October 18, 2008


Not one of us, I'm afraid . . .When I first went to Scotland as a competitor around the games and at Inverness and Oban in the early-1980s I was struck by many things, most of them very, very good.

The number of non-Scottish pipers back then was relatively few; the only other regular American competitors were Mike Cusack and Jim Stack, both of whom had spent time in Scotland learning the craft from people like John MacFadyen and John A. MacLellan.

But one thing that opened my eyes was the way a few of the locals would talk about piobaireachd or, more specifically, how outsiders played piobaireachd. Some seemed to have this idea that, if you weren’t Scottish, you automatically didn’t have the requisite musicality in your nature. As a result, some non-Scots players were deemed innately unmusical. They just didn’t have “the piobaireachd” and they never would.

Similarly, there were Scottish players from the Highlands who were said to have a kind of inborn ability to play piobaireachd better than those from Glasgow. And the few players who spoke Gaelic were treated by some as having a sort of magical musical gift, despite the fact that their pipes were never in tune and they couldn’t play a decent crunluath.

I thought then that it was a crock and I still think it’s a crock.

I was reminded of this when a few weeks ago I was told about yet another pipe band judge accusing a band of “not playing in the Scottish idiom.” In this instance, it was the Toronto Police playing in the MSR in the World’s Qualifier. Michael Grey mentioned it in a recent post on his blog.

Never mind the fact that his band is led by Ian K. MacDonald, one of the best MSR players on the planet; what eventually got me most about this familiar “lacking Scottish idiom” comment was when I realized that this score-sheet remark as far as I know is only thrown at non-Scottish bands by Scottish judges. Has a Scottish-based Grade 1 band ever been accused of “not playing in the Scottish idiom”? I doubt it.

The way I see it, such a sweeping and unfounded pejorative is more about where you come from than about the music you actually play.

The blanket “Scottish idiom” attack is an easy out for a judge. I suppose if a band played a traditional Chinese song in its medley it might be acceptable for an adjudicator to criticize a band for playing outside of “the idiom,” but an MSR? How can any Grade 1 band be accused of not playing a traditional Scottish MSR within the musical “idiom”? It boggles the mind.

Twenty-five years ago I noted that, regardless of how well they played and imitated traditional styles, some were made to feel like musical outsiders. It’s pathetic indeed that this sort of apparent discrimination still exists.


  1. Andrew, you and Michael have been at this game way to long to read anything into a score sheet full of stock band critiques. “Q school” is wrong and when most of us can guest who gets thru weeks in advance shows the stupidity of the whole process. I’ve heard it all, 2 Canadien, 1 Aussie, 1 Kiwi, maybe an American and always 1 or 2 Northern Irish if they have the judging panel in their favor. We all talk about it for months in advance when the judges are announced. Hell, last year our band was on the fence about going, then they posted the panels in February or March? And Glasgow lost $30,000 to their local economy…. You guys know better…. “Spirit of Scotland” had a documentary made about them all week, what were the chances of them not getting thru? Its about who should get thru not about who deserves to get thru on that day. Anyone who has gone thru this process regularly (Halifax, Peel, LA, COW, Toronto, the Aussie’s, New Zealand, Alberta) knows how it works and lives with it. When was the last real surprize in the qualifier? Lets look into the future, next year 1 or 2 Scottish bands get thru(probalby Fife and a rebulit Dysart). 78th are in, Alberta is re-organizing, new PM with Peel rebuilding with a great drum corp, Toronto getting numbers in pipe corp, Truimph, and Halifax. Only 1 spot left for Canada. LA in, huge name and market (BBC loves), 1 Aussie (whatever the name they bring), maybe New Zealander (especially with the Hawke name attached), and Northern Ireland is good for at least 1 but we have to wait for the judging panel on this one…..Q school? I have a tough time explaining the system to people outside our little musical world.

