Keydet Piper I'm thinking bagpipes

Monthly Archives: March 2011

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Daily piobaireachd

Here’s a nice piobaireachd performance to cheer up your Thursday: Roddy MacLeod winning the piobaireachd at the Glenfiddich in 2009, playing The Earl of Ross’ March. Roddy is one of the great piobaireachd players of the day, and this video is evidence of the master at work.

It’s well worth the 14 minutes if you like piobaireachd.

Keydet Piper on Bagpipe Nation this week

I’ve been invited to join Andrew Douglas and Vince Janoski as a host of the Bagpipe Nation podcast this week to talk about the effects of the grade 4 piobaireachd rule change. I’ve written about the rule change before (most notably here), and last week I wrote about the most recent development, that several contests have now dropped the grade 4 piobaireachd altogether.

The promotional email is a bit sensationalist (“Grade 4 Piobaireachd Rule: Great Policy, or Huge Disaster?”) and I want to stress that I’m actively looking for solutions, not just sitting around and complaining.

Join us live on Thursday March 31 at 7 p.m. EDT as we discuss this issue and try to suggest some options that will allow games organizers to continue to offer piobaireachd contests in grade 4. Sign up to listen live at the Pipe Hacker blog, and the episode will be available for download through iTunes after the broadcast.

The smallest red spot on the map

Last week I was able to fill in another spot on my Piping Quest map, where I keep track of my stated goal of playing my bagpipes in each of the 50 states. Progress has been a little slow of late, but I was out with some friends doing the St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl and was able to check Washington, DC off my list. The map doesn’t look much different with the new addition, but I feel it’s more complete.

It’s funny that I’ve spent 24 years of my life living with 50 miles of DC, including 6 of the 12 years that I’ve been piping, and have only just now made it to the city to play. I’ll try not to make it two years before I add my next state.

More on the the grade 4 piobaireachd debate

A hot topic here on the bagpipe scene in the eastern US for the last year or so has been grade 4 piobaireachd competitions. For as long as I’ve been competing (10 years), the requirement for grade 4 piobaireachd has been only the ground of the tune. Effective this year, however, the EUSPBA has decided that it will only sanction full piobaireachd events in all grades.

There has been a lot of discussion about this from pipers of all ability levels; the Bob Dunsire forums have been lit up since the idea was first tossed around. I weighed in on the discussion in August, and it was the topic of a very heated debate at the annual general meeting in November.

In my post I had listed a few things that I thought would happen, and one that I did not mention turns out to be the most noticeable effect, certainly at this early point in the season: competitions are dropping the grade 4 piobaireachd contest altogether.

At least six games are not offering a grade 4 piobaireachd competition in 2011: Southern Maryland, Bonnie Brae, Central New York, Virginia, Williamsburg, Meadow (formerly known as Richmond). These join Fair Hill, which has not had a grade 4 piobaireachd for the last several years.

The whole point of this rule change was for grade 4 players to gain experience playing a full piobaireachd, and now there are seven competitions where they won’t get to play any piobaireachd. That doesn’t sound to me like it’s advancing the art.

Having organized a solo competition, I completely understand the reason for this. Longer contests mean more judges to fit it in before the bands. Last year 32 pipers competed in the ground only events in grade 4 Sr at the New Hampshire Highland Games. If every one of them were to play a full tune, the competition would last roughly four times as long and require at two or three more judges (plus their travel and lodging expenses). The cost of that competition could very easily increase by $1500.

I don’t think the right answer here is cutting the piobaireachd contests altogether. It could also likely result in lower entries for grade 4 events, since there will only be a single event at most games. Who wants to drive several hours to play a 2/4 march that lasts two minutes*?

I’m not sure of the best way to keep the piobaireachd event in place, but eliminating it altogether isn’t the way to do it. Your thoughts?


*Pot-Kettle Disclaimer: I once drove eight hours (each way) to a competition to play a 2/4 march and piobaireachd ground. Yep, 16 hours in a car in three days for 4 minutes in front of a judge. I’m not sure I would now, especially with the price of gas these days.

More awesome live piping on the web

I just learned from a pipes|drums article that the British Columbia Pipers Association will be streaming the final round of their knockout competition this Saturday; that’s March 12.

You can watch it on ustream; the event goes live at 8:35 p.m., which is 11:35 p.m. here where I live.

I’ll try to catch a nap earlier in the day so I can stay up past my bedtime. With Andrew Bonar, Jori Chisholm, Will Nichols, and Scott Wood playing, it will be worth staying up late!

Pipe Band Rummy

Pipehacker had a post up this morning with a pipe band version of Rummy. Played with a regular deck of cards, the goal is to have the winning pipe band on the table when someone runs out of cards.

I haven’t played it yet, but it looks interesting. It’s clever and worth reading through the rules. Maybe I’ll take a deck of cards to the next highland games and try to fill the dead time between competition and massed bands.