April 30, 2000

L&B Police To Get Audition for Grade 1?

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association has reportedly agreed to consider returning the Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band of Edinburgh, Scotland, to Grade 1 if it passes a surprise assessment by the RSPBA in the next few weeks. The band’s relegation to Grade 2 after its poor 1999 season was one of the most discussed stories of the winter.

Lothian & Borders Police, which has one of the pipe band world’s most renowned histories, was demoted after suffering several years of lacklustre performances, fluctuating personnel, and a virtual revolving door of leadership.

In the fall of 1999, the band attracted a raft of new players and leadership, including new Pipe Major Colin MacLellan and Leading Drummer Arthur Cook, both world leaders on the solo circuit. With the new leadership came new personnel experienced in Grade 1, thus putting the band in a favourable appeal position.

The band’s appeal had apparently gone virtually unanswered by the RSPBA. One rumoured way for the band to return to Grade 1 was for it to win its first contest in Grade 2 – at Dunbar, presumably — and only then would it be regraded. According to the RSPBA rule book, however, a band must play at least twice in its new grade before being allowed to move up or down.

The proposal allegedly on the table now is for a representative from the RSPBA to attend a Lothian & Borders Police band practice and make a judgment call on regrading.

“This whole thing is ridiculous,” said one UK bandsman. “If they’re so good, then they can just go out and win every Grade 2 contest and get upgraded next year. They should just play the game.”

Another insider who asked that his name not be used said, “Look at the new players they have and the new leadership. Of course it’s a first grade band. The only fair thing is to re-grade them again.”

Lost in the shuffle of the controversy is the fact that, while the band is in grading limbo, it must continue to be prepared to submit the musical contest requirements for both grades.

The RSPBA’s National Council — the governing body of the organization — is said to be meet on May 6 to discuss the matter.


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