Editor’s Notebook: Circle Formation/ Royal Piper/ NZ Judges/ Band Medleys/ 1st Port Poem

Those bands getting themselves into a tizzy over the prospect of a change to the circle formation can rest easy. It ain’t ever going to happen. There has been considerable huffing and puffing since my last foray into this forbidden zone. The ‘we love the circle campaign’ is in full swing.

Like us all, bands are change averse and are happy with the status quo. Why should pipers and drummers be denied the comfort of eyeballing one another just because of a few pesky listeners?

Bands, for all their clever craft, are essentially amateur in their presentation. They play and practice to win contests, not to entertain an audience.

Witness the PP comment from Mr Bowen: ‘Spectators should be the least of considerations. Although …….audience appreciation is a welcome addition to the event, the essence and purpose of the contest must be maintained above all else.’

That about sums the band view up as far as I can gather, and all I will say to it is that if spectators don’t matter then don’t charge them entry fees. And no whingeing about poor prizemoney please. You play for yourself, you pay for yourself.

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Royal Salute

A word now for P/M Paul Burns, piper to Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. P/M Burns played twice at her funeral service, firstly at Westminster Abbey (Sleep, Dearie, Sleep) and secondly at St George’s Chapel, Windsor (Salute to the Royal Fendersmith). Each time the pipe major performed beautifully on a perfect instrument. He somehow kept the emotion at bay and his mind on his professional duty.

P/M Burns at Westminster Abbey

It must have been nerve-wracking knowing that billions were watching around the world. Okay, the vast majority would not have known if his chanter had been off, his drones adrift or his timing awry. But we would have.

The piping world salutes you Paul. You looked and sounded immaculate. You did yourself and your Sovereign, and our instrument and its music, proud.

NZ Judges

Philip Mair in New Zealand: The Jenny Mair Highland Square Day is back on Saturday 10 December 2022. The organisers, the Manawatu Scottish Society, are pleased to announce a stellar judging panel: Stuart Easton, Alasdair MacKenzie, Brian Switalla, Greg Wilson (piping), Glen Millar, Scott Mitchell (snare drumming), Liam Kernaghan and Ross Levy (ensemble), and Liam Argyle (bass and tenor).

The emerging players solo piping and drumming competition is held during the morning, followed by the band competition. Held in Palmerston North’s Square, the picturesque park in the centre of the city, this will be the 41st time this competition has been held.  

It is the second largest  NZ pipe band contest after the National Championships, attracting entrants from across the country and often Australia. It is a treat to see bands, including Grade One bands, performing at peak before the antipodean summer break. Contact: philip.mair@gmail.com, 022 319 0217.

Band Medleys

Allan Hamilton: Pipers’ Persuasion has garnered a few known faces to discuss the evolution of Medley playing by pipe bands over the decades from 1970. In the last Episode we had the tribute to Shotts and Dykehead which has the full performance of that 1970 winning Medley.

This is now followed by contributions from Ken Stewart, John Scullion, Harry Stevenson, Ian McLellan regarding the 70s and we develop that through chats with Bill Livingstone and Jim Wark.
Finally Duncan Nicholson assists with his thoughts on the last decade or so and we close with a small part of the DroneChorus recording of Police Scot and Fed PB competing at this year’s Worlds.
I hope viewers find this episode interesting and thanks to all those who appeared. Here’s the link.

1st Port Poem

I hear the former members of the 1st Port Glasgow BB band had a good evening last Friday to mark their Worlds win in 1972. Ian Carruthers, from Ontario, has been in touch: ‘I enjoyed the Piping Press article on the BB band from Port Glasgow. A friend wrote the attached poem relating to Duncan, who as you know was well known when we were young and residing in the Port Glasgow/Greenock area in the 1950-60s. The writer Sheelah Colhoun and her husband Jim are our friends and reside in Florida.’

The Piper, Duncan Brown

He was the man to count on
To keep your spirits high
When you heard the bagpipes playing
You knew that he was nigh

To watch the pipers marching
A tear comes to the eye
For many a heart remembered
The dear old days gone by

When other friends stood near you
And heard the plaintive notes
Of Duncan on his bagpipes
A lump comes to your throat

Because Duncan received a medal
For all his work and care
And for passing on his knowledge
His love Scottish airs

For nothing stirs the senses more
In any land I’ve seen
Than the sight and sound of pipers
Come marching on the scene

So often I have listened
And wondered as they played
Was Duncan Brown your teacher
In far off bygone days?

And many and many a piper
That he encouraged here
Now play in many foreign lands
Some other ears to cheer

With some well-loved Highland music
Your feet soon tap to the tune
Of a hundred kilted pipers
For miles and miles aroon

So remember in whatever lands
And far off fields you roam
Give thanks to Duncan Brown the piper
From dear Port Glasgow toon

5 thoughts on “Editor’s Notebook: Circle Formation/ Royal Piper/ NZ Judges/ Band Medleys/ 1st Port Poem

  1. Pipers and pipe bands, and I speak for myself in this, don’t pay as much attention to what might be described as stagecraft which can be as much about vision as sound in some cases, as we should. There have been interesting comments from participants and clearly there are differing views. However to dismiss audiences as not being important, should be challenged. If it is only the sound of the ensemble that should be considered, why bother with highland dress etc?
    While there have been comments from participants , I wonder what sponsors think of the subject. I would guess that commercial sponsors would want activities that they sponsor to be attractive to audiences and would like their logos etc to be well presented to audiences, so spectators may be important to them. A change in the format may be of interest to sponsors, particularly if more attractive for audiences.
    Pipe bands at one time, not so long ago was more of colourful spectacle than at present.
    More can be discussed about this subject, but of course we don’t like to embrace change.

  2. Band Medleys: Thanks to Robert Wallace for posting and drawing attention to the website
    Robert unlike other publications, has always been a strong supporter. We try to be relevant and are always available for comments. Due to vandalism in a ‘reconstruction’, YouTube has destroyed the quality and availability of the first 51 Editions. So, seizing the opportunity we will be re-editing to improve the quality and even re-interviewing for these reasons and to provide updates. This will take all winter and so please bear with us! The interviews from 52 to present 89 + still stand! You heard it here first.

  3. As a piper, there is something special about a band turning into the circle and being hit with a wall of sound from the drones. Bands always play in the semi circle for concerts as they are there to play for the crowd, but fundamentally bands registered with associations and going along to championships are going along to try and win. In my opinion the circle is still a better set up for what pipe bands do/ are judged on at competitions

  4. If the competition circle is to stay – how about each band beginning their performance with a display of precision marching and formations (e.g. counter-rotating concentric circles), before forming the static circle ? This would certainly be more entertaining for the audience ! I recall this happening at a Scottish ‘Spectacular’ held decades ago in the Royal Albert Hall, performed by the pipes & drums of various highland regiments.

  5. Yes Robert we had a smashing night on Friday and a wee write up and some photos will be coming your way soon. The craic was good and Callum Beaumont was in fine form during his recital. Isn’t it great that ‘wee Dunky’ has been remembered in rhyme and all the way from Florida? Many thanks to poet Sheelah for her work.

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