Good results

I swear that the last week was the busiest of my life, but I seem to be say that every week these days. The blog’s been a shade neglected as a result, but I’m doing a bit of catching up with all things pipes|drums this weekend.

Someone recently asked me why there are relatively few results articles posted for piping and drumming competitions in the United States. Good question. The answer: people don’t send them in.

Within hours of people getting home from contests in Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Australia, e-mail arrives with the outcome. For the major pipe band and solo events over the year that I’m not at I try to arrange for an agent-in-the-field to call with or text results as they’re announced. If I’m at a contest, I’ll take the time to write down results.

All the rest I figure that, if no one sends in the results, then it can’t be that important, so I don’t get too fussed, since no one else is. But, in general, if people send in the news, it will be published – provided the event isn’t too miniscule.

It also helps me a great deal when people provide them in a cut-and-paste format that follows the p|d style: top grades first, prizes one through five in that order, tunes and judges included, if possible. My heart sinks when I receive results in ALL CAPS. That means I have to re-enter everything. Believe me, that gets really tedious.

People love to see results, and they love to go back years later and see them. Lots of stuff gets posted on ephemeral forums, but eventually these will vanish into the ether, and they’re not searchable. Contest results have always been an important aspect of the hobby. The pipes|drums online archive of results is massive.

So, anyone from the United States (or anywhere else, for that matter) who might wonder why they don’t see their name in pipes|drums lights after they enjoy the day of their competition life at a particular competition, the answer is simple: no one bothered to send them.

Greener pastures

Going for the GreenI wasn’t at the Scottish Pipe Band Championships, but I have heard nothing to suggest that St. Laurence O’Toole was a worthy and popular winner. More than 80 per cent of voters on the current p|d Poll say the result was “Great for SLOT!” and you would be hard-pressed to find a more likable and talented band anywhere.

Things have come a long way in the UK when it comes to pipe band politics, and a very long way since the 1970s when Northern Ireland’s Grade 1 St. Patrick’s Donaghmore won the piping at the World Championships, only to have the ensemble judge relegate them to near-last, bumping them way down the list.

To add insult, the same ensemble judge allegedly (but this story has been relayed to me by many people over the years who say they witnessed it) saw Donaghmore off by giving the completely demoralized band the two-fingers-up salute as they drove out of the park.

For those pipers and drummers who live outside of the UK, SLOT’s win may not seem that important. But for those in the UK and Ireland who have witnessed first-hand the political and quasi-religious idiocy that has gone on decades before, it’s a true milestone.

To be sure, to be sure, that idiocy hasn’t much existed for at least the last 20 years, and all bands have had to play well enough to win, but SLOT finally doing so officially closes the door on some bad, lingering memories.

The road rises up.

Greener pastures


Going for the Green.
I wasn’t at the Scottish Pipe Band Championships, but I have heard nothing to suggest that St. Laurence O’Toole was not a worthy and popular winner. More than 80 per cent of voters on the current p|d Poll say the result was “Great for SLOT!” and you would be hard-pressed to find a more likable and talented band anywhere.

Things have come a long way in the UK when it comes to pipe band politics, and a very long way since the 1970s when Northern Ireland’s Grade 1 St. Patrick’s Donaghmore won the piping at the World Championships, only to have the ensemble judge relegate them to near-last, bumping them way down the list.

To add insult, the same ensemble judge allegedly (but this story has been relayed to me by many people over the years who say they witnessed it) saw Donaghmore off by giving the completely demoralized band the two-fingers-up salute as they drove out of the park.

For those pipers and drummers who live outside of the UK, SLOT’s win may not seem that important. But for those in the UK and Ireland who have witnessed first-hand the political and quasi-religious idiocy that has gone on decades before, it’s a true milestone.

To be sure, to be sure, that idiocy hasn’t much existed for at least the last 20 years, and all bands have had to play well enough to win, but SLOT finally doing so officially closes the door on some bad, lingering memories.

