Germany’s Northern Winter School Inundated with Students/ Reader’s View on Band Sizes

The popular Northern Winter School, held each November in Germany, opened for registration at the weekend and is already sold out, the organisers report.

Principal Ronnie Bromhead said: ‘After opening the online booking portal on February 1 we have received significantly more booking requests than we could give places.

‘Because of this flood we are doing our very best to fulfil all individual requests, but unfortunately some may not get a place this year. Please do not be disheartened by this. We do have a waiting list that in the past has proved to work very well. All successful applicants will receive post within the next few days.’

Mr Bromhead also offered a warm welcome to popular adjudicator and teacher Robert Barnes BEM, Methil, Fife, who has joined the NWS teaching faculty. ‘I am sure the students will be delighted that Robert has joined the team.

Robert Barnes BEM

‘First winner of the Silver Medal, Robert Barnes was also a runner-up in the Gold Medal and an outstanding soloist during his solo career. He is a highly respected teacher and was recently recognised by HM The King with the award of the BEM for services to bagpipe tuition.

‘Robert has wide band experience at all grades and has led his band, Methil & District, to the World Championship in their grade. He served for many years in the Pipes & Drums of the Queens Own Highlanders under the renowned P/M Iain Morrison. He also played in the Muirhead & Sons band under P/M RG Hardie. Robert is a professional reedmaker and a senior judge on the solo piping circuit.’


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Reader’s Letters

David Cross, Northern Ireland , on band sizes: ‘My view would not be popular in Grade 1, particularly a specific Grade 1 band from Northern Ireland; I love them by the way, how could you not.

‘I spent over 30 years as a competing piper, some as a pipe sergeant and pipe major, but never in Grade 1. So I have skin in the game.

Huge band….Field Marshal Montgomery from Lisburn

‘Go to a contest now and you will see that the band scene is struggling in NI, with many bands including my own, going to the wall. Lower grade bands have in many cases membership made up of really inexperienced children along with older players well past their best.

‘Meanwhile at very same time and at the very same contests you will see some Grade 1 bands with maybe around 25 pipers and 10 drummers, 6 tenors. To the general public it looks amazing, but as a former piper, I tend to look behind the razzmatazz and see huge issues.

‘Not a single player taught from scratch from within these bands. But, the young players have to be taught somewhere.

‘So a tree with all the branches at the top and no branches at the bottom is how I would describe it, and my point is, how can anyone possibly think that this could end well for the future?

‘The resources, and all the best players, are being swallowed up by the same few bands, year in, year out. Keep doing the same thing and soon there won’t be a pipe band scene.’

  • Do you agree with David? Let’s have your comments below.

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