February 28, 2007

RSPBA taps bands for input on World’s format

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The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association has asked bands that have competed in recent World Pipe Band Championships for their input on potential changes to the format of the event.

In a letter to Grade 1 bands, the RSPBA requests responses on proposed rule changes that could see a different format for the Grade 1 Medley event. The thinking, the letter infers, is in response to the BBC’s request to alter the contest’s format because the television network, which made a program on the 2006 World’s, finds it lacking. The BBC will reportedly produce a similar program on the 2007 World’s.

Potential changes to rules include the elimination of mandatory introductory three-pace rolls, getting rid of the requirement to march in to formation, and bands would be allowed to compete in any format they like, rather than the traditional circle.

The letter suggests that a majority vote will govern, and that bands not responding by March 9 will be counted as accepting the proposed changes, saying, “Failure to reply will be deemed a vote for change.”

“Every other country in the world with their own style of competitive band competitions has changed the set-up for competition and musical presentation,” said Jim Kilpatrick, leading-drummer of the House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band. “The two best examples are Drum Corps International and the bagad competitions in Brittany. Both produce excellent musical presentations and are set up in a way that people from other bands and the public can watch and appreciate the event.”

“These changes would be great, but no structure, no judging guidelines, no consultation no thought, and all driven by the wrong rationale: the BBC wants it,” one Grade 1 band-member said. “This would be the same BBC which doesn’t pay a penny to the performers.”

The RSPBA experimented with “concert formation” competitions in the early-1980s when Robert Shepherd, then pipe-major of the Dysart & Dundonald Pipe Band, was a proponent of the format. The 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band introduced a “V” formation in 1980. The Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario tried to test concert formation for Grade 1 and Grade 2 bands in 2001, but the experiment was shut down when competing bands expressed their dislike of the system.

Since 1992, after the aforementioned 78th Fraser Highlanders started its medley with a traditional Gaelic walking song, the RSPBA amended its rules to require that bands begin medleys with a “quick-march.”


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  1. Time to eat my hat. Ball’s now in the band’s court. Good on the R.S.P.B.A. for at least asking the bands for their opinions before they just plowed ahead like the would have a few years ago.

  2. This is great news. Proof that the RSPBA will react to financial incentive. Perhaps there are financial incentives to other changes. What about adding this new format at a different venue and improving all Worlds events in other ways, like holding the qualifying rounds on a different day and having more adjudicators? Those seem to be first on the minds of the players, and they are the group ‘served’ by the RSPBA, not the BBC.

  3. Unless I’m mistaken (quite possible!) there is no mention of the BBC requesting this change. The letter states that, ‘following the TV coverage, it has been observed’. That could quite easily mean (and I suspect it does), that because it has been filmed, it’s easy to observe the contest format and notice things that one may not necessarily notice on the ground on the day. I actually happen to think the format has been noticed by the RSPBA but even if it hasn’t, what’s the problem? Regardless of where the idea came from, bands are being asked for their input and as you’ve rightly pointed out Andrew, the majority will rule. If bands don’t want it, it’s unlikely to happen.

  4. I do think it is quite coincidental that this is all coming about now, but do not believe that the RSPBA should be shot down for trying to make the contest more enjoyable. The best thing concerned bandsmen can do is to vote one way or the other and make sensible comments in the spot reserved for this on the letter being sent by the RSPBA. At the end of the day, if there is a big response from bands, the RSPBA may ask for input more regularly.

  5. It sure is cold down here now that **** has frozen over. This would be great news for our art. We can’t march and play anyway, so why not make it more creative and then there will be a place for those 30 pipers and 15 drummers to play. DCI does not have a standard setup, it is all about impact and keeping you interested all throughout the performance.

  6. Pipe bands given a choice quite novel now lets see how many actually respond or will we have the same low percentage as branch meetings or AGM’S. Step up and and give your opinion it may open a new era.

  7. I don’t care what the motivation is, I am just happy that the RSPBA is soliciting input from the world’s top bands and are ready to explore change. The current format for medleys is somewhat restrictive, especially with the ‘Quick March’ rule in place. An open medley format will allow pipe bands to pursue new avenues of creativity. This is great news indeed!

  8. The RSPBA, however accommodating in asking top-flight bands for their opinions on the proposed changes, seems forward by not discussing this decision with the numerous other pipe band associations in the world. I feel this is a perfect time to foster a true sense of community between the various P.B.A.’s, by comming to a collective decision about these format modifications. If the RSPBA decides to ride the winds of change, why leave others in the dust?



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