Grading of Solo Competing Pipers/PP Miscellany

The Editor: Just to add a little flesh to my earlier comments about flaws in the grading system, I do think the whole business needs re-assessed with greater involvement of the judging fraternity.

After all, it is the judges who sit through lengthy contests listening intently to each player as they come forward – something the current Competing Pipers’ Association Grading Committee don’t seem to do.

They operate primarily on ‘track-record’ – the list of prizes an individual has won. They then qualify the value of these results by trying to find out who was on the bench, the number of players who were there etc.

Take the track-record as part of the body of evidence, sure; but to get a more accurate picture, either do the leg work and the listening – sit though the competitions and take notes the way the judges do – or consult the judges themselves. Easily done with today’s technology and a more practical alternative.

Another flaw in the ‘track-record’ only approach is that it makes no allowance for degrees of performance. As I have pronounced many times, a good tune or a good performance is just so, irrespective of the fact that there were only a handful of competitors and a dog entered, two going off and the other breaking down. By having a  formalised system of discussion/connection with adjudicators the Grading Committee would develop a far more rounded and accurate picture of who’s playing well and who is not, and be able to weigh the mitigating circumstantial baggage that goes with every result. Did X get the prize by default, or was his as good an MSR as to be successful against two or 20?

Another benefit of this approach could be increased attendance at the smaller gatherings. Pipers who ration out their expenses and their weekends tend to gravitate towards the graded games such as that on Sunday at Blair Atholl. Points mean promotion, and who can blame the pipers? They are being governed by the system.

But what of the wee games down the road a couple of weeks later? Is a good piobaireachd there not as worthy as a good tune at Blair? Should there not be a conduit whereby the suitably impressed judge at the first is able to forward his thoughts to the CPA, if so moved, and have these thoughts considered along with all the other grading data? If this system were in place, then the small gatherings would surely benefit – and we have seen already how dwindling numbers (even if only an invalid perception) have led to drastic action at places such as Crieff.

The CPA does important work in representing its pipers views but I do feel they need to re-asses their grading procedures. It is not enough to plead with their members to get out and support ALL the games. There has to be a structure in place which lets them see the across the board benefits of doing so.

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PP Miscellany

  • I hear that two new directors of the College of Piping have resigned after only a couple of months in post.
  • The Piping Centre is to host the 2016 International Bagpipe Conference in February next year.
  • Well-known piper Neil Clark is returning from his job in Oman in December. The job is well paid and will be advertised..
  • The draw for the European PB Champs at Forres is available.

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