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PPBSO Judges’ Seminar Welcomed the World!

The Pipers and Pipe Band Society of Ontario held its annual Judges’ Seminar in spectacular fashion on Saturday, April 17, in an online event that invited accredited judges from around the world to join in for the day.  More than 150 adjudicators attended, representing 12 piping and drumming associations worldwide:

Alberta Society of Pipers & Drummers Atlantic Canada Pipe Band Association British Columbia Pipers’ Association Eastern United States Pipe Band Association Irish Pipe Band Association Midwest Pipe Band Association Pipe Bands Association of South Africa Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario Royal New Zealand Pipe Bands’ Association Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association Solo Piping Judges Association (Scotland) Western United States Pipe Band Association

The day ran on the Zoom platform and was built around moderated discussions in solo piping, band piping, snare and mid-section, with a final roundtable on the overall subject of ensemble. 

The 8:30 am solo piping session attracted 100 attendees and saw PPBSO Music Committee member Andrea Boyd moderate discussions by Bob Worrall and John Wilson. The panelists covered a range of subjects, with particular focus on rising pitch, decreasing tempos, and the lack of individual character in competition performances. The need for judges to be ready to select more unknown tunes for competitors also drew attention. Some lively discussion peppered the Zoom chat function.

Concurrent with the solo piping, Music Committee bass and tenor experts Kate Dudek and Kyle Heaney conducted session on the bass and tenor discipline that also embraced lively discussion. This kicked off with Kyle Heaney presenting his take on what makes a good bass and tenor score. Judges in the session noted the challenges of having to focus on so many diverse areas of the performance at once. This led to talk about the need for an additional judge in the drumming/mid-section area.

Pipe Major Richard Parkes, MBE taking active part in the Ensemble discussion


The morning snare session ran after the bass and tenor spot, consisting of a panel discussion with Harvey Dawson, Mike Hunter and Brian McCue, moderated by Steven Hill. Thirty-seven drumming adjudicators addressed the need to be clearer and more honest with lower grade competitors who are not being taught well. RSPBA participants spoke highly of the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board (PDQB) program as an effective way to raise standards.

Band piping took up the last morning slot for the pipers, with Ken Eller and Robert Mathieson in discussion. Peter Aumonier moderated. Topics included how judges should prepare for their job, the value and nature of the feedback we provide to the bands, the need to avoid jargon, and a call to review the rules around pipe band introductions.

The afternoon ensemble block attracted more than 120 adjudicators. Andrea Boyd managed her second panel as capably as she did the first, with Ken Eller, Kyle Heaney, Rab Mathieson, John Wilson and Bob Worrall filling the panel seats. The session began with John Wilson and Rab Mathieson presenting several videos produced by the RSPBA to describe their view of a more holistic approach to ensemble. Much discussion ensued on the role of the mid-section in the pipe band performance and what should be expected of it, both rhythmically and tonally. The session ended with a discussion of what individual ensemble judges are rewarding and whether we sometimes lose the musical thread due to ‘forensic judging.’

In addition to others, Bill Livingstone and Richard Parkes checked in with comments during the day, adding both gravitas and the competitor’s viewpoint to the seminar mix.

Much credit goes to the Music Committee – particularly Hugh Cameron and Alan Clark — for their organization of this annual spring event, and to all of those named above who participated from all both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Chat comments at the end of the day offered glowing praise, with calls for a reprise in 2022. 

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