Published: November 18, 2019

Tempos, teaching and new tunes among lively discussion at Solo Piping Judges Association AGM and seminar

Mentoring new judges, encouraging new tunes, considering ponderous tempos and debating common “faults” that are increasingly ignored were all topics of discussion at the annual general meeting and seminar of the Solo Piping Judges Association held at the Army School of Piping & Highland Drumming at Inchdrewer House in Edinburgh on November 17.

The AGM was attended by 20 of the organization’s 52 member judges, some of whom travelled from as far as the Isle of Skye, Aboyne, Inverness and Kent in the south of England.

The office-bearers of the association are elected annually, and Colin MacLellan (Chairman), Roddy Livingstone (Secretary) and Euan Anderson (Treasurer), were all re-appointed by acclamation.

The main item of discussion at the AGM was a discussion on a new mentoring program for new judges. This proposal will lead to any new SPJA judges choosing a mentor judge from a pool of volunteer senior judges, and will involve three consultative sessions over a year, sitting with judges as an observer during competitions and prize-list discussions.

A written report from both the new judge and the mentor judge will be submitted when the period is completed, with the SPJA leadership committee determining the applicant’s membership.

The proposal generated discussion and it was decided to put the scheme into operation, pending approval from the various competitions in the coming competition season.

Existing non-UK judges who have examination accreditation and years of judging experience in their own jurisdiction will also have to go through the mentorship program.

After lunch, the gathering was joined by Callum Beaumont, vice-president of the Competing Pipers Association, along with the senior piper Iain Speirs, who gave a presentation and update on the current status of the CPA Silver Medal qualifying competitions. The views of many were expressed and, amid a generally positive reaction, the consensus seemed to be that the system perhaps required further thought and refinement.

Other presentations were given by Euan Anderson, Alan Forbes, Bruce Hitchings, Dr. Angus MacDonald and Ronnie McShannon, which provoked discussion.

Subjects included “Judging Experiences,” “Repetitive Errors That Have Become Acceptable” and a session on best practice and a potential new layout for scoresheets. The UK has traditionally not used scoresheets for solo competitions, which have been standard in the rest of the world for more than 40 years and much longer than that for pipe bands.

A few of the topics touched upon:

  • A more ordered way of deciding results.
  • Possible division of responsibilities among a judging bench.
  • A general view that when pipers submit new compositions or unusual tunes in both piobaireachd and light music, the association would actively encourage judges to choose these tunes.
  • A selection of typical things that are commonly heard in piping competitions that might be classed as faults, but are generally not penalized.
  • A discussion of acceptable and possibly desirable tempos in light music, with consideration of considerably faster tempos of the past.

The group decided that the Committee would take forward many of the points made and form a list of recommendations that might be put into a more formal arrangement for implementation or further approval of the Association.

“The SPJA is moving gradually towards a more formal structure of its activities,” Association Chairman Colin MacLellan said. “While we feel this is desirable, we are also aware that conventions of judging in the past have been well thought out and largely successful over a long period of time. During the very interesting discussions, it was obvious that the group were keen on gradual incremental change that might lead to improvements and thus to the benefit of judging and piping competitions as a whole.”

MacLellan added that additional points will be taken forward to the meeting next week in Edinburgh of the Joint Committee for Solo Piping, which is largely a discussion group of judges, competition organizers and the CPA.

 


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