Scripts

Get out your kid gloves.I can’t help but wonder what Seumas MacNeill would have thought about Angus MacKay’s MS being made available on the net.

He (Seumas, not Angus) died just before the Internet took off, which was a shame. Seumas was not only a born reformer but a born communicator. I think he would have recognized very early how he could use the net to reach more people. After all, he was the first to use radio and television to broadcast and promote piping in a meaningful and reliable way.

(Angus knew the delights of the quill pen and, he claimed, Queen Victoria. Not such a great swimmer.)

Then again, Seumas was also a man who did his best to reject and control anything that he thought threatened Highland bagpipe music as he knew it, and his comment about a Gordon Duncan performance making him want to take up the fiddle is legend.

Willie Donaldson early on recognized the communications-power that the Internet might provide to piobaireachd. His brilliant Set Tunes Series from the outset has been free and accessible with no strings attached, like piobaireachd used to be. Glad to see he’s convinced seemingly fusty organizations like the National Library of Scotland to do the same.

Words

Worlds away from the World's.Ever wonder what the correct short-form spelling is for the World Pipe Band Championships? “World’s” with an apostrophe, or “Worlds” without?

It is “World’s.”

Why? Because it is possessive: the championship of the world. Just like the local diner is called “Joe’s,” because it is the diner of Joe, the World’s is the championship of the world.

Furthermore, competing bands come from only one world, because there is only one, so it can’t possibly be the plural “worlds.”

Speaking of the World’s, there are only two World Pipe Band Champions: the winners of the Grade 1 and the Juvenile grades: Juvenile because there is an age restriction, and it’s the end of the line in that category; Grade 1 because it is the highest any band can go.

Even though winning any of the other grades is a terrific achievement, it is not winning the World Championship.

Oh, and while we’re at it, the bands’ names are “Field Marshal” (one L) and “ScottishPower” (no space).

A frequent-flyer point

Just blow steadily . . .I was just reading Harry Tung’s latest Trailing Drones installment and, as usual, he has some excellent scoop and insights. One observation Harry made got me thinking: long-distance players in bands, or “travelers,” as he call them.

He’s exactly right. If you’re a good, experienced piper or drummer who’s pressed for time, why bother playing with a local band? You’re better off joining a group thousands of miles away. You don’t need to attend all those practices. Just learn and practice the music at home and turn up for a few practices and the contests you can make.

It’s working all over the world, and a lot of Grade 1 bands are now holding big weekend practice once every month or two instead of the usual twice- or thrice-weekly slog at the band hall.

Unfortunately, that approach is helping to kill local pipe band scenes. With so many bands relying on “travelers” to make up the numbers, they’re unable to compete at full strength at smaller local contests, let alone perform at a civic function. So they don’t go. As a result, these events deteriorate, and bands have a reduced presence, if any at all, in their community. That’s especially true in Scotland, where so many pipers and drummers drive by the local band’s hall on their way to catch a flight to Canada, Australia or New Zealand.

If the trend continues, the idea of top bands having a real home town won’t hold true. How many members of House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead are from Shotts? How many players in the Scottish Lion-78th Fraser Highlanders are from Toronto? Are there many pipers and drummers in SFU who actually live in Vancouver?

These are just a few examples, and I can think of dozens more. Many bands that welcome “travelers” are getting great competition results. But at what cost to their local pipe band community?