The road rises up.

Walking the planks

Board-walkeringI’ve commented before on the continuing separation between “band piping” and “solo piping.” It used to be that a pipe section’s ultimate goal would be to play MSRs like a top soloist, and top soloists like John MacFadyen, Seumas MacNeill and John MacLellan would judge band contests, even though they had never played with a World Champion-calibre – or even any – band in their lives.

I think the music continues to drift apart. You don’t hear much in common with the playing at the Silver Star and that at the World Pipe Band Championships. Medleys and drums sections have created a chasm between the two styles, and, to be honest, solo piping has pretty much been stagnant, while band piping has evolved.

And a lot of that also has to do with band judging in the UK. If my count is correct, there are only three piping judges based in the UK – Iain MacLellan, John Wilson and Andrew Wright – on the senior RSPBA panel who have also stomped the boards for a good long time at the level required of the Argyllshire Gathering and the Northern Meeting. The rest are pipers raised almost entirely on pipe bands.

This is perhaps understandable for the UK scene where bands and solos events are, with rare exceptions, separate things. It follows that many pipe band judges will be bandsmen, who don’t have the demonstrated skill and appreciation for the solo style. There are many top soloists playing in top bands now – Peter Hunt, Donald MacPhee, Alastair Dunn, and of course the entire roster of the Spirit of Scotland – but my hunch is that those UK-based guys when they retire from competing will focus on solo judging, if they even want to adjudicate.

In North America, where band and solo events almost always happen at the same competition, it’s much easier for a piper to be both a top soloist and a member of a top band. Young pipers start with the amateur grades and, if they have the goods and the will, progress to Professional. All the solo events are there, so why not play in them? Consequently, non-UK pipe band judges tend to be top-class solo players, too. It’s very hard to do that in Scotland.

That’s evidenced by the RSPBA’s 2005 approval of “international” judges like Jim McGillivray and James Troy to its panel, which already included Bob Worrall – all guys who proved that they can knit together top-drawer solo music, and of course recognize it.

I’ve also said that – for better or worse – so much of what happens in the piping world is dictated by what goes on in Scotland. If the goal is to win the World’s, then non-UK bands tend to do what the RSPBA judges want to hear. And if those judges are mostly bandsmen, then the band style – whatever it might be – will be heard and promoted.

But if anyone wonders why a band plays pipe music in such a dramatically different style from a solo piper, they need look no further than the RSPBA’s judging panel for a possible reason.

Walking the planks

Board-walkering.I’ve commented before on the continuing separation
between “band piping” and “solo piping.” It used to be that a pipe
section’s ultimate goal would be to play MSRs like a top soloist,
and top soloists like John MacFadyen, Seumas MacNeill and John
MacLellan would judge band contests, even though they had never
played with a World Champion-calibre ? or even any – band in
their lives.

I think the music continues to drift apart. You don’t hear much in
common with the playing at the Silver Star and that at the World
Pipe Band Championships. Medleys and drums sections have created a
chasm between the two styles, and, to be honest, solo piping has
pretty much been stagnant, while band piping has evolved.

And a lot of that also has to do with band judging in the UK. If my
count is correct, there are only three piping judges based in the
UK ? Iain MacLellan, John Wilson and Andrew Wright ? on the senior
RSPBA panel who have also stomped the boards for a good long time
at the level required of the Argyllshire Gathering and the Northern
Meeting. The rest are pipers raised almost entirely on pipe
bands.

This is perhaps understandable for the UK scene where bands and
solos events are, with rare exceptions, separate things. It follows
that many pipe band judges will be bandsmen, who don’t have the
demonstrated skill and appreciation for the solo style. There are
many top soloists playing in top bands now ? Peter Hunt, Donald
MacPhee, Alastair Dunn, and of course the entire roster of the
Spirit of Scotland ? but my hunch is that those UK-based guys when
they retire from competing will focus on solo judging, if they even
want to adjudicate.