  2. Steve — you raise good points, but the post isn’t about whether the Qualifier system is good or not, it’s about whether the “not in the Scottish idiom” comment is prejudiced, as it seems to be thrown only at non-Scottish bands. (But, believe me, there was not one member of the Spirit of Scotland who thought the band would get some sort of free pass to the Final.)

  3. No question the Scottish are biased against outsiders. A band I played in was told the day before the worlds by a Socttish Pipe Major that we wouldn’t make it through the Grade II qualifier. It had been predetermined because they were still smarting from us sneaking in and taking 6th the year before. The thinking was that we had been given our little prize once and we should just shut up and enjoy our holiday. After all, we’re just yanks. What do we know. That was 1991. Not much has changed I think. In fact, due to the overwhelming number of bands from other nations, I bet it has gotten worse.

    And Bagad Cap Caval…they will qualify this year. The RSPBA will justify it’s upgrading of them. Then you will be lucky to see their name mentioned again for several years. Just a prediction.

    Frankly, there are about 8-10 truly premier bands. The qualifying process for the rest is a joke. How often do bands qualify and then place…not much i suspect. They should create a premier grade and let the rest of the Grade I’s fight it out amongst themselves. That or raise the bar higher, moving many down to grade II and cleaning up the lower grade II into grade III and so on. The standard in Grade II in N. America seems to be a bit down right now anyway. Grade 5 is a relativiely new phenomenon. Why not do the same on the top end?

  4. There are about 10 different concepts being merged here. I really doubt the conspiracy theories – the whole group is simply not organized enough and they aren’t aligned. The only similarity between the problems is that more judges would cure all of them – fairly, musically, politically and logistically.
    Spirit of Scotland put a lot of pressure on themselves and pulled it off. Maybe other grade one bands in the qualifier should mobilize and work to peak on the day instead of celebrating their identities.

  5. It’s just like the overseas trophy at the Worlds. How can you be overseas at the Worlds. If you are Mars maybe. Prejudice there as well as far as I’m concerned. Mind you, Bob Hardie said that he could tell the result from the list of judges and that was before “The Invasion” from abroad.

    Having listened to the final bands there is not much prejudice there. The best bands are at the top and others follow quite fair as I hear it. The “out of idiom” remark is just one of those silly ones one get now and again. He must have meant something with it though. Maybe it’s a way of asking for a trip to Canada to explain matters. What where they actually playing?

  6. Wow, not a one is really getting the question here at all are they? Understandable since other issue have been brought up here. I’ll throw my two cents in, with the dislaimer that I probably don’t have the years that some of you do, nor the medals,(Colin) that you do. But, I would say that the person who is nameless in the article and has had the “gaul” to say a band isn’t playing in the “Scottish Idiom” might mean something different. Now it is appearant that they are still being ignorant by only picking out one band, (and not the right one if you as me) Toronto is great. But there is a fact that the MSR’s being played by top bands (all of them) are alot of the times missing the traditional swing, bounce, and feel in their march, strathspey, and reel. I could not envision in my head, a highland dancer being able to do the fling to any grade 1 bands strathspeys. I’m not saying they don’t have the proper cutting and holding of the notes, but it doesn’t have the traditional bounce, that the poor bastard playing at the dancing tent all day has. The Reels tend to be straight ahead, and I think you can call out 78th Frasers for adjusting (or so it seems to my ear) their reel tempos. I recently listened to an older recording of an MSR, and they just had this seriously wicked pace to it. I liked it, but you listen to this year, and seems like it’s being held back a bit more, to try and get more out of the tunes. So yeah, in a sense some of the “idiom” maybe lost amongst present day bands, but Mr. Nameless judge, please do your self a favor and call them all out, not just one of them, and most certainley not Toronto out of all of them.

