January 31, 2007

Scottish Lion-78th Fraser Highlanders to compete with “28-30” pipers

In an era of ever-expanding bands at the top level, the Scottish Lion-78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band of Toronto are planning to extend the boundaries even further by competing with anywhere from 28 and 30 pipers in the 2007 season.

Pipe-Major Bill Livingstone has intimated that his band has 34 pipers, 14 snare drummers and a mid-section of seven on its roster.

“My intention is to play everyone who can make the cut, and that looks like 28 to 30,” Livingstone said. “Yes, it’s huge, but who can forget Field Marshal three years ago playing 22 pipers in perfect tune and with stunning precision. It was magnificent, and for me set the paradigm for the great Grade 1 band.”

Livingstone added that the SL78FH will mark its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2007 with several projects. The band plans to release a compilation CD of 25 years of medleys and music, including a studio recording of its 2007 World’s medley, which “breaks some new ground.” The CD release is earmarked for the end of May, along with a record release party combined with an alumni reunion event.

The band also plans to perform in Hamilton, Ontario, at a “mini-concert” on March 17, and will hold its annual CeltFest workshop and mini-concert on May 19.

Livingstone also hinted that the band may stage a “major southern Ontario show” in 2007, which would be the band’s biggest concert in the province since it performed at Massey Hall in Toronto in 1988.


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  1. How times have changed. The 78th won the worlds in 1987 with 11 pipers, 6 sides, a tenor and bass. Now 20 years later they are anticipating going on with a band about 3 times that size. It makes me wonder how good their best 12 pipers and 6 drummers might sound. Maybe some small games will start having mini band” contests where you are limited to “only” 12 pipers and 6 drummers. Or perhaps with “overseas” bands winning more regularly and that prize meaning less and less over time

  2. I saw a DVD of the Edinburgh Tattoo month ago and thought that sounds pretty good, the esplanade covered with bands. It was a spectacle. I wonder if judges are judging the spectacle and not the sound. Strenght in numbers I know I know but these massive bands are making a big dust cloud leaving small bands of 15 pipers behind. Is that fair? Not sure.

  3. It’ll make for a cozy circle in Kincardine… Will see which ensemble judge is the first to successfully circumnavigate a band within a 7 minute medley.

  4. I think these numbers are way over the top for the reasons that Greg alluded to, but also from the point of view of judgeing. Unless the rules are changed as to where judges are allowed to stand (or maybe jog in this case), judges will only be able to hear about 5 or 6 players from any one spot….now for the spectators in the grandstand, that’s different, but they will be the only ones who benefit from such a big band

  5. Lets see. 30 pipers, 14 sides. That’s two healthy first grade bands. Time for the associations to do something about numbers and level the field. The major sports leagues have salary caps to prevent the rich from dominating and making the league more competitive. Since there are no salaries in pipe bands for the most part anyway size is the equivelent.

  6. WOW……….. This is incredible! The thing that gets me is the way I see it, the Pipes|Drums website posts an article that the SL78FPB has a huge band and s looking forward to doing great things this year and in the years to come and everybody comes here and posts mostly negative comments. Why is this? Why is it that everybody strives to be the best and as soon as you get good everybody hates on them? I say good for them, and no I am not a member of the band. Talent not quite there…………but I think that maybe some poeple are bitter???? We will see ths summer I guess! Best of luck!

  7. Hold on a wee minute. Never said they were a bad band, and full credit to getting all those players. Just saying that maybe its time to look at the whole situation so that everyone can benefit. Props to the 78th for sure. They are just doing what they think they need to do to win.

  8. Are they planning on playing MAxville this year? 78th always leaders never followers, that is why they are great. If they are playing MAxville, it may warrant a trip back to the homeland to see this. I remeber back in the 80’s when they had this huge band of 16 pipes. This will really test the waters on whether this is where bands are going. I suspect that it will meet with mixed reviews at the worlds, but good on them for giving it a try.

  9. Perhaps the trend at the world level has already been set? The numbers have been continuing to grow over the years and this decision is no surprise. More judges, longer time limits for sets, perhaps but it may also mean the present day circle set-up must change also. This may be the start of many changes and future considerations by the major pipe band associations i.e. possible change from the circle to concert/orchestral formation i.e. semi circle, allowing the judges and performers to face one another.

  10. I think it will be an interesting gamble to play a band that size. I look forward to hearing/seeing them. However, I bet (you heard it here first) that the Frasers will dramitically reduce their size the very next games after” Toronto Police hand them their first loss.”

  11. Interestingly enough, Barry Ewen has recently posted some band videos from the early 1990’s, on YouTube. These videos show bands at the worlds with around 11 or 12 pipers in many cases. Sort of neat to see these smaller pipe corps, filled with talent of the day. In these clips, you can see the 78th’s with Bill Livingstone, Bruce Gandy, Michael Grey, Andrew Bonar, to name a few. In the Power of Scotland Band, there is Harry McNulty, Angus MacDonald, Roddy MacLeod, Stuart Liddell, Willie MacCallum (what a lineup!). I am not going to debate whether this mega band trend should continue. I think what we need to ask ourselves is, does it serve to promote our art in the most positive light possible?

  12. A reflective question… if the band has 34 pipers and are looking to play 28-30, then what’s the story with the other 4-6? That 6 is half a pipe corps to some bands that are struggling for numbers. 14 snares?…that’s two reasonable sized drum corps. It’s not just a Canadian trend – it’s happening here in Scotland as well. Some bands are disappearing into oblivion while others are obtaining more players than they can feasibly field. In the last month I know of one band that has folded due partly to lack of numbers, while another within 10 miles of it is sitting with almost 30 pipers, knowing full well that they won’t all play.

  13. Jeff’s right. I heard Toronto in December too. They sounded super flat as they walked down University Ave at the Santa Claus Parade. Not even the same league as Windsor or the 78th.

  14. Who cares what a band sounds like now, or at the highland ball. (By the way the big 6/8 set at the Santa Claus Parade was awesome). It’s too early in the season to dictate what will actually go on in the summer. Granted the work that is put in now pays off in the summer, but making predictions based on what was heard in a non-competitive idiom doesn’t seem rational as it isn’t the essence of what the bands strive for. If one band is able to attract large numbers of players that are committed to being there and are dedicated then what’s the problem with big numbers? Maybe if the bands in oblivion were doing something right to draw players they wouldn’t fade into obscurity.

  15. Theses guys(the Frasers) have always been the king of spin”. Its the dead of winter and they have everyone talking about them. Hilary Clinton could learn from their PR department.”

  16. I think they should split their band up into a 78th A band and a 78th B band and then go head to head. Then we’d really see how good they are!!! The only problem would be if the B band beats the A band, then we’d end up with the same can of worms with RMM. If Bill Livingston is confident with fielding that many players then who is anyone to judge? Given his track record he obviously has a high standard and wouldn’t present a product that isn’t world class.



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