The Rocky Mountain Pipe Band of Calgary is the latest Grade 2 band to struggle with numbers, and has decided not to compete in 2011 despite being able to field minimum numbers. The band opted to abstain from competition and rebuild rather than try to go head-to-head with much larger groups.
“The Rocky Mountain Pipe Band had to make the unfortunate decision last night to put the 2011 season on hold for this year,” said Pipe-Major Sean Somers. “In short, we’ve lost a significant number of players, and over the last few months haven’t been able to rebuild to a point where we’d be a competitive Grade 2 band in terms of numbers.”
Rocky Mountain was formed in 1998 and was promoted Grade 2 in 2008. Last year the band gained a fourth in Grade 2 at the North American Championships at Maxville, Ontario, including a first in piping from one judge.
“It’s a bit disappointing doing as well as we did in Maxville for our first time out last year, but it is what it is, as they say,” Somers added.
While the band’s local association states minimum numbers for Grade 2 as six pipers, two snare drummers, two tenors and a bass, the band was the smallest in the Grade at Maxville by a wide margin with 13 pipers.
“For us, competing against other bands that take up significantly more real estate in the circle – double in a few cases; upwards of 25 players – it’s hard to compete against that alone. Visually speaking – before a note is even played – it’s hard to compete with an eight-wide swath of pipers four rows deep,” Somers said. “We bailed-out this year, because if we showed up with eight or 10 pipers to Maxville again this year, I think we’d get laughed out of the park. And it’s not just pipers either. Mid-sections, especially, are under the same pressure.”
He chalked up the loss of personnel to a variety of circumstances including retirement, school, work and family commitments, as well as a number of players jumping to the Grade 1 Alberta Caledonia Pipe Band, including Pipe-Sergeant Andrew Smith, who became pipe-major of Alberta.
“Like all bands, there are ups and downs, and at this point, the band needs to focus on re-building for the fall,” Somers concluded.