  7. Interesting discussion(s)……..
    On the original topic of “Scottish/Celtic Idiom/Idiot”……….
    Once apon a time there was a band called Toronto & District Caledonia Pipe Band. During the late 80’s early 90’s this band was playing music in their medleys which could be considered by some to be on the cutting edge or pushing the envelope. After playing in one medley competition one year (can’t remember exactly what year or where), we received what we considered to be an odd comment on one of scoresheets which stated that the music that we were playing was “Not in the Celtic idiom”. Rather odd when you consider that the music was composed by people of Celtic descent and would therefore by default fall into the “Celtic Idiom” as it is Celts that define that idiom (as opposed to Congo pygmies, etc). What is even more interesting is that the judge that used the statement has recently reversed its whole position by now being in support of this type of innovation and even questions the existence of this “Celtic Idiom” which this judge had somehow previously recognized as existing! Well, people do change over time….
    In reflection, I can only conclude that if you are liked or in favour, then you are marked up on scoresheets by being considered “innovative and creative” whereas if you are disliked or not in favour, then you are marked down by not conforming to the “Celtic/Scottish Idiom”. This is just part of the subjective judging that will not change no matter how hard we try. We are all human and subject to bias whether we like it or not.
    Regarding the ad hoc discussion #2……..
    Perhaps it would be a good idea to create an Uber grade I competition. The worlds could be sploit into two days. On Saturday, have the Grade I WPB championship contest consisiting of Grade I bands that are competing in the qualifier only. Then on Sunday have a Grade 0 competition consisiting of the bands that were exempt from the qualifier + the top three from the Saturday competition to add that dark horse element and make the Sunday a little less predictable.
    This concept could be extended to the other grades to create an interesting Sunday competition with a reduced number of filtered bands to hopefully create a close and exciting final.

  8. Andrew, i was wondering if you bring up Toronto specifically or foreign bands in general. i feel like the biggest irony in this blog is that a canadian band won the worlds this year! and they certainly deserved it! i’ve heard toronto play, and though they may be rockstars, is it possible their MSR wasn’t up to par this year?
    in terms of the “scottish idiom” prejudice i feel like there are a couple of things in play. being an MSR contest, there’s no where else that this idiom exists. in no other culture does there exist strathspeys and reels (together at least), and the march idiom, though it’s certainly evolved in the past coupla decades, is probably particular to “scottish” style. especially in an MSR which shows the flat out discipline and control of a pipe band, there are real specific regulations, etc. you’re not allowed to punch the lineman in the face in football, or sing a classic opera in english (for examples).
    this reminds me of a story of a buddy of mine back home, in a Gr.1 solo contest he decided to express the third part of his reel (Little Cascade) “rounded” because he was expressing how he felt a wee cascade would “look” musically. he didn’t place that day, though the judge came up to him afterwards and told him “i get what you were doing in that third part boy, and i very much liked it. but you just cannae do it”. this scottish idiom business is everywhere! is it to preserve the “scottish spirit of the music, or is it stuffy fogies trying to bring us foreigners down?

  9. Seamus — Toronto Police is just the latest non-Scottish band to have the “Scottish idiom” comment thrown at it. It’s just a recent example, and the point isn’t whether the band deserved to place where it did. Judges are supposed to account for their decisions by writing clear and sensible comments on score sheets. If they don’t, then they should be available and prepared to explain their confusing comments. If they don’t explain a comment like this, then we can justly assume that it’s some kind of archaic protectionism.
    Coincidentally, people may be interested in my letter-to-the-editor published in today’s Toronto Star, which points out the role of the Highland pipes in Canadian culture – http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/520179.

  10. A judge might write that comment for a beginner gr4 or gr3 band that is struggling with their first MSR , but at the gr1 level who is he kidding?

    Most of those players in the Toronto band have been playing MSR’s for so long, they could play them in their sleep.

    I would wager that judges are making up any excuse to eliminate good bands in the Qualifier.

    Dump the qualifier, it’s a waste of time!

    Only a Moron would support such a lame system!

