Scotland to start first-ever contest circuit for amateur adult pipers

Published: June 30, 2005

For more than 200 years, adult pipers in the United Kingdom who wanted to compete had to do so against the world’s best, but in 2005 that will finally change with the debut of the Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers, or “CLASP,” in August in Glasgow as part of the Piping Live festival.

Kicking off the launch will be first World Amateur Solo Piping Championships August 10-12 at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.

According to the National Piping Centre, organizers of the new league, “CLASP was developed in recognition of the fact that there is little encouragement or provision made for amateur adult pipers who could be interested in taking part in solo competition in Scotland, despite the fact that there are systems of graded amateur competitions in place in many other parts of the world.

“For many in this category, the opportunity to take part in solo competition is there, but it means that they face pitting their playing ability, wits, and skills against pipers of a much higher level, which perhaps is a step too far.”

Annual membership in CLASP is £30. The league is open to amateur pipers 18 and older. The organization defines an amateur as “one who does not compete in open solo piping competitions where prize money is offered.” Pipers younger than 18 competing in the UK would continue to compete in those well-established events.

CLASP will be administered and operated by the National Piping Centre and will comprise a grading system similar to that used in North America. Not only is the league intended to provide a place for amateur Scottish pipers to play, but it will make competing in North America easier.

Three grades will comprise CLASP competitions, with members potentially getting different gradings for piobaireachd and light music events. Grade 1 is the highest and Grade 3 considered entry-level. The organizers stress that Grade 3 is not a grade for “learner” pipers. Each grade carries a specific tune submission requirement, again similar to those prescribed by members of the Alliance of North American Pipe Band Association. North American competitions cater to every level of piper, from practice chanter to professional.

Competitors accrue points from events, based on the number of pipers they place ahead of in their grade at each competition.

According to a news release from the organizers, “There will be a circuit of graded competitions, initially at venues throughout the U.K. and Ireland: seven events in all in CLASP’s first year. The first will be the World Championships at this year’s Piping Live festival in August, while subsequent events include competitions at Madras College, St. Andrews, on 26 November during St. Andrews’ Week; at Tulloch Castle, Dingwall, on 14 January next year; and at the Ballyearl Theatre, Newtonabbey, in Northern Ireland on 18 February.”

“I hope that CLASP members feel the benefits of this new league and that some of them will graduate from Grade 1 and look towards CPA membership as their next step,” says Roddy MacLeod, director of the National Piping Centre.

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