PP Ed’s Blog: Band Circles/ Cancale/ Northern Meeting, Lochaber, Aboyne

Difficulties over ‘concert’ formation positioning mentioned in Alistair Aitken’s piece yesterday should be easily overcome after a little trial and error. Bass sections are different in the circle set up so there is nothing new there. Going by the photographs I thought the formations at the Ross Bandstand pretty good and must have been much more comfortable for the judges than what they are used. No walking about, balancing of clip boards – much more relaxed and focussed. Good for the audience too.

As regards the reference Alastair made to drone sound, he confirms what I have been saying for years. We get too much of it with the circle formation. No sensible person listens to a bagpipe drones first. Yet that is what we do in pipe bands. The absurdity of it has been lost to custom and practice. We have been conditioned to accept an imbalance.

Ensemble adjudicators of all people must realise that the only chance they get of hearing a pipe band properly is from the front as the band marches in from the flags. Ten seconds? Once into the circle all is lost and these gentlemen (and the piping judges), must then assess from a jaundiced position, chanters pointing away from them, drones first.



There is no sense in this. It is wrong, plain silly, stupid, nonsensical, illogical, crazy. They spend hours at these seminars pouring over the finer points of balance and integration and there they are staring down the barrel of a bass drone. Can you imagine a piper playing his strathspey and reel in the big MSR at Oban or Inverness backside to the bench?

Why is it that bands cannot get out of this circle mania straitjacket, a military doctrine unchanged since the formation of the SPBA in the 1930s? I say again if we want to be taken seriously by mainstream music and the public then we need to play as other musicians play – facing our audience. A hearty well-done to Chairman John Hughes and the Lothian & Borders Branch and to Jim Sim in the Midwest US for showing the way forward.


French test from Catherine Grosset re Piob by the Sea: Très Chers Amis Sonneurs, Comme chaque année, nous vous convions à participer aux événements du PIBROC’H EN BORD DE MER les samedi 15 et dimanche 16 septembre prochains. Tous les éléments nécessaires à votre inscription vous sont adressés en pièces jointes. C’est assez long mais je n’ai pas trouvé plus simple. Désolée. Bonne lecture ! et A très bientôt ! Catherine la secrétaire.

Got that? Sign up for Cancale


Good to see so many contest organisers talking advantage of the huge readership we enjoy at Piping Press. We are happy to give additional editorial to all promoters who advertise with us. In that vein here is the blurb from the Northern meeting: ‘Since it was first held in 1841, the Piping Competition has become the most prestigious in the world.  A win at the Northern Meeting is the top prize in solo piping and thirty of the hundred competitors are from overseas.
Competition is intense. Winners of the top prizes come back year after year, while aspiring players strive to gain their first trophy.’
The schedule:
Thursday 30 August 
From 8.30am Gold Medal; 9am ‘A’ MSR; 9am Silver Medal; from 6pm Former Winners MSR
Friday 31 August
From 8.30am Gold Clasp; 10am H&Jig; 10am ‘B’ MSR; 11am ‘B’ H&Jig
Friday 31 August 

From 9am U-15 & U-18 Piob.; 2pm U-15 & U-18 MSR
From 5pm prize giving for Senior and Junior competitions.
It is important that these pipers have a good audience to play to so click here to get your Inverness tickets.


Don’t forget the Mod. Entries close next week, July 13.


Pipers will be spoilt for choice on August 4. Up in the north-east we have Aboyne Games and in the west we have Lochaber Gathering. Allan MacColl at Lochaber has pointed out that as well as the considerable money on offer at Fort William (£300 for the piob.) his total prize fund including trophies and medals comes to £8,000. Local sponsors such as theatre impresario Cameron MacIntosh make this possible, so get an entry in if you can and make sure the cash keeps flowing. Click on the display ads for both Aboyne and Lochaber if you want to take part in either event as a senior or junior.


Our recent band MSR correspondent ‘The Analyst’ sends a  postscript to the UK Pipe Band Championships at Belfast: ‘Out of 16 performances, we heard nine different marches, a promising eleven strathspeys and only eight reels. No march or strathspey got more than three outings – however the most popular tune of the day was John Morrison of Assynt House (five performances).’
Stay tuned to PP for the results of our poll on this burning issue.

1 thought on “PP Ed’s Blog: Band Circles/ Cancale/ Northern Meeting, Lochaber, Aboyne

  1. Both days of The Northern Meeting piping competitions being held at the end of August, even the very end of August! It struck me as a surprise when reading it. That must be a first as it was always in September and there was a reason for this which developed something of a tradition in the northern area. The reason for this earlier dates of the occurrence is obvious, but there was something special when the Northern Meeting was held later in September even as late as about the 20th. Maybe such traditions are not important of course but if there is an erosion in atmosphere etc, careful consideration has to be made.

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