  11. Colin makes a valuable point. The Qualifying Heat is on CD for everyone to listen to and judge for themselves. You can make an arguement that the CD’s don’t to justice to certain Pipe Band nuences (sp). But…..I don’t think “idiom” is one of them. Give it a listen and judge for yourself.

    In some defense of the Judge, we don’t know whether “idiom” was the one and only reason he “disqualified” Toronto or whether it was just not “spot on” or the last of 5 issues he identified.

    Like i said, listen to the Qual CD and judge for yourself.


  12. To my understanding “The Scottish Idiom” just refers to a certain pulse or swing. It’s more than just playing the dots and cuts, it’s accentuating the melody and the phrasing. Compare the afore-posted youtube video of the Toronto Police with the MSR of one of the superbands like FMM or SFU and you’ll hear the difference in the pulse. The “Scottish” idiom, again, to my understanding, favours this pulse and exaggeration of dot and cut over precise execution.
    “The Scottish idiom” was coined when, as noted in the blog, overseas players were a relative rarity in Scottish competition and their playing style, or so it’s said, favoured precise execution over the pulse. It, although precise, was apparently more mechanical than musical.
    Now when this poor judge who so many of you would burn at the stake says the a band does not play in accordance with “the Scottish idiom” he doesn’t mean “this band plays too damn Canadianly for my liking.”. He just means that it lacks the pulse; and, not to take anything away from a very entertaining pipe band, but as all can witness on youtube, the Toronto Police MSR did leave something to be desired in the pulse/swing department.
    You could replace “Scottish” with any other adjective you like. You could say the band does not play in accordance with the pulse/swing idiom. For all it matters you could say they don’t play in accordance with the drunken-baboon-on-a-motorcycle idiom because it really makes no difference. It’s just an objective term that refers only to the style of playing, not to the band’s homeland.
    Case in point: as previously noted, FMM and SFU can satisfy the Scottish idiom quite nicely and they’re not Scottish bands are they?

  13. Ah but my friend, Bob! I believe they are! As we all know, aside from piobaireachd, the great March is where we can find more nuance than any other type of tune. Picture the swing of the kilt! It all comes from the pulsating nuance! And to quote John Purser, “the smooth-flowing quavers of a reel and the dotted rhythms of a strathspey,” they are “quintessentially Scottish.” (which compliments my point on the “scottish” idiom debate.)

    But yes! In the world of monotonous marches, soporific strathspeys and repetitive reels, and those listeners who skip with haste over the odd (and this year, even) numbered tracks on the Worlds albums, it is the subtle nuances that separate the cream from the crap! Why else wouldn’t there be a Medley contest at the Glenfiddich? Why is it an apparently simple MSR to which the piping community subscribes in putting its champions to the ultimate test?
    Because the greatest pipers in the world showcase their talent in these subtle nuances! The nuances, my friend! That’s where all the beauty is; the art of the Great Pipe which we play is in the nuances! God! God is in the details!

  14. All this Voodoo talk about pulse, swing and nuance!

    I went to find a Scottish band where I could actually learn about this mysterous and elusive pulse. These guys are some of the best MSR players on the planet:

    It’s a terrible thing to be wallowing in a world of ignorance where anyone outside of Scotland in playing in the a dark and has no idea what a simple Strathspey should sound like.

  15. Still think this was a stock comment to fill out a sheet. And at the beginning of all this I was not refering to “who” would get thru but the process of the “qualifier”. “Spirit of Scotland” were great and a good reason to buy the DVD or go to Youtube. What a shame it would of been if they had not played thru and no one would of heard their medley selection. Same with bands like Toronto, these bands put so much time into their music only to stand around waiting for a guy to emerge with a mic to let them know if they can share their work with their peers. Let them all play. If you don’t think their good enough re-grade them.

