum, Peter McCalister, Gordon McCready, Douglas Murray, Iain Speirs, Craig Sutherland and Gordon Walker will vie for the prizes in Piobaireachd, MSR and Hornpipe & Jig events, but with a limit of 14 in each section Faye Henderson and McCalister will compete only in the Piobaireachd and Alisdair Henderson and Sutherland only in the light music.
The event moved to an invitational format in 2002, and moved away from an Open event in the mid-1990s to be available only to those graded A or Premier by the Competing Pipers Association.
“There are no plans to return to an entry-based event at the moment,” said organizer John-Angus Smith, “and there are no plans for [the competition] to be put forward as a qualifier for the Glenfiddich.”
Smith said that they hope to organize a live stream of the event.
When it comes to policies, guidelines and rules for judging and solo piping competitions in general, Scotland perhaps paradoxically lags most of the rest the piping world with no grading system, no judging accreditation process, and a tradition of pipers with questionable backgrounds often assessing competitions, rarely having to account for their decisions.
The newly formed Solo Piping Judges Association, announced only in December 2014, appears to be trying to right at least some of that laxness with the introduction of more stringent policies and guidelines for judges, mainly designed to combat conflict of interest, perceived or real.
Judges on the SPJA’s approved list, “Should not accept an assignment when it is known in advance that pupils or relatives will be competing. If judging a pupil or a relative occurs, interest must be declared to fellow judges. Judging should then take place as normal.”
According to a statement, “The main change here is that judging should take place as normal after conflict of interest has been declared. It also recognises that it is not always possible to avoid conflict of interest, and that judges are confident that a fair judgement is made in such situations.”
When asked what penalties would ensue if a judge knowingly flaunted the conflict guidelines, SPJA Secretary Jack Taylor said, “The ultimate sanction would be removal from the list, but every effort would be made for a more positive resolution than that.”
The organization also issued new definitions for its two essential categories of adjudicators. A “Senior Judge” is defined as, “Most likely to have competed successfully at the highest level with continuity over an extended period of years, able to demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the music, and with experience of judging. Eligible to judge any level of competition, but to judge with experienced judges at major competitions in the first year of acceptance.
An “Approved Judge,” according to the SPJA’s statement, will be “Those knowledgeable and experienced and having had notable success in competition, amateur or professional, but not necessarily at the highest level. Eligible to judge at any level . . .
There are those pipe bands that have and those that have not. And increasingly there are competitions and Highland games that have and have not. The size and success of bands and competitions are linked. June 23rd was one of … Con …
TIP OF THE DAY To ease the blowing-in period of a chanter reed, simply press the reed firmly in the lowest part of the blades between the finger and thumb until you feel both blades ease gently together. Continue to do this and keep blowing the reed until you find the reed giving an acceptible weight. Tom McAllister, Jr.