August 22, 2014


World2014_Saturday_ (182)_smallA week has already gone by since Piping Live! and the World’s wrapped. It was another terrific week of piping, drumming and musical (and other) excess. The planning involved to put on the Festival and the World’s never cease to astound, and every year each event seems to improve.

A few impressions of the week:

Timing: it’s everything, and the RSPBA is the Rolex watch of associations. Even with, um, challenging weather, events run like clockwork, down to the second. If you consider that a single grade at the World’s is usually bigger than the entire number of bands at a Highland games in other parts of the world, and the RSPBA flawlessly executes eight of those events (plus finals) on the day, I, for one, am left awestruck.

Timing: the Friday experiment was worth trying, but the day was flat and many people were failing to see the need for holding a Grade 1-only day to see which bands would qualify. Many said that it seemed feasible simply to have all bands compete in MSR and Medley events on Saturday, and then decide the prizes from that. No more qualifier. One and done. Get on with it.

Calum Ian Brown: this 14-year-old won Pipe Idol with sets of tunes played effortlessly, on a sweet instrument, and, most importantly, beautifully and faithfully on the beat. The last skill is elusive to even some of our best pipers. This kid has it.

Shotts: won the drumming. Finished fifth overall. Could have been as high as third. 2014 marked a remarkable and welcomed comeback for this historic band. Here’s wagering that Shotts will pick off a major in 2015, and the World’s within three.

Family judging family: again there were several examples of judges adjudicating bands with their direct family within the ranks. This is not to say that these judges were not fair, only that it looks terrible, and people talk about the optics. Just about every judged thing there is has rules preventing family judging family. It’s time that all associations around the world did the same.

Stuart Highlanders: Solid Grade 1. Nuff said.

GGPSPB: credit to Pipe-Major Duncan Nicholson and Leading-Drummer Eric Ward and the whole Greater Glasgow Police Scotland Pipe Band for delivering almost three hours of complicated Ceolry content, and then two/three days later finishing just behind SFU at the World’s.

The crowd: the main arena was a bit awkward on Saturday. The stands were not full or even close to it for much of the day, and all but deserted during the (kudos there, too) Grade 2 Final. Yet, the gallery to the side was mobbed, 30-40 deep. Why not just relax a bit, let them in, fill the seats, and create some atmosphere for the bands and the cameras? After all, these are hard-core pipe band fanatics.

Grudgy judges: those who seem to allow some ancient slight to cloud their objectivity are out there with a clipboard at the biggest event of the year. Everyone knows who they are. Their eyebrow-raising results are as predictable as a crowded beertent. They think they’re slick. They are not. Time to monitor these people and remove them from panels if their results continue to be out-of-kilter.

Last major: making the World’s the final RSPBA major championship of the season is a good move. Finish at the pinnacle. No more restarting the motor to drag to another championship. Like this.

Ian Embelton: people should remember that it has been under his watch that the World’s and the RSPBA in general have made huge strides forward. Sure, they can do more (see above), and not everyone will ever be happy all the time, but Embelton has overseen everything. He has a board of directors to answer to, of course, and they should take due credit, too, but Embelton deserves acknowledgement for often exceeding expectations in a job that is generally thankless.

Just a few thoughts from the week past. There are plenty of others not mentioned — live stream, excellent beertent, FMM, IDPB, ScottishPower . . .

What are some of your pros and cons?


  1. Congrats on a fine summary, Andrew, and the continuing excellent coverage we have come to expect with your fine efforts, now so ably assisted and enfurthered by Malkie’s excellent reporting etc.

    Each year the perennial issues resurface in different guises in response to the previous season’s rearrangements – in reaction to those perceived inequities, and round it goes. Judging, schmudjink, smudge ink. As has been well noted, we have a restricted narrow community in this passionate pursuit, and overlaps of conflicting interests are inevitable within bounds. But the optics of perceived unfairness need still be addressed in likely whack-a-mole fashion for egregious outlier results. I like the idea of 16 adjudicators over the weekend to smooth the more blatant excesses. However – in Glasgow’s challenging August weather that becomes a feat of stamina and endurance, lending yet another tilt to the playing field. The old days of 27 + Bands in Grade 1 (many unknown and previously unheard due to global extent and participation) cannot be judged in any easy fashion, hence the current format. Ken Eller spoke last week on Pipeline of the complex musical issues that confront today’s Panels. He also stated taste must enter into attaching results, due to the evolution of the modern idiom with such varying approaches + presentation adding to the problematics of boiling down separate contributing elements into a workable summary.

    Silverbacks, aging warriors, Old Swords with their internal lamentations of mortality but battle metaphors? Alphas necessarily dominate democratic processes where active players can fear reprisal in publicly complaining via the political mechanisms of Branches and AGMs that your blog has mentioned previously. Churchill stated “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” It would be nice to improve the poor modern participation in that so-called “democratic” process with electronic voting, say. Embedded interests will be chary to surrender advantages of the status quo, though, particularly at national and planetary levels for Government-wide decision making. But electronic input would still have problems, and requires thoughtful time invested by participants to maturely understand the issues. A tall order maybe, in an accelerated social media age.

    All of us with loved ones will appreciate we can be influenced immoderately and spousal relationships, being more ostensibly equal than others, can patently manifest the blinkered thinking that others’ affect can have in swaying one’s outlook – especially apparent to friends and outsiders. We are humans, and biases are unavoidable in judging as in all walks and pursuits of life. My experience – grudges are most tightly held by those feeling the most slighted and with insufficient emotional resources to unchain those feelings to cast them adrift in the flotsam of their own boat’s wake – all creating waves of course, as we all make in passing through. Bandspeople and those in the workplace with heavy handed leadership can relate to marginalization, but learn to bypass delicate self-felt sensitivities. Some only appear bullet proof, but they suffer in what becomes increasingly a prestige game for them. I hope as adults that we can make the competition and adjudication process more transparent and equitable in promoting musical passion in this obsessed pastime. The expense of more judges does not strike me as viable compared to inbuilt reviews and controls. Perhaps we all “have dogs in this race” but we should maybe better follow the ancient Asian societies in the vein of Jimmy Blackley, and honour all our fellow players/judges and admire their unique contributions in our mutual love of the music, instead of dwelling unduly on how our aspirations are thwarted. Best of luck in continuing to popularize and broadcast the art form out there.

  2. time to move the worlds.
    Would love to see it go to Edinburgh instead.
    Getting a little tired of the same old same old every year in Glasgow.

    Grade 1 final on Saturday finished at 3pm…wonder why they couldn’t just let the other 10 bands play on the same day. Would have been plenty of time.




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