Kids these days

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?

The Somme

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the first official day of the Battle of the Somme, which actually started with an action at Beaumont-Hamel. More than  57,000 soldiers Рfrom the British side alone Рwere either killed or wounded on this day alone. The total would surpass 600,000 over the next five months, during which time about 10 kilometres of ground would be gained.

Remarkably, it was from the horror of the Great War that much of Highland piping’s greatest music was composed. This war, more than anything before, spread piping throughout the Commonwealth as a key aspect of the British Army. Armouries around the world still ring with pipes and drums, and we can, to a great degree, look to World War I as a major factor for today’s piping and drumming excellence beyond the UK.

If anyone has any thoughtfulness, “The Battle of the Somme” – one of the greatest pipe tunes made – will be played by a band for the crowd today at the All-Irish, at Kincardine, at Annan, at Embro, at Thornton, at Pugwash, at Round Hill, at Penticton.

We owe so much to those who served and sacrificed for what we have in piping and drumming today, 90 years on.