  16. S. Mackay…

    It would of been very easy for a judge to write that down on a score sheet…”playing the strathspey too round” or “not enough pulse” or “I need more cut and hold” or even “lacks swing”. It’s not a difficult thing to find words for if that’s what a judge wants to convey. To write on a sheet that it doesn’t fit into a certain “idiom” is unjustified in something as big and as important as the World Pipe Band Championships. Saying it’s just not Scottish enough leaves to much to the imagination as to what the judge doesn’t like and does sound much like discrimination. Judging at this level often results in personal taste decision’s by the judge and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that! However, judges at this level often have the experience to write down exactly what they mean…I agree with Andrew on this point, it was just an easy out for the judge.
    J. Stewart

  17. Fair enough.
    I do agree that the phrase is dated, and there are many alternatives to it that would clarify the judge’s meaning and avoid uprisings like this one, and it does imply a certain bigotry. However all I mean to say is that I’m sure the judge in question wasn’t some radical pipe band purist who had some racist agenda to unfairly disqualify all overseas bands on the account of their not being Scottish enough.
    He could have expressed himself differently in his comments on the scoresheet. However, I believe that the issue is being blown out of proportion and people are wrongly taking offense to it.
    Again, as I said previously, you could replace the word “Scottish” with one of an infinite number of other adjectives and use that to describe the playing. The word is not integral to the meaning of the term.
    This is because, again, the term is not meant to imply that only Scottish pipe bands play MSRs properly by virtue of their Scottishness and pipe bands of all other nationalities play them improperly. It is merely the term applied to the criteria for which this judge listens.

  18. Again, if there is a Scottish band that has ever been tarred on a score sheet with the “not playing in the Scottish idiom” comment, I’d be very interested to know. My guess is there hasn’t been one and, if that’s correct, then we might fairly conclude that it’s an easy exclusionary comment thrown at non-Scottish bands. But I do think that S. Mackay raises an excellent point.

  19. Andrew,
    As an American, I’ve experienced the Scottish bigotry against us for a long time. I can understand their point. We did steal their golf after all. It just doesn’t happen @ the Highland games. How often does an American figure in he prizes in the Gaidhlig singing @ the National Mod? You see the same bigotry in Japanese Sumo. The Japanese feeling is only a native Japanese has the proper “Fighting Spirit” to be a “yokozuna” – grand champion. Well, that’s simply bunk. Same thing with this Scottish fantasy that Gaidhlig speakers have some sort of magical ability to play. Robert Reid was a lowland colliery worker. So much for the “Highland Magic.”
    But again, I can see the Scot’s point. As outsiders, we are f*&@#%g with their national identity. On the other hand, I think it’s great that a Japanese pitcher can throw a no hitter in the USA Major League Baseball. It will be equally great when some Scots laddie wins a US rodeo bullriding championship prize.
    Cheers from Brookings Oregon USA
    Keir Todd

  20. Leave it to you keir to break up a good fight! 😉

    You would think some people would be happy or even celebrate that other nations are taking up this God Forsaken Instrument instead of always finding ways to degrade the very supporters who can assure it’s growth.

  21. I agree with aspects of both sides of the argument. As a Scot, i feel that the Scottish part of “not in the Scottish idiom” is a throwaway statement. I completely agree with the judges sentiments in that by definition a Strathspey has to be in the Scottish Idiom. I personally feel that Toronto were in no way, shape or form good enough to qualify. Now lets take Lothian and Borders police. Would i say they didnt play in the Scottish Idiom? No, it would most probably be even more vague….something like Strathspey not phrased properly (For no other reason that sayig a Scottish band isnt playing a Scottish idiom sounds a bit wacko!). In which case does this make me bigoted? I really feel that it is a case of language semantics and that both bands had similar things wrong with the way they played their tunes. The only difference is that the judge perhaps worded it a little poorly – a mistake i afraid I could have stepped into as well.

