Published: May 07, 2007

Ceol less

You have to applaud the Piobaireachd Society for making the Senior list all modern tunes – or at least piobaireachd written after Queen Victoria died, which is “modern” in ceol mor terms.

The intention I assume is to open things up a bit more, to get some different stuff played, and perhaps legitimize new compositions. There’s no doubt that the Piobaireachd Society’s “authority” stamp is big, bold and Scottish accented. Pipers see these lists and immediately think that the tunes are worth playing, even if you never see non-pipers with them on their iPod.

If the PiobSoc really wanted to have these tunes in circulation they would not be assigned to Clasp-winners to learn. There are maybe 15 of these pipers on earth, and about two of them play at anything but invitiationals or the major Gatherings.

The accomplished pipers who are out there competing the most are those vying for the Silver Medals. The next-most-active group are the Gold Medal players. Rarely heard are the Clasp people, and I guarantee that these players would enter other events with big tunes – the stuff that made them famous.

I’d imagine that the reason for not including modern tunes in the Silver and Gold lists is the familiar saw that the Piobaireachd Society needs to act as the steward for what pipers should have in their repertoires before they win the Silver and/or Gold medals. And that insinuates that those modern tunes are not in fact credible.

Case in point: a similar modern list was set in 1992, again for the Seniors. Did those tunes catch on? Were they heard much more than at Inverness and Oban? No and no. When it comes to piobaireachd, “authority” trickles up.

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