Lightning bolt

The “10 Q’s With . . . Steven McWhirter” piece got me thinking. Steven seems mature beyond his 23 years, but winning a World Solo Drumming title at 23 must be something else. I wouldn’t really know.

Most people know that John D. Burgess won both Gold Medals at age 16, and he was even a legend before that happened. John Wilson (Glasgow) and Dr. John MacAskill were also in their teens when they copped one of the medals. More recently, the young Alastair Dunn picked off Aviemore gold last year.

But most people toil away at the big prizes never to actually win all of them. Some of the world’s most respected piobaireachd players – Jim McIntosh, Andrew Wright, and Jack Taylor, to name but three – never managed the Clasp, while others with a fraction of the knowledge gained the prize on the first try and became instant “authorities.”

The picture of McWhirter and Reid Maxwell forces me to think of the 20-odd years that Reid – clearly one of the greatest pipe band drummers of all-time – has not yet won the big solo prize, while his protégé got it after a few tries. But I’m certain there was no one happier for Steven than Reid himself.

My predictions: 1. McWhirter has many more World titles to come, and 2. his win opens the door to other fine young drummers being given the nod.

Springs eternal

Blue Jays vs. Phillies, Clearwater, March 7, 2007.

Watching spring training baseball is always a great pleasure for a baseball fan. It gets the fan-juices going to see who’s coming up and how teams might look for the season ahead. Baseball teams come to Arizona and Florida with about 50 players vying for spots on the 25-man-roster that will “head north” with the big club. The rest will be assigned to the organization’s minor-league teams.

There are 25 spots on each team. Nine players are on the field at a time, and the manager of the club uses the other 16 players strategically during the game. It’s no different from football, basketball or hockey – or just about any organized competition. Even musical contests.

Except for pipe bands. Bands can be any size and any number of players can be on the field at any time. It is a completely unbalanced competition. I suppose that it’s exciting to some when a giant band enters the field. It’s exciting certainly for those who either play with the band or those who have some predilection towards the band. Everyone else is not excited at all. In fact, they probably resent it.

Pipe band contests are as close to sporting events as they are to musical shows. A compromise needs to be reached when it comes to numbers before another band bites the dust in this survival-of-the-fittest situation. The minor league system works and should be put to use by bands instead of wrapping all players up in a single group, young hopefuls wishing for an impossible spot with the big club. Hope springs eternal.


pipes|drums will be a bit slower this week, since I’m on vacation where it’s hot and there are baseball games. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of news right now, except for the usual comings-and-goings of migratory pipe band people. Hope to file a few stories, though, but access and time are limited.