By Jimmy McIntosh MBE
I do not usually get to listen to the piping programmes from Scotland but was fortunate to hear some of the competitors’ tunes from the Northern Meetings. I also recently spent several weeks in my native country and heard recordings from Lorient Piobaireachd and also the Piping Centre Masters contest. I was quite disappointed with the standard of what I heard.
I don’t know what has happened to the teaching of piobaireachd; is there enough of it taking place in Scotland? It appears that the basic fundamentals of phrasing, rhythm, and shading are not being taught or shown.
After the Urlar, the Variations seem to be played straight through like exercises, with little attention given to the values of the theme notes, proper pulsing, pausing at the ends of lines, and at the finish of variations. The variations bear little relationship to the theme. (more)
Many years ago it was brought to our attention that judges, in determining their results, are responsible for the future direction of piping and piobaireachd in particular.
What then if those in the prize list are not displaying the aforementioned fundamentals? Will we lose the historic artistry with which these melodies were composed?
Prizes should not go solely to those with perfect fingering and good bagpipes. In addition to these vital attributes, there should be music properly expressed. This is clearly referred to in the ‘Judge’s Companion’ handbook compiled and edited by Robert Wallace for the College of Piping nearly fifteen years ago. On pages 102 and 103, he clearly states that, major errors excepted, the expression of the tune, its musical interpretation, should ‘win the day’. I could not agree more.
Jimmy McIntosh is a highly respected figure in world piping. He is a disciple of the ‘Masters of Piobaireachd’ Bob Brown and Bob Nicol, Balmoral, and two years ago produced a valuable book documenting their instruction. A Gold Medallist and teacher of renown, Jimmy lives with his wife Joyce in South Carolina, USA
I feel there is a responsibility on our Judge’s Panel to do something to remedy this. In the Senior, Gold and Silver Medal contests there are usually eight tunes set by the Piobaireachd Society.
Would it not be a good idea to ask the judges chosen to adjudicate those contests to come together for one or two seminars beforehand where the set tunes are analyzed with discussion on the interpretations desired?
Perhaps they should listen to recordings of some of our past piobaireachd masters and also consider the different and acceptable ways of playing the tunes and talk about the major points to be listening for. That way they would all be on the same page. (more)
In contrast, as it stands today, three judges arrive from all over Scotland, come together and sit down at a table for hours, with no time to talk over the tunes etc.
This method does not seem the best approach for the two biggest contests in the world of piping, Oban and Inverness. It can turn the winning of the top awards, including the Gold Medal, into a lottery.
Competitors practice for hours and spend countless hundreds of dollars and pounds to travel from afar for the honour to compete in these big contests in Scotland. Surely we could have our judges just as well prepared, as a cohesive group, before they sit down to judge together.
- Agree or disagree? Please comment below.