Anyone who has traveled by air to judge piobaireachd at a competition looks forward to the contest, but dreads one thing: lugging the hulking collections of music to the event. I swear I’m going to be charged for excess baggage one of these days.

My Piobaireachd Society Collection (all 15 books of it), is littered with personal notes on the tunes I’ve been through. I like to have those notes with me, and using someone else’s book wouldn’t serve the competitors as well.

Joking with some pipers at the excellent Antigonish Games this past weekend, with my 20-pound satchel of music crushing my shoulder, I suggested two things:

A small fortune could be gained by someone who converts the entire mess to pdf format, so that tunes and notes could be accessed from one’s PDA or mobile phone. That’s great as long as it doesn’t rain, which it did on the Saturday like naebody’s business. A wet gizmo is a dead gizmo.

Or, what about the Piobaireachd Society publishing a “Greatest Hits” collection? Ditch the dozens of crap tunes that have never been played, much less set, and just produce a version – in A4, please – that people might actually submit. If some crackpot puts in something like “The Two-Faced Englishman,” well, they should just come with the music in hand.

And while they’re at it, they can get rid of or consolidate all that canntaireachd and all those officious notes.

Build a better Collection and the world’s piobaireachd players and judges will flock to your door!

Hello to Nova Scotia

I’ve been on vacation in remote Cape Breton this week with little access (or inclination to access) the net, so that’s why pipes|drums is relatively less active this week. I’m making a piping trip into a family vacation, which is something I’ve tried to do as much as possible (see Poll).

Have managed to post a few stories just to keep things current, but will be back to full strength next week. Hope you’re enjoying your summer!


More jottings from Kincardine . . . a few years ago I wrote an editorial about the event, and how it integrates the town with the contest. It’s a great idea, pipers walking the side streets of the town, and people giving up their front lawns for the myriad (way too many, actually) solo piping and drumming contests.

I was stationed on the front lawn (garden) of a lovely brick Victorian home, and it seemed like the owners had made a great effort to have the grass cut and the plants tended to so that the conveyor-belt of competitors, the steward (the venerable Betty MacLeod), and I could appreciate all there is to appreciate about their place. What’s more, they and many of the townspeople left their doors open to kilted folk to – get this – use their bathroom / washroom / toilet if needed.

Between events I partook of the facilities in one historic-looking house that when I entered was like a Beatrix Potter museum, full of antiques, frilly lace and nick-knacks. Seemingly, no one was home, and they simply trusted people to respect their place.

And I’m told they have done this every year since the festival started, so every year it would appear that we lot have indeed respected the townspeople’s property. Next to Maxville, Kincardine may be the most popular contest on the Ontario circuit. To control quality, the games organizers limit the band entry to 25.

There is an overwhelming sense of community at the Kincardine games, and it really reminds me again that their formula is an inspiration for how to run a great piping and drumming contest: extend goodwill and good faith to competitors and they will return it. It also recalls how, like the many 100-year-old small Highland games in Scotland, less can be more.