So, there I was under my tree at Hamilton Games judging 21 Grade 5 pipers in one-hour flat (surely a record) and a half-swing sand-wedge across from me was the Professional Strathespey & Reel event. Some of the world’s best solo pipers were playing in it, the likes of Ian K. MacDonald, James, MacHattie, Colin Clansey, Michael Grey, Andrew Hayes . . . the list goes on.
And who was watching? No one. The newbie Grade 5 competitors seemed far more interested in listening to their own competition than in hearing top soloists just across the way. Perhaps they didn’t know or maybe their teachers weren’t pointing them in that direction. Or maybe people don’t feel like standing around a pasture in the baking sun any more than they absolutely have to.
It seems to have always been the way, at least at most contests in Ontario. I don’t know, but when I was a kid (that sounds old) I tried to listen to as much good piping as I could whenever I could.
We learn the most by watching and listening and then trying to immitate what we’ve seen and heard. Could it be that the sporting act of competing is somehow more important to students of the art than listening to, appreciating and emulating the greatest artists?