I’ve been on sabbatical, gentle readers, and even you can understand that even Harry needs a break now and again. But I am back, and boy have I been busy, a fly on the wall, a mosquito under the kilt, a veritable midge in the ear of the world of piping and drumming. Let’s see what’s going on . . .
When you think Piobaireachd Society, you don’t think pipe bands. But the hoary old PiobSoc is undergoing a makeover of sorts these days, what with asking composers to send tunes and what not. But I don’t think a PS President has ever played in a top pipe band, or maybe even any band, while they were handling the top-executive-spot – until now, as Jack Taylor has joined the Grade 2 Buchan Pipe Band. The good doctor has never played with a competition band, and just like he took up the fiddle in his 50s, the old dog is learning new tricks.
There’s an underground photo going around of the notorious Bob Shepherd playing a bass drum harnessed to him. And it’s not just any big drum – it’s that of reigning World Champions Field Marshal Montgomery, no less. Harry hears that this is the first time that Big Bob has actually played the bass, an instrument he has critiqued as an ensemble judg . . . er, I mean, adjudicator for the last 30 years. A reward from Harry awaits anyone who can produce this contraband photee.
I am in awe of reedmakers. They must have the patience of Job, what with their shaving cane and crimping staples and twining together blades. If it weren’t for the fact that some of them sell the crappier products that they would never play themselves, I think good chanter reeds are under-priced. But Harry obtained this pickee from one reedmaker of a reed that a customer tried to return to get his money back. That, dear readers, is just plain pitiful.
I was thinking the other day about the more important solo competitions and the positions of judges on a three-man bench. Now, to me, I think the tradition says that the more senior judge takes the middle spot. In the middle is the man with the most experience, and not necessarily the man with the biggest ego. Seniority goes to the judge with the most proven ability as an adjudicator. The recent Livingstone Invitational made the etiquette mistake of leaving the most senior judge on the outside. Tut-tut, I say. Tut-tut.
And on the subject of sitting, would someone please answer me this? Is it acceptable for a pipe band judge just to sit there throughout an entire competition? Shouldn’t he or she move around a bit, and listen to the band from various positions? Or is it quite right that the bands should position themselves strategically so that the sitting judge gets the best rendition? One thing strikes me as correct: all judges should be “static” or all judges should be mobile. It’s not fair to bands to have a combination of attitudes, agility and laziness.
Speaking of Boab, I note that he’s expanding his business to include clothes for males. I didn’t venture into the shop, but I understand it includes indigo blue kilt jackets, tartan trews and braces. In the back is a cigar emporium where people can sit for three hours and judge all the people passing by.
The best band between Windsor and Vancouver, Alberta Caledonia, is going through some changes. The band’s pipe-major, Jamie Gattinger, is reportedly moving to Texas after this season, and the band is busy bringing back ex-members for what not a few people have described as a “last hurrah.” I understand that Sean Somers is the likely successor in the top spot.
Anyone remember the much ballyhooed Millennium Report that a special committee of the RSPBA put together in 1999, only to see it obliterated by politics at the association’s AGM? Let me refresh your memory: the report called for a wholesale restructuring of the organization, which included dissolving the National Council, selling assets, improving marketing, and other big changes. Well, it’s back, I hear. A document called “The Way Forward” that outlines a very similar approach to the Millennium Report has been floated to the National Council, essentially calling for the RSPBA to be completely revamped, suggesting that it can’t go on as it has and still be viable. Let’s see what the summer brings.
Let’s see what you can bring to Harry. Send your salacious scoop to him by e-mail and he’ll promise to keep his sources confidential.