Published: March 31, 2008

Allegations flourish in wake of mid-section matter

The fall-out from the RSPBA’s decision to discontinue awarding Best Bass-Section prizes at major championships continues unabated, with allegations that the association might have tried to work the motion through at its annual general meeting on March 8th without providing full clarity to its membership.In the organization’s “Order Paper” – the document that some UK associations distribute to membership prior to an AGM – a motion was submitted to change rule 3.58 in the RSPBA’s rule-book:

Section Three Rule 3.58 line one after “At” delete “Major Championships” insert “Local Contests” To read: At Local Contests, where a prize is awarded for “Best Bass Section” only Bands fielding not less than one Bass Drummer and one Tenor Drummer will be eligible for this prize.

The Association’s rules also state:

1.34 Any notices of motion or proposed alterations to the Constitution and Rules must clearly state section number, rule number, line number and clearly define the intention of the motion or alteration, whether by insertion, deletion, addition or substitution failing which it shall not be included in the Agenda for the Annual General Meeting.

“Rule 1.34 makes it clear beyond all reasonable doubt that any motion must clearly define its intentions,” Scott Currie, a tenor-drummer with the House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band who is leading an online petition to fight the decision. “The motion presented in the AGM Order Paper did not clearly define the intention of the motion. The intention to abolish trophies only became apparent during the verbal presentation made by [RSPBA Music Board Convener] Tom Brown.”It is clear that the abolition of Best Bass-Section awards was sneaked in on the fly, smoke-screened by the minimum numbers rule change. Nobody reading the Order Paper prior to the meeting . . . could ever have understoood what was intended to take place at the meeting. This must be a pivotal reason for the non-opposition to the proposal and explanatory for the low turn out at the meeting. Based on the representation from RSPBA bands already signed up to the petition and the number of e-mails . . . I have received, this proposal would never have passed a vote had the business of the AGM published in the Order Paper been written in a transparent fashion,” Currie concluded.Confusion still remains as to whether the change was a matter of policy or a formal modification to a rule. Despite repeated requests for comment or clarification, the RSPBA has not formally responded to pipes|drums on this or any other issue. According to several sources who attended the AGM, Brown, the former Pipe-Major of the Lochgelly High School Pipe Band, apparently addressed the audience to propose the change to rule 3.58. Brown allegedly presented the proposed rule change, focusing on the minimum number of players eligible to compete for Best Bass-Section awards at minor contests. Brown allegedly made reference to the rule change incorporating the abolition of Best Bass-Section awards for the purpose of bringing the assessment of mid-section into the overall drum corps critique.”From the observer’s point of view, this abolition was masked by the focus upon the major to minor competition minimal number requirement and in his opinion, nobody knew what they were voting for,” Currie continued.The discussion of the matter on the floor reportedly took a total of two minutes, and the vote was 38-0 in favour of the amendment to rule 3.58. There were two abstentions.Not all are in favour of mid-section awards, or, for that matter, singling out any aspect of a pipe band with special prizes.”I think even the best musicians can get so caught up in details as to lose perspective as to what their band sounds like from 20-feet away,” said the well known piper, former Grade 1 band Pipe-Major, and RSPBA adjudicator Jim McGillivray. “I left the 78th Fraser Highlanders just before mid-section growth hit its stride, so I’ve watched [the growth of mid-sections] solely from the perspective of an adjudicator and lover of pipe bands. What began as restrained and interesting rhythmic texturing and very entertaining flourishing has now become virtually a band unto itself.”The appeal of a pipe band is primarily in the hypnotic sound of the pipes combined with simple but engaging rhythm and melody. This ‘band within a band’ is now pushing that appeal aside and dominating the band’s sound. I’m sad to say that in recent years my musical interest has begun to drift away from pipe bands, and this is the major reason.”One very experienced person who is following the matter is Bert Barr, a snare-drummer who played alongside the legendary Alex Duthart for many years in the Shotts & Dykehead and Invergordon Distillery bands. Barr was witness to the “bass-section revolution” of 1957-’58, when many people feel that tenor- and bass-drums started to take a more prominent role in a band’s overall ensemble sound. “Thirty years ago, leading drummers would have given their back teeth to have the quality of musicians and instruments available today in their bass-sections,” Barr said. “Today’s bass- and tenor-drummers read music and write scores; back in 1957 when Alex and I came to Shotts, the bass-section just played time with the exception of a few accents in key places and flourished to add a visual element. Alex wanted tenor-drummers to play a more musical role, but it wasn’t the right time in terms of the instruments available. He would have loved to have had the quality of musicians available today in his corps back then to pull off some of the great ideas he had in his mind.”Barr added, “I cannot see any point to this ludicrous decision. There is no point to it at all. What do they expect bass sections to do? Cut numbers? Play less? For what reason? Bass-s sections are not ruining good pipe corps; they are enhancing them. This decision flies in the face of the whole reason that drumming awards were first established in the 1950s: to promote good drumming. The whole thing has moved on so much in the last five or six years, that some judges just don’t know how to judge it any more and this is one less thing for them to worry about.”Stay tuned to pipes|drums for further details on this story as they develop.p|dWhat do you think? 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5 COMMENTS

  1. Surely instead of using the word alledged ” all the time when refering to the music board presentation. Surely it would be better to get a ” Quote ” on behalf of the music board. And

  2. Hallelujah for publishing this story because so far, many people seem to be missing ‘the big picture’ with regards to how this topic came about in the first place. It seems there was definite ambiguity in the papers preceding the meeting which referred to the rule change and, had the papers been clearer, more people may have attended to vote. Whether this ambiguity has been deliberate or not, is unclear. I personally don’t there was some big conspiracy going on though – I think it was a simple case of there being no current rule saying there WILL be a bass section prize, so how could they remove what didn’t exist? Instead, the only rule close to this (about minimum numbers) was updated. There’s no denying that method was a ****-up but the fact that Tom Brown referred to the removal of the prizes when presenting the rule change, seems to me, to make it clear there was no intention to actually cover it up or ‘sneak it through’. I’m personally in favour of the bass section prizes and could see no need to remove them. However, I don’t think the removal decision should be over-turned by a petition, as this is equally undemocratic. If you’re only counting the endorsements of those who want to keep the prizes, then what about the opinions of those that wish to scrap them? What if there are 300 people in favour on the petition but an uncounted 1000 people against, who didn’t raise a petition saying so? The petition will (and should) only serve to gauge strength of opinion and not to have the vote overturned. That strength of opinion should then drive whether the matter needs further debate and on the strength of the number of signatures so far, it’s clear it warrants further debate – but in a formal manner. The only true, democratic way that I can see this progressing is for a debate and vote to take place, at an EGM (rather than waiting for the next AGM) giving, as the AGM does, one vote per band. If costs to set up and/or attend an EGM are an issue, then are ways round this and various options are available for methods of casting votes. Whichever way the vote then goes will simply need to be accepted by all – that’s democracy in action.

  3. In order to refresh my perspective I just watched a You Tube of the 78th FHPB at the WPBC 1992. Now I have a clear understanding of where some of the comments are coming from. Things have drastically changed in the last 15 years. Check it out.

  4. Would this be the same RSPBA that at last years AGM voted to remove, say, 3.65? The same rule which is still in force according to the current rules (which have been updated since)?

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