August 12, 2007

Sunday AM P-M

B. MacDonald]
The Sunday morning pipe-majors are analyzing the results today, putting together their “what if?” scenarios, and trying to find non-performance reasons for why things happened as they did at yesterday’s World’s.

I have friends in just about every Grade 1 band that competed, and my only hope was that the best band would win, that the rest of the results would be fair, and that everyone would have a good time.

Some things come immediately to mind, though, so let’s discuss.

The rain: The World’s has enjoyed uncharacteristically good weather for most of the last decade. A steady dreich was bound to happen. Meanwhile, Toronto was partly cloudy and mid-20s. I’d have still rather been there.

The drumming results. SFU must be dazed and confused with the marks they received in drumming. The seventh and ninth they received from Jim Hutton and Harry Russell, respectively, effectively ended any hope of the band winning. In that light, finishing second overall was a massive achievement. Whether SFU’s corps deserved these marks or not, these judges must have been aware when they handed in their sheet that the band would not be able to recover. SFU’s won it four times, but they have been second an astonishing eight times, meaning they have been first or second a remarkable 12 times in 22 years. The cliché that second is the hardest prize is no more true than with SFU.

Mistakes. With the testing conditions, the error-quotient seemed to be high, with an unusual number of early chanters, squeals, trailing drones, and all-out blunders coming through. It seemed like judges may have been turning a deaf-ear to these, understanding the cold, wet circumstances, and concentrating on tone, content and unison. As a competitor, it is extremely difficult to keep the head and not let the appalling weather be an excuse for slack playing. Listening to the BBC Pipeline broadcast, it’s impressive to think these top bands are producing such quality under such duress. Since you rarely hear big clangers at the top of Grade 1 these days, the recordings should have a big weather disclaimer on them

Gridlock: I and many others thought that 2007 would be the year in which the “Big Three” stranglehold on the World’s might be broken. This is the ninth straight year that the same bands – FMM, SFU, and Shotts – have taken the first three prizes. Even the 78th Frasers’ overall drumming win, Strathclyde Police’s copping of several other majors, and Boghall’s top-three success earlier in 2007 couldn’t change this.

Pipeline: To Gary West and Iain MacInnes: awesome, awesome job as always pulling this show together in minutes. I’ve seen this crew in frenetic action at an otherwise almost-empty Queen Margaret Drive in Glasgow, and it has to be seen to be believed how tight getting this show to air in so short a time actually is. We are all indebted.

“International” judges, wherefore hath thou been forsaken? So much for the RSPBA’s 2005 move to bring more non-UK judges to their panel. A grand total of one non-UK judge (drumming adjudicator Greg Dinsdale in the Grade 1 Qualifier and Grade 2 Final) had a clipboard out of the 36 working at Glasgow Green. McGillivray, Eller, Worrall, Neigh, Troy and Russell were nowhere to be seen. Oh, wait, many of them will be on at Cowal, where few UK judges want to judge, and after all the “overseas bands” (as the RSPBA pejoratively calls them) have gone home.

Medley re-runs: Yes, the goal of competing is to win, but shouldn’t originality play a role in that? Several Grade 1 bands, including FMM and SFU, played essentially the same thing as last year. With repetition, a band runs the risk of becoming a parody of itself. But, then again, look at the MSR situation where some bands – not unlike many soloists – have been playing the same thing for a quarter-century.

Optics: For the first time in memory, there wasn’t a judge in the Grade 1 final who was a brother, a chanter-maker, a bagpipe- or drum-dealer. Of course, people can invent other connections, but the RSPBA is to be congratulated on this. But let’s not mention the Grade 1 Qualifier.

Those are a few of my thoughts, and I wasn’t even there. Others are welcomed to add theirs.




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