Absence of mallets
Two of the new rules enacted at the PPBSO’s AGM on November 3rd (the usual 60 people attended. Why does every association’s AGM always attract 60 people?) were ones that stipulate that Grade 1 and Grade 2 bands must have a minimum number of tenor drummers.
The RSPBA does not require a band – in any grade – to have any tenors to compete, and this was a first for the PPBSO. I believe the EUSPBA demands that all bands have at least one tenor drummer to meet minimum requirements, but I think that’s it for the world’s associations.
Rules such as these define what a “pipe band” is. They say, essentially, that a Grade 1 band without two tenor drummers is not in fact a pipe band. It requires a pipe-major and leading-drummer to integrate that sound into their band’s ensemble. These rules to some extent dictate how a band should sound.
Whether this is right or wrong, I just don’t know. There are pros and cons on each side. Something tells me, though, that, if I were a pipe-major, I still would like to at least have the option of not including the sound of a tenor in my mix. The rule also does not require the tenor drummer(s) actually to play. They could simply stand there with a tenor drum strapped on and more or less rub the drum, looking like they’re washing dishes with the mallets. But that would of course make a mockery in the eyes of some judges of the rules.
Or would it? Even if the rules stated that all personnel on the field have to be “playing,” what constitutes playing? Maybe a band decides to have a tenor drum play one crucial beat in a seven-minute medley. How much playing is “playing”?
I was glad that similar motions were defeated that would have required lower-grade bands to have at least one tenor drummer. To me, that would cross a line where bands either would not be able to compete or would have to have someone wear a drum without playing it. Both situations are undesirable.
But, still, if the definition of a “pipe band” demands the sound of a tenor drummer, shouldn’t it be across all grades?