PP Editor’s Blog: Worlds/ International Conf./Lochaber/ SFU etc

Forecast for today’s G1 Worlds qualifying is for a dull day with a maximum temperature of 15degs; no sun. Tomorrow is much better with sunny intervals, particularly late afternoon and again a high of 15 degs. We’ll have full reports on the qualifying and on the Juvenile and Grade 1 competitions in the days to come so stay tuned to Piping Press for the best and most informed comment from Glasgow Green.

Re the results, if you are not yet on Twitter can I recommend it? The RSPBA feed has the placings before anyone else – and I mean before anyone else – straight to your phone as they are announced by Chief Executive Ian Embelton.

I was fortunate to be invited to attend the International Conference of Pipe Band Associations held yesterday in Glasgow’s City Halls. Delegates (pictured above) attended from all over the pipe band world, and many of them at their own expense. I have to tell you that there is great work being done for the movement both at home and abroad; great work in  harmonising standards in adjudication, player registrations and band gradings. At the end the message was clear: pipe bands are gaining in strength around the globe and their various associations want to work closely with the RSPBA –  and the RSPBA wants to work closely with them. Internet communications and technology are uniting us all like never before. I can foresee a world databank of registered pipers and drummers to which all member associations will have access. I can envisage a situation where some bands might have two grades. When standards are not akin to those of the RSPBA, a band might be given a home grade and a separate one for when they come to the Worlds. Not that this was mentioned yesterday but it is an idea which might gain traction the more its benefits are examined.

Discussion papers were given by John Wilson, the new Convenor of the Adjudicator’s Panel (more transparency, more consultation, more responsiveness), Neil Whitelaw, Convenor of the Music Board (two grades for Novice, four-part S&R for G4a), Pat Whelan, Education Officer (summer school attendance up from 21 to 51, huge number of PDQB passes), and Paul McAndrew, RSPBA Director (player digital registration, action on defaulters), with a final summing up from Chairman Gordon Hamill and Vice-Chairman John Hughes. In all a very worthwhile couple of hours and, as I say, internationally the worldwide pipe band movement is in good, very good, heart

It is difficult to look beyond the Worlds at the moment but I’m told that entries for next weekend’s Lochaber Gathering are the best ever with 17 in the P/A grade, 27 in the B/C, and at least 10 in the juniors. This must be very encouraging for the gathering and organiser Allan MacColl and his sponsors. If you are in Fort William next Saturday why not call in to the Nevis Centre for a listen to some top class piping? My lecture this year will be on Peter MacLeod, Snr & Jnr, those wonderful composers, with tunes played by Colin Campbell, Aberlour.

After the international conference there was time for a walk round the Piping Live stalls in George Square. This was the first time I had ever been able to indulge in this pleasure. Given that it was a sunny day, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves listening to the bands and stopping for a coffee or something stronger. Ace pipemaker Blue MacMurchie  was there demonstrating his skills. He was telling me he can’t make enough of his drone chanter invention, an invention he patented a number of years ago. All it is is a single drone that sounds as you play your practice chanter. Makes quite a difference and produces a satisfying effect.

I agree with correspondent Nicholas Taitz that the acoustic in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall would have helped SFU’s sound quality the other night but I don’t think it is practical to hold a competition there. For one thing the modern drum corps is an outdoor animal no question. Having Grade 1 indoors and all others outside wouldn’t be right either. Glasgow Green without Field Marshal, SFU, SLoT, Glasgow Police etc? Would not be the same at all and the crowd numbers would reflect that.

One person I didn’t mention in my review yesterday was the brilliant four-time World Champion Drum Major Jason Paguio. He gave us visuals alright, especially for those in the front rows. When that mace went into orbit we never knew where it was going to land. Jason did – straight into his hand every time.

Speaking to John Wilson after the conference, he told me that Fred Morrison had won the piobaireachd at Lorient Festival with an outstanding rendition of MacLeod of Colbeck’s Lament. The MacCrimmon Trophy went to Andrew Carlisle of Carnegie Mellon University with another outstanding performance in that multi-discipline event. John also spoke highly of a New Zealand piper Liam Kernaghan.