Published: March 23, 2005

Oban and Aviemore

There’s a bit of chagrin, as usual, with solo pipers applying to get in to the Argyllshire Gathering (Oban) and the Northern Meeting (Inverness, usually, but this year at Aviemore).

Every year a vetting committee comrpising folks from those events, a few Piobaireachd Society people, and a couple of reps from the Competing Pipers Association get together to consider the applicants and yay or nay their aspriations. No one except the people actually on the committee seems to know how it all works, except for the fact that each piper’s competition success record is considered and, hopefully, someone on the committee has actually heard the person play.

So far there has been more acrimony than usual about the some of the decisions. Andrew Hayes and Michael Grey, the two pipers who had equal points for the prestigious Ontario Champion Supreme award for piobaireachd, and who both have had prizes in the Gold Medals at Oban and Inverness, were rejected for this year’s Gold Medals. No explanation, just an impersonal automated e-mail telling them, in effect, that their realistic Gold Medal aspirations are pretty much over.

When will these events realize that, like the World Pipe Band Championships, they are extraordinary because of their internationalism? Isn’t it time they started to respect “overseas” competition standards? Shouldn’t they seek the unbiased advice of judges in overseas jurisdictions?

On the other hand, like the World’s, these are their events, and they can run them however they please. But they should understand that, with the rapid growth of high-profile, sponsored, big-money events in North America, the statures of the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting will certainly decline if they continue to disrespect the international pipers who have made the contests the great events that they are today.

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