Published: September 08, 2008

Cap’s on

Formidable!Judging from the dozens of comments about the pipes up-down-up rule and the thought of changing it, the subject of dress and deportment in competition is surprisingly contentious as piping and drumming evolves.

A few years ago I wrote a Blogpipe post that was intended to be funny about the fact that pipe bands from Pakistan and Spain come to the World’s and are allowed to wear their national costume. Now, reading it again, there’s a lot to that.

The Breton bands wear quite smart trousers and double-breasted waistcoats. It’s all allowed, since the RSPBA has no provision for bands having to wear “Highland” dress; they simply say bands should be in uniform.

So, in effect, bands can wear what they want as long as they strive to have every player look the same (which never happens, because there are always two or three odd sporrans and a few folks with a tie from another band after they traded their own), and provided the RSPBA’s National Council approves it.

I don’t know one piper or drummer who prefers to compete while wearing a jacket. The more encumbered a piper or drummer is, the more difficult it is to play his or her instrument, and playing the instrument is the task at hand.

Besides, the uniforms of bands from Brittany and Spain and the like are a welcome added variety at the World’s. People I think enjoy seeing a change from the conventional ersatz Victorian-military derivative ensemble that makes the Scottish, US and Commonwealth-country bands look pretty much all the same. Now that Bagad Cap Caval has won the Grade 2 event and may well be required to compete in Grade 1 next year, does their more comfortable uniform give them a decided playing advantage? I think so, and they have the right idea.

Why can’t the currently kilted pipe bands have two uniforms – the predictable tartan one for performances, and another one – equally smart – that’s more conducive to good playing in competition?

To bring about this change, most people think a Grade 1 band will need to do it first. And that might well happen in 2009.

Published: August 07, 2008

Blooters

It’s interesting to see the various reactions about the now well known compiling error that the PPBSO made with the Grade 4 Final competition at Maxville last Saturday. Fortunately, mistakes like these are very rare, and happen to even the best organizations, including the RSPBA and the 2003 Grade 1 result at the World Pipe Championships, no less.

Stuff happens. If stuff happens a lot, then there is cause for concern. If stuff like this happens rarely – and only then on a chaotic afternoon of rain-drenched nerves, electrifying competition (pun intended) and scoresheets that were like wet bogroll – then people should be forgiven.

Everything can be improved. That’s what we humans try to do. And things do improve. Lessons have been learned from this and other mistakes, apologies have been made, and everyone has I hope taken a collective deep breath. The correct result has been made, and affected bands I think have each moved on, looking forward to their next outing or season.

Given the lightning storm on the day that bands voluntarily played through, perhaps it’s a good time to put into perspective the true gravity of mistakes.

Published: August 03, 2008

Enlightening

Nice attack.A month or so back the pipes|drums Poll asked readers about their preferences for extreme weather conditions at an outdoor contest. The condition that got the most favourable response – 37% – was “No rain, but thunder and lightning in the area.” This beat out “Very cold and rainy” (4%) and “Roasting heat and no shade anywhere” (36%).

I am still a bit miffed that piping and drumming competitors are perfectly happy risking their lives around lightning rather than putting up with cold. It’s all about competition.

And so it was at Maxville on Saturday when the thunderstorms that had been predicted for days finally happened. The place within a few minutes turned into a huge tempest, and some of the cracks of lightning that struck right overhead while I was judging the Grade 5 band competition were downright awesome and a tad insane.

But it was really only when the rain became too heavy, and not the life-risky lightning, that common sense finally prevailed and the competitions were halted. This after a vendor on the park reportedly was struck.

I must confess that while I was out on that wide-open field I was somewhat reassured to see about 50-feet in the air a metal cherry-picker that they use for tossing that big bag of hay in the heavy events. If lightning did strike, it would hit that thing and not my umbrella. I also couldn’t help but fantasize about the clichés they would say if we were hit: “Oh, but he went out doing what he loved.” Screw that. Cold comfort from pain, indeed.

Some people were comparing the weather to the 2007 World’s. Um, no. There’s a huge difference between soul-destroying incessant mist and life-destroying bolts of 100,000,000 volts.

Trying to persevere through that mess was theatre of the absurd. Bands came from long distances for the contest but, really, lightning and piping just should not mix.

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