In North America, where band and solo events almost always happen
at the same competition, it’s much easier for a piper to be both a
top soloist and a member of a top band. Young pipers start with the
amateur grades and, if they have the goods and the will, progress
to Professional. All the solo events are there, so why not play in
them? Consequently, non-UK pipe band judges tend to be top-class
solo players, too. It’s very hard to do that in Scotland.

That’s evidenced by the RSPBA’s 2005 approval of “international”
judges like Jim McGillivray and James Troy to its panel, which
already included Bob Worrall ? all guys who proved that they can
knit together top-drawer solo music, and of course recognize
it.

I’ve also said that ? for better or worse ? so much of what happens
in the piping world is dictated by what goes on in Scotland. If the
goal is to win the World’s, then non-UK bands tend to do what the
RSPBA judges want to hear. And if those judges are mostly bandsmen,
then the band style ? whatever it might be ? will be heard and
promoted.

But if anyone wonders why a band plays pipe music in such a
dramatically different style from a solo piper, they need look no
further than the RSPBA’s judging panel for a possible reason.

Droning on

More interestingHere’s a tip for indoor solo piping competition organizers: make sure that temperature is the same throughout the venue. Take the time to assess tuning rooms and the final stage. If there’s a difference in heating or cooling, fix it. If it can’t be fixed, find a new venue.

 

Here’s a tip for solo piping competitors: if you can’t get your pipes in tune and settled after four minutes, just start anyway. They won’t stay in tune, so your might as well just get it over with and lessen the suffering of people watching your screwing at the drones.

 

And if your drones are fine and you keep stalling before starting you’re just putting out a huge flag that says you’re not really prepared to play.

 

I would say that the biggest hindrance to solo piping being appreciated by more people is the incessant and habitual tuning that pipers must think is some sort of learned tradition. In an age of moisture control systems and synthetic bags and reeds there’s really no excuse.

Droning on

Much more fun.Here’s a tip for
indoor solo piping competition organizers: make sure that
temperature is the same throughout the venue. Take the time to
assess tuning rooms and the final stage. If there’s a difference in
heating or cooling, fix it. If it can’t be fixed, find a new
venue.

Here’s a tip for solo piping competitors: if you can’t get your
pipes in tune and settled after four minutes, just start anyway.
They won’t stay in tune, so your might as well just get it over
with and lessen the suffering of people watching your screwing at
the drones.

And if your drones are fine and you keep stalling before starting
you’re just putting out a huge flag that says you’re not really
prepared to play.

I would say that the biggest hindrance to solo piping being
appreciated by more people is the incessant and habitual tuning
that pipers must think is some sort of learned tradition. In an age
of moisture control systems and synthetic bags and reeds there’s
really no excuse.

Upkeep

O judge, where art thou?Bob Worrall, who everyone on the piping planet seems to know, made an interested comment at the recent PPBSO Adjudicators’ Seminar. He remarked that judges often bemoan the fact that young players are infrequently seen at the major competitions, but those same carping judges rarely even more infrequently attend events that they’re not involved with themselves.

I never thought of that before. It’s clear that today’s competitors expect judges to practice professional development. Most associations put on seminars for their accredited judges, and many are fully expecting, if not requiring, their judges to attend them in order to maintain their good standing on the active panel. But I agree with Bob’s point that a good way for judges to stay current is to frequent competitions and recitals in a non-judging or non-playing capacity.

During the crushingly boring incessant tuning by some players at the Livingstone Invitational last Saturday, I made note of how many accredited judges were in the crowd. The number was very small, and those who were there were those who usually attend events.

I don’t know. If I were a competitor I might be even more troubled by the lack of interest shown by judges than judges are concerned about the apathy of young players.

Upkeep

O judge, where art thou?
Bob
Worrall
, who everyone on the piping planet seems to know, made
an interested comment at the recent PPBSO Adjudicators’ Seminar. He remarked that
judges often bemoan the fact that young players are infrequently
seen at the major competitions, but those same carping judges
rarely even more infrequently attend events that they’re not
involved with themselves.