    On the side issues, i also believe TPol should be able to showcase their medley. So the side debate about the relevance of the qualifier is a hot topic for me. On one hand Toronto weren’t good enough, but on the other hand they had a musical statement to make and as a grade 1 band travelling at considerable expense should be provided with a platform to do this. We were treated to a glimpse of Toronto’s medley before the worlds – what if a Peel or an NZ Police had something equally outstanding to bring to the table? Part of me also thinks that if you cant get the MSRs right then theres no point.

  22. I’ve been thinking about this long and hard, and I very much appreciate everyone’s well-considered ruminations on what it all means.

    Me? I think it’s a conspiracy, and the judge belongs to the Royal Scottish Pipers Society, mistook the lads for women, and needed an oblique – yet convincing – way to ensure the interlopers didn’t make it through to the final.

    Or my beloved TPPB didn’t play all that well, and the judge happened to write an unclear, and unfortunately, useless, comment that probably is emblematic of nothing.

    I’m going with the RSPS angle….slainte to all the TPPB boys and girls – you’re Scottish Idiom enough for me 🙂

  23. Joel:

    I haven’t thought too long or too hard about your post, but based on what you are saying, it looks like the judges from the RSHCMEPS might need glasses in addition to hearing aids……

  24. GC, why do we base a band’s ability on such an out dated format?
    If I live long enough to never hear anothr MSR again, I would all be too happy as MSR’s bore the Fxxk out of most of us.

    A lot of band MSR standards are vastly different from their medley Standard and probably has something to do with the enjoyment factor of playing a medley with lots of life and interesting harmonies.

    In this day and age of declining ticket sales and festivals closing their doors, why do we insist on subjecting our paying customers to drab MSR contests?

  25. Though this in no way correlates with the topic of the post…
    In my opinion competitions are for the purpose of competition.
    Concerts, shows and festivals are for the purpose of entertainment.
    MSRs are a contest staple. They showcase the band’s ability to play traditional tunes in a traditional setting, and I think that’s still worth something now and always will be… and I’m 18.
    It’s not all about 12 part harmonies and counterpoint and explosions and laser beams and the man on the flying trapeze.
    If you know what to listen for, and sure, maybe your average piping enthusiast doesn’t (but that’s where concerts, shows and festivals come in), then you can find just as much entertainment value in a good ol’ MSR as you can in a Medley.
    I admit that maybe the two events appeal to different tastes, but one can hardly claim that all MSRs are boring because not everyone thinks they’re fantastically action-packed and so they ought to be pickled in formaldehyde and stuck on the shelf.
    You know, not all piping enthusiasts find piobaireachd to be simply bursting at the seams with entertainment value either.
    And really… you know… not all fans of music are fans of the bagpipes… so really I guess we should just stop playing them altogether…

  26. “It’s not all about 12 part harmonies and counterpoint and explosions and laser beams and the man on the flying trapeze.”

    That sounds like a sweet medley…..where can I go to see it?

  27. We’re not going back to the elephants thing again, are we?

    To expand on S. MacKay’s comments regarding concerts vs competition (already covered in an earlier discussion), perhaps it would help to look at other subjectively judged competitions. For instance, Figure Skating, Gymnastics, Bodybuilding, etc. Like the piping world, these endeavours also suffer from the bias of subjectivity vs objectivity. An effort is made to reduce this effect by having the competition split into two basic halves: Compusary Figures vs Freestyle and then combining the two scores in some form to come up with an overall winner (well, it’s more or less like that with a few variations depending on the sport).

    In the Piping world, this would translate into “Compulsary” MSR + “Freestyle” Medleys. It would do the pipe band world a disservice to eliminate the MSR portion as it is the only format that can be used to closely compare bands in terms of playing style, ability, control, execution etc.

    Like it or not, there are two overall aspects in our competition world that we need to accept: subjectivity (what did you think of their performance?) and compulsary structures like the MSR or guidelines for Medleys that will hopefully result in fairer, more accurate comparisons.
    As a part of that process, judges need to be careful in their choice of words when trying to translate thought to paper and give meaningful comments vs obscure verbage like “Scottish Idiom”, which really has no definition.

