Published: July 31, 2000

Non-Musical Competition Rules Can Have Merit

By Mike Miller, Redlands, California

Editor’s note: We received the following thoughtful message from Mike Miller of Redlands, California, in response to our feature piece, “When Competition Rules Run Amok.” We thought it was well worth sharing.

I agree with your comments about non-musical rules not affecting musical placement of the band, and I certainly would not feel good about winning a contest because one of the pipers in the second place band was out of step. Some of the examples you list have some merit.

Performance presentation as well as musical ability can add or take away from the performance and therefore both should be judged. Also to consider is the games host. Their purpose is to entertain the thousands of people who come to their games for a professional appearing show. Therefore some control should be put on some of the non musical aspects. But reason should reign.

If the band in your example did not march off, how did they get out of the competition circle? Did they dismiss in the circle? Did they play off when the games ruled called for them to march off with pipes down? The point being, did their exit detract from the performance?

Not wearing a hat in the competition circle could detract from the professional appearance of the band and not affect the presentation as a whole, especially if the capless were the bass drummer, or the lone tenor drummer, who are already different. What if three of the ten pipers did not have glengarries, or they had hats that had obviously been abused and not shown proper care? Should less wealthy bands be penalized because they don’t have the means to outfit the band properly?

How does a judge take this into consideration? Reason dictates that if the playing ability of one band is superior to the playing abilities of another the superior band should win the competition unless there is flagrant disregard for the games’ intentions. Then the band should be disqualified. If two bands are close in musical ability to the point of a toss-up, then the little non-musical things can and should play a part as the presentation of the two bands is affected.

Any competition band does not want to make a judge’s job easy by giving the judge a reason to mark them down. If a band cannot do a pipes up/down properly how can they play an MSR? If a band plays a totally awesome MSR, they probably can do a pipes up/down and may just need a reminder.

To lose a contest for procedural mistakes, such as playing out of the circle when you are supposed to march, medley time being 5 minutes and 10 seconds when it is supposed to be 3 to 5 minutes, shows complete disregard for the spirit of the rules, and anyone claiming a victory on that basis would be just as unhappy as the band that lost. However, a band showing total disregard for those rules probably should be dealt with, and the rules do supply a vehicle for that.

The pipes up and down thing at the line in Scotland may seem militaristic, but it does present a uniform appearance. This may be more important to the hosts and spectators than to our musical judges, but we must show respect for those people shelling out money, and it is not really that much of an inconvenience.

Should a band be marked down musically for forgetting to do pipes up and down thing? No. Can a band demonstrate confidence and professionalism by presenting itself in an appropriate manner? Yes.

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