Published: November 06, 2006

Meeting standards

The annual solo piping competitions at London are among the most prestigious in the world. No doubt about that. The event over the past five years has worked to align itself with the Competing Pipers Association, requiring competitors to be a graded CPA member, and organizing contests to be in sync with gradings. It also introduced and uses scoresheets.

(In every country outside of the UK grading and scoresheets are standard practices, but, for the most part, British events are still open to any who want to play in them and, if anything, age is the only restriction. UK competitors also don’t get any written feedback, and judges don’t have to account for their decisions.)

But to the best of my knowledge the CPA requests that its members not compete before their teachers. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but more of a policy that members should strive to uphold. Also as I understand it, the CPA asks members to try to play only for judges on the list approved by the UK’s Joint Committee for Judging. (But that list is not made public, so how do they know?)

London’s organizers apparently were challenged getting all invited “A-List” judges to accept the job, since travelling to London for Scottish judges can mean expensive airfare or a 12-hour journey if they don’t fly, so I gathered the event had to make due with a few judges not on the list of judges approved by the Joint Committee.

I was also struck by the London event’s proviso on its online order-of-play that said something like, “Don’t worry about playing for your teacher; the others on the bench will sort it out.”

So, what’s an event to do? Any contest that aspires to high standards must ask itself if it is better to fill out the benches with B or even C list people, or reduce a bench from three to two or even one if the judges don’t meet the criteria, or outright cancel an event? It’s a bind that events are often faced with: carry on with potentially reduced standards, or scrub the competition entirely?

I know that in Ontario there are occasions when certified judges just aren’t available or can’t attend at the last minute. At least a few times a season someone without the specific judging credentials pitches in just to ensure the event goes on. On one hand, the competitors get to play. On the other, there are grumblings (mainly from those not in the prizes) about the judging and organizing, and a reputation for excellence is potentially tarnished.

Curious to hear what people think.

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