Published: February 28, 2005

Readers comment on RSPBA changes to lower grades

Many readers responded to the recent news that the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association plans to change the requirements for Grade 4 and Novice Juvenile championships starting in 2006.

A selection of them follows:

I think this is a step forward to improve standards in the grade. If I am not mistaken the RSPBA have considered changes here for some years now and why it has taken so long to come up with a formula is the only surprise to me. Why not take it a step further and introduce a MSR for Grade 4, two parts of each?

I say go for it.

– John McCarlie, Penicuik, Scotland

Welcomed changes are okay if they are improving the standards. If the RSPBA go ahead it just shows that they have not looked at the way the bands pick their tunes. Most bands, approximately 60 per cent, already play 2/4 marches of their own choice. If the RSPBA want to change things they should get the views from the bands that already play in Grade 4 and Novice Juvenile. If they want to change things in this way then the changes should apply to every Grade. Try telling the top six bands in Grade 1 that they now have selected tunes from our governing body.

– Jim Forbes, Pipe-Major, Burntisland & District Pipe Band, Burntisland, Scotland

It seems once again from your columns, especially in your on-line version, that the RSPBA’s proposed new format for the lower grades has provided many people with another opportunity to RSPBA bash.

One should bear in mind that the RSPBA, as with all other pipe band associations world wide, has a duty to its members to do all in its power to improve and develop the pipe band art. My understanding is that this is an attempt to do so. The RSPBA plans to introduce this at its own major championships of which there are five. The World’s just happens to be one of them.

Every pipe band organization in the world has introduced new initiatives unilaterally in recent years in one form or another and the RSPBA, representing its own membership, surely must have a right to do the same.

Introduction in 2006 gives bands from other associations who are intending to travel to the World’s ample time to prepare for the change of system. I see no problem with this. Perhaps I am just being naive, but I would like to think the RSPBA is showing leadership in this matter.

– Norrie Thomson

Very disappointing and discouraging to those of us who continue to hope that someday the RSPBA will truly recognize and/or acknowledge it has brothers and sisters who do not happen to live in Scotland but share the same universal concern for high musical standards and the establishment of same.

Although I personally would tend to agree in principle with the RSPBA’s concept of prescribed tunes, I must also agree with the unofficial criticism from the “IPBA insider.” It is disappointing but not surprising that the RSPBA continues to make decisions impacting the pipe band “world” without consulting the rest of the world.

The vast majority of competitive pipe bands are in the lower grades. For this reason, it would seem in this particular instance some sort of non-RSPBA input would have (and should have) been solicited.

The RSPBA has the authority to establish “local” rules for “local” contests. However, one wonders why RSPBA continues to fail to understand or respect the concept that World Championship event tune criteria should have world input.

– Al McMullin, Lawrenceville, Georgia

So, is the RSPBA only allowed to innovate in ways that everyone approves of? That’s a recipe for stagnation.

In prescribing 2/4 marches (and presumably specifying the exact setting) the RSPBA is removing the options of either playing very round 4/4s, or rearranging tunes to remove movements that the Grade 4 pipe-major (of which I’m one) doesn’t trust his/her pipers to execute cleanly. This may well have the effect of raising fingering standards in the lower grades, and if so that’s got to be a good thing. Isn’t improving standards one of the RSPBA’s jobs?

On the other hand it might just discourage Grade 4 bands from entering majors, or cause some to allow their RSPBA membership to lapse and retreat into “street band” status to avoid the hassle of practicing the set tunes. If it has the latter effect then reduced entries and/or membership will adversely impact the RSPBA and they’ll probably drop the idea pretty sharpish. Whichever the result of this experiment is (and I expect it’ll take at least three seasons of the new system before we’ll know that), I think it’s worth trying.

– Neil Macdonald, Pipe-Major, Greater Manchester Fire Service (Grade 4 band), Manchester, England

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