January 19, 2014

Ontario breaks Professional Piobaireachd into A and B grades

In an attempt to deal with large entries and time constraints for its Professional Piobaireachd competitions, the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario has announced that it will split the grade into A and B grades, reflecting mainly the grading of Scotland’s Competing Pipers Association.
In recent years the PPBSO has had to divide the Professional Piobaireachd entry into arbitrary sections, creating two separate prize lists, but without any final competition to decide an overall prize list. Because the organization typically runs solo competitions in the morning and pipe band contests in the afternoon, and since most competing in solo events also compete with bands, neither and elongated event or a final competition were practical.
The organization made the rule change known via its website. The new format did not go through the typical vote by membership, but was made by the PPBSO’s Music Committee and approved by its Board of Directors.
Pipers with a CPA grading of A or B will compete in the same category at PPBSO events. Those without a CPA grade will compete in the B section, unless they have won competitions “such as the Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal at Maxville, the Maxville Professional Piobaireachd or a Gold or Silver Medal at either Oban or Inverness.” It is not clear what other qualifications will result in qualification to compete in the Ontario A-Grade.
Most solo pipers would join the CPA only in order to compete at events in the UK that adhere to CPA gradings. The PPBSO will allow the top two finishers in B-Grade points gained throughout the sanctioned-competition season to move into the Society’s A-Grade, apparently regardless whether they are still graded B in Piobaireachd by the CPA.
The organization said that only competitions with a larger entry will be split into separate events, and those with smaller entries will be a single combined Professional Piobaireachd contest.
“With the size of our entries last summer it became obvious we had to do something,” said PPBSO Music Committee Chair Geoff Neigh. “We divided Georgetown (23) and Cambridge (21), Maxville was an all-day contest, and Kincardine and Cobourg had larger entries than could be finished by noon hour. We wanted to maintain the Ontario system that allows players to compete in solos in the morning and with bands in the afternoon.”
Neigh said that the organization did not conduct a . . .

formal survey of competitors, but “had discussions with senior adjudicators and players who could reasonably expect to be in either the A or B grade.? The feedback was very positive, and as far as I know, no one complained to us about their CPA grade.”
The PPBSO has struggled to supply piobaireachd competitions with certified judges, and in particular the Professional event, which requires an A-Certification with stringent criteria and competition success at the top level in order to be eligible.
Solo piping judges with a B Certification are ineligible to adjudicate Professional grade events.
Asked how the organization would address a potential problem created by the split grade and not having enough certified judges available, Neigh said, “This is a concern. We already had to divide Georgetown and Cambridge, and possibly would have to divide Cobourg and Kincardine this year. So we will need at most a couple of more judging assignments than last year.”
Senior solo piping judge Jim McGillivray said about the change, “It’s not a bad solution for this particular problem, although it only exacerbates the age-old problem we have of there being far too many events on the morning of games day. However, I have probably gone on enough about that little bug bear of mine, even though it’s one of the main reasons I hardly judge anymore! I’ve said enough about that one without anybody listening!”
“I think it’s a great idea to split the grade for the piobaireachd to help control the population, and it gives those in the B-Grade a goal to strive for,” said Dylan Whittemore, who competes in the Professional category on the PPBSO circuit, but who does not yet have a CPA grading.


  1. Not super uncomplicated but looks to be a good solution, or pilot solution, to the problem. Ontario has had “A” and “B” grades of open competition before (I won’t quote the late Scott MacAulay on his views on that experiment). Still, hats off to the Ontario crowd to step up and address a problem. And Jim, as much as the world loves to hear you talk about the issue of mucho-events, I don’t think this relates a lot to that problem. This is pibroch/piobaireachd, this music needs more support not less. Cutting out the jigs and Shandy 6/8 marches alone will create more judging capacity.

  2. It may seem simple to downgrade 5-10 people, but that only shifts the problem into senior amateur. Now you would need 3 heats in senior amateur instead of 2, so…..

  3. Not having been involved in solos for awhile this still comes across as a good stepping stone. Too many time suggestions and actions get caught up in red tape and a solution is never found as a result. This might not be the answer but it’s an action and it may result in an even better action. I also agree with Michael in the fact that piob. doesn’t need to be put off to the side. As for the other contest… I can’t see a positive in limiting peoples opportunities to compete, but maybe you could weed out people that drop or scratch too often. That could shorten the field. Just random thoughts, but applause for trying something out.

  4. Interesting but what about the pipers who are graded B for years by the C.P.A. but have won lets say the gold medal at Maxville. Shouldn’t the C.P.A. grading stand rather than the one time success at one event that might have been a poor entry or standard on the day. a bit unfair to the other ones playing in the B section who dont get a shot at competing against the A pipers? Can list about four off top of my head .

  5. No matter what grade, the same number of pipers will still need to be ‘processed¡¯ on the day. Look at the worlds qualifier ¨C the initial argument for that was to make the day shorter¡­.and now we have a two-day event!



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