July 2010


The season is fully upon us but - where are the games? This year has seen the demise or postponement of several events, including Campbell, Dunsmuir, and Ben Lomond (now piggy-backed with a Ren Fair in Watsonville). This is not just a local situation. Across the country Highland Games have been reduced, combined, or just cancelled due to rising costs, poor attendence, and the current economy. Sponsors for competitions have dried up, advertising for programs is down; games committe asnswer: pack in more vendors so NOBODY MAKES ANY MONEY! Yes we'd be happy to pay more for booth space!

I'd like to take a moment to give credit where credit is due. Liz Tubbs of the City of Sacramento Pipe Band and President of the WUSPBA Northern Branch, has worked tirelessly over the last several years promoting solo and band competitions in this area. Our Hat's off to you, Liz, and your crew who prove that with some organisation, drive, and little money IT CAN BE DONE. Also Kudos to Steve Coontz and Bruce Duncan, both of whom did well at the Mt. Tam and Watsonville solo comps in Grades 4 and 3, respectively.

Very glad to report that 90-year-old Mom sailed through five hours of spinal surgery last month and is on her way to a full, if slow, recovery. Just out of post-op with a skinful of Fentanyl she looked at me and remarked, "I must be a tough old bird!" Some bird....she's got two more months of healing then nine months of controlled therapy to get back to 'normal pain-free' activity. This time she's taking it seriously - and slowly!

As I write we're gearing up for Pleasanton - ordering and hoping goods arrive by Sept. 1. We will have several nice new dress sporrans with "real fur" on them, some with matching belt buckles. Also new items from the Sgian Dubh Company - pocket watches and new pewter-handled sgians. I just wish they didn't put the crappy glass stones in the pommels....Another sad development - Lochcarron are no longer tailoring military doublets, offering them in stock sizes only. The whole idea of the military doublet is that it has to FIT PROPERLY, which means it has to be TAILORED...also some of our unique items, like Gaelic Knots and kilt rosettes, are becoming hard to find....more later.


Well I was at the San Diego Games on the 26th and 27th of June.  A well run set of contests but a few snags:

1)  There was a complaint about field entries and delays for the Professional Piping Contests.  Most contests no longer take field entries, nor do they allow delays for any reason.  This is however up to the contest sponsors.  This complaint reached me from another professional piper.  Perhaps there should be some standards set here.

2)  On both Saturday's and Sunday's Closing Ceremonies the Massed Bands were forced to endure up to 45 minutes of anounced awards.  Now I thought we had made agreements years ago with the contest sponors that we wouldn't do this. For some of the bands, standing in the sun, this was awful.  For the bands standing in the shade is was just a shade better.

3)  Finally, I am sad to report that I witnessed one of the "Tone Czars" lay into a piper for taking out his chanter and giving his reed a blow.  The verbal abuse lasted a couple of minutes.  I was standing right there and I apologize to the young lad for not stepping in.  This attack surprized me completely, but that is no excuse as this lad was a bandsman in the band I played with.  The Pipe Major of the band was also standing right there and did nothing, yet it was his job to step in and say " That's enough!"  There can be no doubt that tuning is extremely important.  Our association is blessed with having some very talented people available that for a price will tune bands.  However, this should not be taken as a license to attack and verbally abuse bandsmen.  If you are one of these talented persons and you are hired to perform professional services, then you should perform those services in a professional manner.  Showing up late; showing up after you've had one to many drafts; subjecting pipers or drummers to verbal abuse is not professional behavior.  I can guarantee that the next time I observe this person subjecting anyone to the kind of verbal abuse I witnessed at a contest in the future that I'll step in.  Complaints with the association and the local law enforcement agencies will be lodged.  To the person in question:  As far as I'm concerned you're a drunken thug with a good ear, and I'll be watching you.   Stay tuned, as I'm sure there'll be more on this one in the future.

Pipe Majors and Band Managers:  Please be advised that the behavior of outside hired "Tone Czars" is not a matter that is regulated by the WUSPBA.  The behavior of these persons, or mis-behavior as the case may be is a matter that should be regulated by the bands using these persons themselves.  How these people perform their duties can have good or bad, and sometimes both consequences.  Remember the consequences if bad can cause havoc with your pipe section, and with your band.  You may have a dozen pipers at a contest, and suddenly go in with 8 to 11.  And 1 or more of those pipers may never come back.  The role of a "Tone Czar" is to tune EVERYONE there, not just a portion of those in the circle.  And when your "Tone Czar" is creating havoc.....FIRE HIM on the Spot, least you end up with no band at all.   

Ol' Black Part

(The management of Cuillinn Craft takes NO responsibility for any editorial statements made by John Eric Partanen PhD. Any and all comments should be directed to BLACK PART)


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