CLASP solo circuit

What interesting news from Scotland about the launch of the new Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers (CLASP). (And it’s a good thing they put “Solo” in the name, I’ll tell you.)

It’s the second time that I know of where the UK has taken a North American idea and applied it to their domain. (The first time was when the competitions in London started to use score-sheets, an almost unheard of practice in the UK until then.)

But instead of applying the amateur solo piping system used by many North American associations, CLASP will start things at Grade 3. That means no Grade 4 or Grade 5 levels of novices. You still have to be able to make a musical noise to compete in the UK.

How the Competing Pipers Association will integrate with CLASP, I don’t know, but I’m sure that I will hear and let everyone know the story when I do.

By avoiding novice categories for amateur pipers, is CLASP doing the right or wrong thing? My own belief is that Grade 5 events are not of sufficient quality to be held in public. These events should be replaced by Institute of Piping testing. But I’m interested to hear what others think about this and about CLASP in general.



A few days ago I wrote that I didn’t much like Coldplay’s new X&Y recording. In fact, after the first listen, I thought that I didn’t like it at all.

Well, after a few more spins I’ve grown to like it quite a lot. There are still a few songs that I skip over, and that falsetto voice is overused, but the musicianship of it is impressive. The songs are mostly enjoyable. It’s gone from maybe a three- to a seven-out-of-10.

Which of course all comes back to piping and drumming. How many of us have heard a top band’s medley and not liked it on first listen? But after a few times with it, you start to hear new things, and you begin to look forward to certain elements. It begins to make musical sense.

Conversely, how often do we love a band’s selection on first listen, but then, after hearing it again and again get annoyed by its predictability? When contending bands trot out the same selection for three straight years it can get really irritating.

It would make a lot of sense to give bands a way to preview their new medleys to judges. Some very fine and sophisticated pipe band selections are not fully understood or appreciated on first listen, and far too often those medleys are heard by both judges and audience at the World Pipe Band Championships for the first time. Because of the need for a positive first impression, bands strategically have to sacrifice musical sophistication for musical predictability.

Perhaps it’s a subtle rule in all art, whether it’s Coldpay’s X&Y, Picasso’s “Guernica,” or Joyce’s Ulysses: the things you don’t understand at first inevitably improve after the second, third, or fourth listen, viewing, or reading.

Predictable art is art that fizzles. Great art requires patience to be appreciated.



More numbers

You hear it all the time. Everyone seems to agree on it. Everyone seems to want it. Everyone thinks that more judges for pipe band contests would make the results fairer.

So why doesn’t it happen?

The typical configuration at a decent contest is two piping, one ensemble- and one drumming. Remarkably, non-Major RSPBA contests have only one piping and one drumming. Even with the four-configuration, that’s quite a bit of power that each judge wields.

Ten judges would be more like it. Doug Stronach at the PPBSO Adjudicators Seminar in May that, whatever the number, each judge should assess ensemble as well. I think that this approach makes sense.

And with 10 judges comprising five pipers and five drummers and each putting down a mark for both piping/drumming and ensemble the result would be equitable.

But, back to the question, why not? Two reasons: associations and contests aren’t willing to pay for it or can’t afford it, and associations simply don’t have enough certified judges to do it.

But, with some planning, it could be done at certain events. The World’s and Maxville would be good starting places. Everyone seems to want it, so let’s find a way to do it.