  28. Just for the record, I still love sets. Tom McAllister, The Rant, Pretty Marion – – Bonnie Ann, the Piper’s Bonnet, the Sheepwife….money. As long as it’s played well, with good tone, at a brisk tempo, with some swing and pulse and phrasing so I want to tap my foot.

    You know, as long as they’re played “in the Scottish idiom”.

  29. I’ll throw my glengarry in with Joel on this one. I actually prefer playing sets over medleys. Ironically enough, one of my favourite marches is the Royal Scottish Piper’s Society, even though it doesn’t appear to have been written in the Scottish Idiom…. or was it?

  30. “The “Conundrum” anyone?
    Besides…..who could say that the Cameronian Rant is even COMPOSED in a “Strathspey ” idiom. It’s an idiom all its own! But a great, great tune none the less!


  31. Andrew…..your initial dissertation is well taken and you’ve started a great thread here. It would be even better, at the Pub over a few beers!


  32. Andrew B, a bit of a reset – please note that my old pal Art references the glen as the headear of choice…that whole balmoral thing, I think that’s just you 🙂

    Dr. A – an excellent suggestion. See you in the pub over a pint! Heartily concur this is a wonderful thread.

    Art, Bring on the elephants! But just the ones “in the Scottish idiom”, please.

    What the hell were we talking about again?

  33. Getting back to the original post,
    It’s natural that when a band or an individual don’t do as well as they expect they look for reasons (external in every case … very seldom internal) So comments misconstrued or otherwise are grabbed with all the fervour of a lifeline.
    I know that Glasgow soloists at competitions in the highlands moan about local weighting (preference) The reality from the impartial observer (me) is that if they didn’t win it was down to their piping … not their geographical origin.

    Andrews original post ref, Piobaireachd was very true … but those days are long gone, as are the judges that Bob Hardie referred to (Long dead in fact). That fact that judging draws it’s ranks from the global piping scene should see the death (slow and lingering???perhaps) of national bias.
    Everyone can hear when a judge gets it wrong, there’s usualy a great wailing and outcry of BIAS … From ALL the parties involved, having listened to all the Worlds Grd1 for the past 35 years, the judges have got it right on most of the occasions. This of course is not to say that national bias did not or does not still exist, I would say though it has diminished almost to the point of irrelevance now.

    N..Americans / Antipodeans continually complaining of a scottish bias, or Glaswegians complaining of an Argyleshire bias, Edinbuggers complaining about everyone else, and highlanders believing that they have a god given tallent that beats hard work and practice are all the delusions of individuals and bands that can’t accept that they weren’t good enough on the day.


  34. Piperjimbo – no one from the Toronto Police Pipe Band ever once complained about their team’s placing. Complaints about our performance? A different story. In fact we may have rightly been put last – who knows.

    My original blog post was around the intrinsic and fundamental unfairness of the RSPBA’s Q school. The blog post on this site is about the appropriateness and, I think, the intellectual integrity, in a judge opining on the “Scottish idiom” of any one pipe band. It is indefensible.

    I can tell you we were going for the “pipe band idiom” overall with a dash of “Cape Breton idiom” in the march, “Gaelic idiom” in the strathspey and “Glasgow idiom” in Duncan Johnstone’s setting of the reel.

    No complaints or moans about the actual results. Zero.

    Michael Grey

  35. I stand corrected Michael.

    Here is a thought though, I understand the “Scottish Idiom” not because I’m a Scot (I am) but because i have been immersed in the music from birth, not just pipes, fireside singing, bows & boxes, whistles & spoons.
    I can tell when any pipe band … regardless of geographical origin … has the music, or is simply playing staff. I can’t comment on the incident where TPPB had this unfortunate phrase levelled at them, but I’ve heard great PB’s where I could level “All technique and No music”
    It’s perhaps something i can’t express verbally but when i hear it i know it’s right.



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