Just about a month ago the pipe band season came to a close with the Worlds at Glasgow Green. I think this is too early a finish to the pipe band year and I hear a lot of comments about one major coming on top of another and bands having difficulty recovering lost ground after a bad run. Others say that it is great having the momentum build up every four weeks -and the overseas bands always like the idea of being able to cram as many contests into as short a space of time as possible. I don’t suppose there will ever be an ideal solution that suits everyone. I will say that this past year has been a thoroughly enjoyable one with the five majors all running like clockwork and the standard of pipe band musicianship as high as it has ever been. And I don’t just mean in Grade 1. The playing is improving all the time down through the grades. Look at the Juvenile. Here we have bands that could easily compete in Grade 2 or Grade 3a with success. Down into Novice and Grade 4, I think the MAP tunes scheme, introduced a few years ago now, is beginning to bear fruit with these bands able to handle the delights of the dot and tailed notes required in some of the smaller, classic 2/4 tunes. This has to improve standards of the individual performer and this, in turn, the overall standard of the bands these pipers play in.
Returning to the scheduling of the majors, could we not move the Worlds back a week or so to perhaps the third week in August? Moving it to the last weekend of the year would be very damaging to Cowal and no one would want to see the old gathering injured in this way. But having it on the third week would be an option. Cowal could then hold a ‘West of Scotland Championship’ and I’d wager that a lot of bands would stay on after the Worlds to take part in such a ‘mini-major’.
Finally to the vexed question of prizes for drummers and tenor/bass sections. I will say that I am in favour of endeavour being rewarded and recognised as much as possible. The more drumming prizes the better. But, and here is an important qualifier, only if such prizes are awarded through the prism of the contribution to the band as a unit. We must not have drums corps playing for the drumming prize, contradictory as that may seem. They must do their brilliant work, and much of it is brilliant, with the band’s fortunes uppermost in their thoughts. If the drumming prize comes along whilst doing so – fantastic. Responsibility does, of course, fall on the adjudicator here. He or she must factor this into their decision making. Technical brilliance, crisp tone, musicality is no use in a drum corps if it doesn’t benefit the band as a whole.
Anyway, with these thoughts to mull over here are some snapshots from the Worlds. Incidentally Pipe Band Magazine will have full coverage of the big day with pictures of all the main prizewinners in the issue out on October 1. It will be available as a free download from rspba.org and this website from that date.