I never thought of that before. It’s clear that today’s competitors
expect judges to practice professional development. Most
associations put on seminars for their accredited judges, and many
are fully expecting, if not requiring, their judges to attend them
in order to maintain their good standing on the active panel. But I
agree with Bob’s point that a good way for judges to stay current
is to frequent competitions and recitals in a non-judging or
non-playing capacity.

During the crushingly boring incessant tuning by some players at the
Livingstone Invitational last Saturday, I made
note of how many accredited judges were in the crowd. The number
was very small, and those who were there were those who usually
attend events.

I don’t know. If I were a competitor I might be even more troubled
by the lack of interest shown by judges than judges are concerned
about the apathy of young players.

Copy that

This image is approved public domain, smarty.Ian Whitelaw, in his review of Simon McKerrell and Finlay MacDonald’s new collection, makes matter-of-fact reference to bands photocopying music. At the front of the book itself there’s a message that says, “It is illegal to photocopy this book.”

 

Ian’s just mentioning a reality and I’m sure is the last person to circumvent copyright. Regardless, copying music for “educational purposes” is perfectly legal. Similarly, I don’t think Simon and Finlay are terribly concerned about one-off copies of tunes, and perhaps are thinking of wholesale recreation of the entire book.

 

Ever since the Haloid Company invented xerography, this battle has gone on. Since Bill Livingstone first cautioned us in his first collection in the 1980s, many other publishers of pipe music have included pleas to pipers that say in so many words: “If you like stuff in this book, then purchase it.”

 

I welcome every new collection. But I also wonder if new books of music are old-think. Do many people download entire CDs of music? Most people I know (but not me, generally) go to iTunes or PlanetPipe or wherever and purchase the one or two things they like.

 

Jim McGillivray’s pipetunes.ca takes advantage of this new reality. His site is a growing resource for pipers looking for that one piece of music that they really want, without having to pay $30 for the whole collection. And ever since David Glen started compiling tunes, there has always been a certain amount of filler in those pricey works. Even Donald MacLeod’s collection has some (very) occasional duff stuff.

 

And most composers I think just want their music played. Distribution is usually the hard part, and some I know believe that the more widely distributed it is – purchased or not – the higher the odds that it will be played. And when original copyright music is played, the composer makes the more significant money.

 

I think I’ve covered this before, but it’s worth saying again, especially with the irony between the statement in the book and the comment in the review. It’s really all about getting it out there.

Copy that

This image is approved public domain, smarty.Ian Whitelaw, in his review of Simon McKerrell and Finlay
MacDonald’s new collection, makes matter-of-fact reference to bands
photocopying music. At the front of the book itself there’s a
message that says, “It is illegal to photocopy this book.”

Ian’s just mentioning a reality and I’m sure is the last person to
circumvent copyright. Regardless, copying music for “educational
purposes” is perfectly legal. Similarly, I don’t think Simon and
Finlay are terribly concerned about one-off copies of tunes, and
perhaps are thinking of wholesale recreation of the entire
book.

Ever since the Haloid Company invented xerography, this battle
has gone on. Since Bill Livingstone first cautioned us in his first
collection in the 1980s, many other publishers of pipe music have
included pleas to pipers that say in so many words: “If you like
stuff in this book, then purchase it.”

I welcome every new collection. But I also wonder if new books of
music are old-think. Do many people download entire CDs of music?
Most people I know (but not me, generally) go to iTunes or PlanetPipe or
wherever and purchase the one or two things they like.

Jim McGillivray’s pipetunes.ca takes advantage of this new
reality. His site is a growing resource for pipers looking for that
one piece of music that they really want, without having to pay $30
for the whole collection. And ever since David Glen started
compiling tunes, there has always been a certain amount of filler
in those pricey works. Even Donald MacLeod’s collection has some
(very) occasional duff stuff.

