September 05, 2007


Watching judges can be more fun than listening to the piping!
The phenomenon of pen-diving is worth discussing. For those not familiar with the term, it’s this: solo piping judges who grab their pen as fast as they can when they hear a missed gracenote or fluffed doubling.

It can be downright comical with a bench of three judges, like those at the Northern Meeting, where the finest pipers in the world play for the biggest prizes in the world. Generally, a dropped taorluath will pretty much keep you from winning. Drop three or four and you might as well go home.

Everyone listening hears the blemishes, and everyone in the hall reveres those on the bench, yet the judges perhaps feel that they are being judged also, and maybe think that they have to outwardly confirm that, yes, they heard the mistake. Pen-diving at times can be almost spasmodic.

A few blogs ago I compared tenor-drumming with the artistic and athletic sophistication of synchronized-swimming. Maybe Best Synchronized Pen-Diving should be an award at these big competitions.

Seriously, competitors hate judges’ pen-diving. To a person, the say it’s distracting and unnerving. Since being on the other side of the table, I have made a point not to write anything or visibly tap my feet while a competitor is playing, trying my best to allow the piper to concentrate fully on the performance. It’s pretty easy to keep positive and negative points in one’s head until the end, and then between competitors write thoughts and account for decisions on the score sheet.

And when you think that there is no formal provision for score sheets or judges’ accountability at Scottish solo contests, it make me wonder further why they’re writing anything at all.

Pen-diving: catch this entertaining game at your next solo event.




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