At the end of the day results are merely an opinion – and we all have those. It’s a by-product of the comparative analysis system we use. Yet I hope this three-part series, plus my earlier report on the Grade 1 contest at the British Championships, will help shape the progression of our music and the way it is judged.
For judges, delivering a result is relatively simple and Greenock was a great listening experience. It has firmly put the RSPBA Championship events back to the fore…. BUT, that said, it’s time to let these musicians out of the cage!
By Robert Mathieson
I would respectfully ask the performers and decision makers to consider the following observations and suggestions:
- Every empty space in the melody should NOT be claimed by drummers as their right, subdividing and filling with rhythmical content. (Tenor drummers please note!)
- Simplicity, space and silence within the music is NOT the enemy; silence is the loudest accent.
- Harmony is an added ingredient NOT an alternative musical language. It will never totally stay with the listener or be as potent as a strong melodic motif.
- The starting options for each medley should be a musical decision of choice made by the performers as they see as appropriate to the music they are about to play. It should NOT be stipulated within the contest rules. Why only two three-pace rolls? Why not a five-pace roll OR pipes only, OR a solo piper starting, OR a drum intro, OR whatever the band thinks works within the context of their music.
- We should consider a slightly longer performance time for Grade 1 – perhaps 7 to 10 minutes. This is the ideal time to try it out when the grade is reduced in size. There’s time available to make this work.
- Performers should be allowed to stop and start in various group or solo permutations within the musical presentation. (Perhaps accompanied by a simple stipulation that the whole band should perform for no less than 75% of the presentation.)
- Dare I say it – maybe include the option to let the bands face the audience if they so wish.
There can be no doubt that after 50 years without fundamental change, bands, adjudicators and audience deserve a refreshed blueprint for the medley.
I realise that at times, I am in danger of sounding like an old codger complaining that ‘the future isn’t what it used to be’. I am a firm believer that any progressive art form experiencing a ‘new wave’ in presentation will always go well beyond the point of attaining a new level of improvement and expertise.
It will be overcooked and caricatured beyond the point of good taste. But eventually when its measure and currency is fully understood it will find its natural proportion, shape, and place in the music. That is why I look forward to the next phase in the development of our great music.
In closing I might add a well done to the RSPBA for hosting the British Championship and getting us all back on track, and much respect to Piping Press for giving this exercise digital airtime.
As an adjudicator very often people want to hear my result, without my opinion. It made a pleasant change to give my opinion without a result. I wish all the bands a great productive contest season.
Tutor Books 1-3 (USA)
60 lessons in three outstanding tutor books taking the complete beginner to intermediate level and introducing the classical music of the pipes, piobaireachd. All books have free audio and/or video back-up fully explaining the exercises, tunes and the required expression. Since they first appeared in 2015 these books have sold hundreds of copies worldwide. Price includes mailing of £12.