And most composers I think just want their music played.
Distribution is usually the hard part, and some I know believe that
the more widely distributed it is ? purchased or not ? the higher
the odds that it will be played. And when original copyright music
is played, the composer makes the more significant money.

I think I’ve covered this before, but it’s worth saying again,
especially with the irony between the statement in the book and the
comment in the review. It’s really all about getting it out there.

Mudly

One medley for babies?Would it make sense to standardize competition rules worldwide at least at the top levels? Every year since the World Pipe Band Championships made the Grade 1 Final playing requirement submit two MSRs and one medley, there has been some hue and cry over the disparity between requirements leading up to the contest, with some alleging that some non-RSPBA bands have an advantage.

The RSPBA requires that bands submit two selections at all of its Grade 1 medley competitions. The Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario has the same rule. On the other hand, the British Columbia Pipers Association and other organizations call for Grade 1 bands to put in only one medley throughout their season.

The allegation by some is that bands that have only one selection to work on all summer enter the World’s with an edge.

I’m not sure what I think on the matter, but I do know that every association’s rules for solo competitions get progressively more stringent through the grades. In the Professional, or Open, grade, most associations require solo pipers to submit four of everything. Similarly, rules for bands get more and more difficult going up the grades, and it would seem logical to continue that increasing level of difficulty right through to the premier grade.

It makes sense to me that Grade 1 bands should have to prepare at least two MSRs and two medleys. In fact, in these days of most Grade 1 bands needing to have two hours of concert material at their fingertips, one would think that two of each is no bother at all.

But, then again, it also makes some sense that associations should follow the requirements set out by the RSPBA at the World’s, and allow their bands to hone their very best selection in the event that they need it on the big day.

Perhaps the solution is for the RSPBA to increase the requirement of the Grade 1 Final to two medleys. There are several advantages to this I think: more variety for the crowd; more variety year-to-year on the DVD and CD; more drama and excitement for the audience.

Sure, it’s more work and pressure for the bands (or at least as much when bands pre-1972 had to submit three MSRs) but, really, isn’t that what the Grade 1 Final all about?

Mudly

 One medley for babies?Would it make sense to standardize competition rules
worldwide at least at the top levels? Every year since the World
Pipe Band Championships made the Grade 1 Final playing requirement
submit two MSRs and one medley, there has been some hue and cry
over the disparity between requirements leading up to the contest,
with some alleging that some non-RSPBA bands have an
advantage.

The RSPBA requires that bands submit two selections at all of its
Grade 1 medley competitions. The Pipers & Pipe Band Society of
Ontario has the same rule. On the other hand,

the British Columbia Pipers Association andother
organizations call for Grade 1 bands to put in only one medley
throughout their season.

The allegation by some is that bands that have only one selection
to work on all summer enter the World’s with an edge.

I’m not sure what I think on the matter, but I do know that every
association’s rules for solo competitions get progressively more
stringent through the grades. In the Professional, or Open, grade,
most associations require solo pipers to submit four of everything.
Similarly, rules for bands get more and more difficult going up the
grades, and it would seem logical to continue that increasing level
of difficulty right through to the premier grade.

It makes sense to me that Grade 1 bands should have to prepare at
least two MSRs and two medleys. In fact, in these days of most
Grade 1 bands needing to have two hours of concert material at
their fingertips, one would think that two of each is no bother at
all.

But, then again, it also makes some sense that associations should
follow the requirements set out by the RSPBA at the World’s, and
allow their bands to hone their very best selection in the event
that they need it on the big day.

Perhaps the solution is for the RSPBA to increase the requirement
of the Grade 1 Final to two medleys. There are several advantages
to this I think: more variety for the crowd; more variety
year-to-year on the DVD and CD; more drama and excitement for the
audience.

Sure, it’s more work and pressure for the bands (or at least as
much when bands pre-1972 had to submit three MSRs) but, really,
isn’t that what the Grade 1 Final all about?

