Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Piping News in 2011

So we have a new season upon us and all sorts of things happening.

The 2011 R U Brown Gold Medal Competition has just been run in Adelaide, Australia with Ross Campbell taking first place. Ross has won three times previously, always a class performer. Second was Brett Tidswell and third was Stuart Easton from New Zealand. Approximately 96 competitors over 10 events this year. Gold medal judges were Robert Wallace (Scotland), Sam Young and Jim Smith. Full results can be seen on the news page at

I see all sorts of comments and suggestions from overseas about how to stop discrepancies in judging. Judging is always someones opinion and so long as they are not ridiculously off the planet, it is those opinions that we want to foster. Huge variations between judges often come from listening to opposing sides of bands when a blooter or similar rings out. That is the nature of a live performance and the human ear. I personally think the only answer is to maintain the quality of training and ensure the quality of the candidates in the first place. Some extent of discrepancies and variation will always be a feature of what we do, even if the judges all listen from the same point. The way to overcome their effect is to have a larger judging panel and a rogue element will be over ruled by the weight of the majority. I see in Brittany they have a table of about 10 or 12 judges and none are measuring sock heights that I am aware of!

The other issue regarding judging seems to be the debate over the inclusion of mid-section judging in Canada to form a part of the overall results. Word has been spread that it is done in Australia, but that is 100% false. Mid-sections are already included in the drumming and ensemble components. In fact many judges seem to give them far to much space on ensemble sheets in my humble opinion. They form an integral part of what we do, but I am a strong believer in simplification in all things, not making them more complicated.

On the subject of simplification, I see the debate of band formations again appearing in a few publications. How should we perform for competition purposes? What formation is best for the public? Simplification! Start here and form up there however you want inside the confines of the circle. Bands choice; open circle, closed circle, V shape, thistle shape, scotch pie shape, west highland terrier shape, whatever the band likes. Simple, allows for variation, or not as the case may be. Bands will soon work out how they can convey their performance the best. I do not see any reason to impose a specific formation or even a fixed judging position.

The City of Adelaide Pipe Band in South Australia has now introduced a Youth Development Band that will be competing in the coming year. Probably starting in Grade 4 and Juvenile. We have great hopes for the young players of the future and many of our young pipers have already featured in the prize lists at the R U Brown event. Well done to them all!

With the inclusion of Olav Goud (ex Lothian and Borders, Strathclyde and Boghall) as lead side, the band is looking forward to a very positive season. Hopefully our drumming woes are at last behind us. Now a few more quality pipers would help!!!!

The Scottish Championship at Dumbarton will be on us in just under two weeks. It will be interesting to see the results of the years first major. I have heard some video footage from Gourock last weekend and detect some improvements in sound from some of the bands already. This was an amazing past year with the shuffling of grade 1 Pipe Major's deck chairs! Good luck to all of the new Pipe Majors, I hope you have a great season.

The School of Piping website has undergone a complete overhaul. Each page has had a facelift with a more modern design. Some new features have been added and a new shop. This includes both a Beginners and Advanced publication section, and includes not only the School of Piping publications but also the College of Piping tutors and PM Bill Robertson's excellent series of DVD-Roms. The highlight in our opinion being his 115 Piobaireachd Tutorials which features a basics book with video links, manuscripts, tune histories and audio lessons for 115 tunes. A masterpiece by the ex Pipe Major of the Royal Scots. Quality Bagpipes and Accessories are also available.

Work is continuing on a number of new publications from the School of Piping and we will keep you all informed when they are available.

Well, last year I think the Worlds was excellent. The bands were all able to be viewed from the mound beside the grade 1 arena, and as a competitor it was a delight to be able to actually see some of the bands playing. The big screen is certainly amazing too (except when you are facing it whilst competing). I wish you all the best for the coming season and look forward to hearing some great performances.