The Competing Pipers Association has tabled a proposed overhaul to the selection process for applicants to the Silver Medal piobaireachd competitions in Scotland at the Northern Meeting at Inverness and Oban’s Argyllshire Gathering.
The system will see more formal qualification criteria, attempting to solve the tradition of over‐subscription, questionable decisions and murky process that has persisted since the events were started in 1977, coincidentally, as a qualifying method for the oversubscribed Highland Society of London Gold Medal events.
The proposal, which will go to the UK’s Joint Committee for Piping of organizations with an interest in the competitions, involves deploying certain criteria “with the aim of having the very best 26 players gaining entry into the Silver Medal, and a transparent eligibility framework for places in the competition,” according the plan.
The Joint Committee for Solo Piping comprises representatives from the Northern Meeting, the Argyllshire Gathering, the Isle of Skye Highland Games, the Scottish Piping Society of London, the Scottish Pipers’ Association, the Inveraray Highland Games, Glenfiddich Piping & Fiddle, the Piping Live Masters Solo Competition, the National Mod, the Competing Pipers’ Association, and the Solo Piping Judges Association.
The CPA has come up with a formula in which designated competitions in the previous season will act as qualifiers for the following year’s Silver Medals, including those who gained a prize in a Silver Medal that year, all CPA members grade A‐ in piobaireachd, winners of designated B‐Grade competitions, and standings from placings in select B‐Grade events in the UK and North America.
The winner or winners of the Silver Medals will continue to move automatically into the Gold Medal competitions.
Designated B-Grade events in the UK:
- Blair Atholl Games
- Blairgowrie Games
- Capt. John MacLellan Memorial
- Cowal Gathering
- Duncan Johnstone Memorial
- Highlands & Islands
- Inveraray Games
- MacGregor Memorial
- Perth Games
- Rosneath Games
Also on the list are the Annual Gathering of the British Columbia Pipers Association, and Winter Storm at Kansas City.
There are no events in Ontario on the list, but CPA President Glenn Brown did not rule out their inclusion.
“There’s potential to create more events or incorporate an event at say the Toronto Indoor Games or Maxville,” Brown said. “Also, at the moment, so many of these players are coming over to compete at the Duncan Johnstone, Cowal, Blairgowrie, the Capt. John Memorial and London.”
Only the BCPA Annual Gathering has events for those with a CPA grading. No other solo piping events in North America, including Winter Storm, adhere to CPA gradings, which do not distinguish between professional-class or amateur competitors, and essentially anyone 18 or older who wishes to compete in the UK needs a CPA grading. Exceptions are a few events run by the Competition League of Amateur Solo Pipers (CLASP), run by the National Piping Centre, which cater to older adult amateur solo players who do not wish to compete against better CPA graded players.
Those Graded C by the CPA often compete in Amateur Grade 1 in North America, resulting in some confusion when pipers who have won prizes in C-Grade events in the UK return to North America to compete as amateurs.
The CPA hopes that the new system will be deployed with the 2019 Silver Medal events, with the 26 automatically pre-qualified competitors knowing of their status before the end of 2019. The current system, or lack of one, typically saw competitors notified of their acceptance/rejection in the spring.
Previously, the Joint Committee would meet to go through applications to the Northern Meeting and Argyllshire Gathering, reviewing each piper’s track record of success, CPA grading, letters of reference, and anecdotal evidence based on personal assessments from those who might be familiar with the piper’s ability.
“We feel that having a more robust and transparent method of qualification will give everyone more certainty around the process,” the proposal stated. “It will give players the certainty of a place in the event and clarify the parameters they must satisfy to be included. It gives the CPA a black and white method of answering its membership when questioned on inclusion or non‐inclusion and it gives the AG/NM the certainty that they will have the 26 most consistent/strongest players for their events.”
At the same time, the CPA “strongly encouraged” participation in other Highland games “to improve their track record and get experience competing.”
In a statement, the CPA said, “With 65 B-Grade players, it’s very difficult for the CPA and Joint Committee coming up with the list of who gets into the medals each year. This lays out the exact method in which the player will get into the Silver Medals. Essentially, every competitors fate is in their own hands. We understand that this first year will have a learning curve and are prepared to take action where needed in the future.”
“The proposed new qualification process seems fair and transparent and will have the added benefit of letting Silver Medal qualifiers know where they stand much earlier than in the past,” said Alan Forbes, Northern Meeting Convenor of Piping.