Trailing Drones

Trailing Drones: here comes the fudge!

Published: November 8, 2016

Fudge. Fudge it. Fudgy Fudgerson McFudger. Fudgeroonie. Fudge-fudge-fudgity-fudge.

There. Harry likes a wee bit of tablet now and again. That’s Scottish fudge. The auld hen womps up batches on the coal fired stove in a caldron that’s been in her clan for 400 years. Sweet and just a bit gritty, like my commentary. So let’s get on to a few satirical “observations” about everyday life in piping and drumming. Your opinions may vary, and, you might even like eating tablet or fudge. I like saying it. No fudging around. Sort of like the kid in A Christmas Story . . . Ohhhhhh fuuuuuuudge.

Fudge! If I hear another band “repurpose” another traditional tune in a medley I think I will retch . . . or fudge myself. Yes, we all know that pipe bands “have to include something that judges recognize” but this business of putting out “Donald MacLean” in strathspey time or “Scotland the Brave” as a round reel has absolutely jumped the shark. We get it. But please stop using this fad that started about five years ago in an attempt to play the familiar while being clever. Besides, I think judges hear these arrangements and spend most of the time trying to identify the tune it’s derived from. It is no longer clever. It’s an eye-roller.

Fudge! And what about the “guest” player thing? Can’t we stop this practice? What happened to the idea of one instrument, one band? Yes, I know that it’s all within the rules, but it’s the very opposite of what a pipe band should be: a commitment to music and people. How can any piper or drummer reconcile twaddling off to play in a championship with another band in the same grade and then two weeks later twaddle back home to take up where he/she left off with the “home” band? I don’t know. This seems to go against the grain of that old fashioned idea of integrity and commitment. Call me crazy, but it’s not all about you. Shouldn’t it be all about the band?

Fudge! If I hear or read another piper or drummer talk about their band’s “run” I’ll fudge myself! “Here’s our MSR run from Saturday.” “Watch our run in the medley last week.” “We had a good run.” Look at you talk like a big-shot. For fudge sake, just say “performance.”


Fudge! I couldn’t help notice the top-drawer solo success of three individuals from the Toronto Police Pipe Band. Ian K. MacDonald, Sean McKeown and Nick Hudson enjoyed great Augusts and Septembers in Scotland what with all that gold and silver. Guess what? Their band didn’t make the all-consuming trip to the World Pipe Band Championships. Do you think it’s coincidence? I don’t know, but it certainly didn’t seem to hurt.

Fudge! It’s impressive, but isn’t there a better sound venue for pipe band concerts than the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall? The place is obviously acoustically excellent  . . . for opera singers. But for pipe bands? Doesn’t quite work. Never has. Drums obliterating pipes. Drones not projecting at the sides. Bass section sounding like a freight train in the balcony. It might actually work if pipe bands cut back the drummers to maybe half the usual numbers, but we all know that’s not going to happen, and why should it? The audience wants and deserves to hear and see the full complement of players. So there must be a better venue to showcase our best and have them sound like they should, especially when a ticket costs £20. Ach, well, I’m sure we all do our best and it’s the right size and, most importantly, the bar runs like clockwork.

Fudge! If you are, say, the lead-drummer of a band, and a new pipe-major comes in from another band, it’s tick-tock-time. Your days are probably numbered. Even if you’ve been there forever, chances are you will be replaced. It’s just human nature. We see it in work situations all the time with new bosses and personnel. If the L-D is not the new P-M’s personal choice, it often does not end well. And I won’t (ShottsandDykehead) mention (GlasgowPolice) any names.

Fudge! And still on the topic of concerts, kudos to the RSPBA’s Northern Ireland branch for, um, branching out to look at new non-competition ways to bring piping and drumming to the members and the masses. The branch underwriting and organizing the ambitious “Live In Ireland” concert re-reprise in Belfast in February is a courageous and bold gamble. On the surface it has a lose-your-shirt risk, but a sell-out of the 2500-seat Waterfront Hall would net a decent money gain but, more importantly, a big advance in the stature of the art in the area. Association’s should be doing this sort of stuff, not just continually looking to hold yet another competition.

Fudge! Hey, Northern Meeting, what’s the deal with the flat £50 competitor entry fee? Holy River Ness! Is this really the price of continuing this event, even if the piper is playing in only one contest? Once again it’s the competitors who are underwriting their own . . .


competitions. I understand that it’s probably necessary, but it really makes me sad that our art at its very greatest level isn’t attractive enough to sponsors or ticket-buyers.

Fudge! Here’s a thing: if you are a serious solo piper, get a kilt that isn’t your band’s. I cannot understand why anyone would want to parade around in a band uniform at a strictly solo competition. I understand doing it when there are solos in the morning and band in the afternoon, but wearing the band kilt at major competitions? How gauche!

Fudge! And what about all those lead-drummer changes? Vale of Atholl and Bleary & District had maybe some bad timing on their side. If the Vale had waited a week then they might have got Eric Ward (and he them) but, as it was, they brought in Adrian Hoy, who has to travel from Northern Ireland to get to practice in Perth, Scotland. Then Bleary agrees to terms with Ward, who has to come to Northern Ireland from Glasgow. Both bands have a great solution in place, but, all things being equal, wouldn’t it be a lot better if these roles were reversed? Great drummers and bands all, but the logistics make zippo sense.

Fudge! You have to feel sorry for these pipers who get prizes from their teachers judging them. They might well have deserved them, but no one thinks of it that way. The players can’t win even sheepishly, as it were. If their teacher doesn’t have the good sense to stand down from judging and put their student’s interests before their own, sorry, but that teacher is fudging it for everyone.

Fudge! How can the RSPBA allow judges and others on their payroll to do public critiques of their own competitions in the print and online magazines that the RSPBA for all purposes controls? This is conflict of interest, and some of the utter sh^te I’ve seen – some from people who have not played in a band in 40 years and never in one at the top-tier – reads like it’s an attempt to sway results, pure and simple. Any association worth its ethical salt would look after its members and invoke a policy that prohibits these idiotic fudgy screeds.

So, what’s making you say fudge about your stone tablet? Just send along your ooey-gooey sugary mess to Harry. Anonymity assured. No fudging that.


The new pipes|drums app offers the same publication with a streamlined experience. Get the latest news optimized for your smartphone.
Download on the App Store

Get it on Google Play
December 5, 1927Malcolm MacPherson born, Snizort, Skye, 1833. Willie MacDonald (Benbecula) born, Glasgow.
  • Refuge
    Mon, 21 Nov 2016
    Piping and drumming and pipe bands are a refuge from the real world – at least, they should be. I have always enjoyed having a piping alter-ego. Through school piping was almost completely separate from that world. Different frien …
Read more »
UPCOMING EVENTS December 9, 2016John Patrick Recital Scottish Pipers’ AssociationCollege of Piping Otago Street Glasgow

May 20, 2017British Pipe Band ChampionshipsPaisley, Scotland

June 9, 2017Georgetown Highland GamesGeorgetown Fairgrounds

June 10, 2017UK Pipe Band ChampionshipsBelfast

June 15, 2017Cobourg Highland Games & FestivalVictoria Park, Cobourg

Band pipers: Push your instrument to its maximum level.
Ken Eller, Fonthill, Ontario