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Accreditation negation

Nudge, nudge, wink, winkI’ve been thinking again about judging accreditation. Several associations in North America have had sophisticated adjudication examination programs for solo judges for years. I know that Ontario established its system in 1988, and the EUSPBA started its own process around the same time. These and other associations have worked to improve their accreditation programs and the requirements for consideration are stringent.

At all sanctioned events in North America, solo judges need to have formal accreditation. In fact, the 10 organizations that comprise the Alliance of North American Pipe Band Associations collectively agreed that accreditation is a requirement to judge.

There is a unified acceptance that accreditation is good for the competitions, and what’s good for the competitions is good for the competitors. Competitors want to know that they are been assessed by not just a competent former-competitor who has done the business for the required length of time, but by someone who has proven that he or she has the necessary skills to be a good judge.

As John-Angus Smith discussed in his recent 10 Questions With . . . interview, there is no formal accreditation process that solo judges have to go through in the UK. There it’s pretty much a grandfathering tradition. If you’ve won a sack-load of prizes (or have a membership with the Royal Scottish Pipers Society and talk a good piobaireachd), seem to be a good person and are interested and available to commit a day in return for some tea, a sandwich, a chocky-bick, and a few pounds, then you’re eligible to judge. Further, there aren’t even score sheets or even formal feedback to competitors.

So why, then, do North American associations happily invite unaccredited pipers and drummers from the UK to judge their sanctioned events? Doesn’t it contravene agreed policy and undermine the accreditation process? If demonstrating officially that one is not only a good player but a good judge is essential, then why do we give some accomplished players a bye and others not?

Perhaps non-UK associations are still enamored with pipers and drummers with Scottish accents. Or maybe ANAPBA organizations really don’t take accreditation that seriously. But every time an unaccredited “guest” piper or drummer is brought in to judge, doesn’t it contradict 20 years of diligent effort to establish and adhere to the entire examination process?

I ask you.

Accreditation negation

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.I’ve been thinking again about judging accreditation.
Several associations in North America have had sophisticated
adjudication examination programs for solo judges for years. I know
that Ontario established its system in 1988, and the EUSPBA started
its own process around the same time. These and other associations
have worked to improve their accreditation programs and the
requirements for consideration are stringent.

At all sanctioned events in North America, solo judges need to have
formal accreditation. In fact, the 10 organizations that comprise
the Alliance of North American Pipe Band Associations collectively
agreed that accreditation is a requirement to judge.

There is a unified acceptance that accreditation is good for the
competitions, and what’s good for the competitions is good for the
competitors. Competitors want to know that they are been assessed
by not just a competent former-competitor who has done the business
for the required length of time, but by someone who has proven that
he or she has the necessary skills to be a good judge.

As John-Angus Smith discussed in his recent 10 Questions With . . . interview,
there is no formal accreditation process that solo judges have to
go through in the UK. There it’s pretty much a grandfathering
tradition. If you’ve won a sack-load of prizes (or have a
membership with the Royal Scottish Pipers Society and talk a good
piobaireachd), seem to be a good person and are interested and
available to commit a day in return for some tea, a sandwich, a
chocky-bick, and a few pounds, then you’re eligible to judge.
Further, there aren’t even score sheets or even formal feedback to
competitors.

So why, then, do North American associations happily invite
unaccredited pipers and drummers from the UK to judge their
sanctioned events? Doesn’t it contravene agreed policy and
undermine the accreditation process? If demonstrating officially
that one is not only a good player but a good judge is essential,
then why do we give some accomplished players a bye and others
not?

Perhaps non-UK associations are still enamored with pipers and
drummers with Scottish accents. Or maybe ANAPBA organizations
really don’t take accreditation that seriously. But every time an
unaccredited “guest” piper or drummer is brought in to judge,
doesn’t it contradict 20 years of diligent effort to establish and
adhere to the entire examination process?

I ask you.

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