April 30, 2007

Seminar attracts 25 PPBSO judges

Bob Worrall conducts a session at the 2007 PPBSO Adjudicators' Seminar, April 21, 2007, in Campbellville, Ontario.
The annual Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario Adjudicators’ Seminar in Campbellville, Ontario, on April 21 covered a range of topics and focused particularly on the ensemble side of judging and brought accredited people out, despite it being held on the first sunny and warm Saturday of the year.

The afternoon segment was of particular interest, with PPBSO Music Board members Doug Stronach and Bob Worrall respectively leading segments on “The Tuning of the Pipe Band Mid-section” and example recordings of competing Grade 3 bands that each attendee assessed and discussed as a group.

Stronach’s session delved into the process that today’s top pipe band mid-sections can go through when they develop scores and “voicing” from bass and tenor drums, as well as the impact that flourishing can have on the perception of a band’s overall performance. Lively and constructive debate occurred, with many judges present saying that the session opened their eyes to new ways of listening to and looking at the contributions of a pipe band mid-section.

Worrall also spearheaded a lively segment entitled “The Language of the Score Sheet,” with piping judges at the session separated into groups to discuss terminology that could be used on score sheets for describing Tone, Technique and Musicality. The three groups brain-stormed descriptors that each judge may have used to describe somewhat esoteric aspects of performances.

Twenty-five PPBSO judges attended the event, which ran from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.: Tom Anderson, Pete Aumonier, Scott Bell, Andrew Berthoff, John Cairns, Hugh Cameron, George Campbell, Rob Crabtree, Harvey Dawson, Sandy Dewar, Drew Duthart, Lori Gaudet, Eddie Gorman, Michael Grey, Bill Livingstone, Bruce MacDonald, Charlie MacDonald, Iain Macey, Lynda Mackay, Ed Neigh, Geoff Neigh, Craig Stewart, Doug Stronach, Brian Williamson, and Bob Worrall.

The PPBSO asks its accredited judges to attend at least one Adjudicators’ Seminar every two years to ensure that they are in good standing on the association’s panel.


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  1. I am thrilled to hear that such a discussion was taking place! It is a huge step forward to know that the potential for the mid-section to be appreciated for their contributions to ensemble is growing. Perhaps the humour in Tyler’s comment about a TENOR drummer being asked to talk about tuning PIPES or SNARES next year” was missed by some

  2. The information presented was an attempt to point out how advanced tenor and bass drumming had become and how important they are in creating the sound of a modern day pipe band. My talk was not on the details of tenor or bass drumming but the influence that the playing and sound has had on the other sections of the band. It was an ensemble discussion by a group of experts, to a group of experts. It was not a teaching situation and nobody was hoping to become a tenor drummer by the end of the one hour talk. I talked about piping also and our piping experts in the room did not stand up and demand that only pipers should talk about piping. They are very secure in their knowledge and contribution to the art form and another musician talking about their opinion of it is in most cases informative and enlightening to them. I personally would think a lot more about tenor and bass drummers if in situations like this they weren´t so quick to play the poor me” card. This only serves to highlight the fact that at times the mid-section feels inadequate within the pipe band idiom. This is something that players like Tyler

  3. I’m in favor of these events and I think every judge in the world should attend at least one every year. Pretty rusty and past their sell by date are some of the characters out there!!!!

  4. I agree these events are a very good idea. What I would like is more notice to when the event is taking place. I missed this past weekends seminar as I was in Indiana teaching. My weekend was planned, with flight paid for in January. With more advance notice of when the judges seminar was taking place I could have worked my travelling around it.

  5. Hmm. I received the availability form, but could have sworn the first thing I saw on the seminar wasn’t until much later. My mistake. I’m just dissapointed I missed what I’m sure was a very informative seminar, especilly with regards to ensemble and the understanding of the modern mid-section, a subject which is only slightly beggining to be understood.

  6. I was interested to see a piper and a snare drummer leading the discussion on the tuning of midsection drums as they relate to the pipe band ensemble. At least they found the two of the most knowledgeable candidates outside the idiom. It is also interesting to note that there were no bass or tenor drummers present for the discussion as a whole. What are the odds of a tenor drummer leading the discussion on the intricacies of pipe and snare drum tuning at next year’s adjudicator’s seminar? We all know that this would never happen… Kudos to the Music Board for rightly opening the doors to such previously unexplored territory. I look forward to many similar discussions in the future. Sincerely, Tyler Fry

  7. Thanks, Tyler. The odds of a mid-section being invited to present are and were excellent. In fact, no fewer than four top mid-sections were invited to present and demonstrate. All unfortunately declined or had previous commitments. Doug Stronach’s presentation was superb, and definitely a highlight of the day.

  8. It was interesting to see Mr Stronach comments, as well as Andrew’s earlier comments with regards to four corps being invited. Shame the four invited corps couldn’t attend. However it would have been brilliant to have included Messrs Fry, Currie or McQuillan as guests; collectively they would have been able to contribute a wealth of experience to the topic of discussion. From an overseas perspective, it was brilliant to see this seminar both conceived, and initiated. Congratulations to the people who initiated the concept. Reinforcing the level of refinement, and impact that modern bass sections (mid-sections) contribute, does show that pipe bands have become more mature with regards to overall musicality. Understanding how to utilise this new found refinement is indeed the next level of progression. With regards to the comment thus far, I can however understand the veiled frustration in the third paragraph of Mr Fry’s feedback. More and more bass & tenor drummers are becoming increasingly sophisticated with their level education, practical knowledge, and experience. At times we (B&T drummers) do wonder if people wish to share our views, or stick with the time honoured PM & LD leadership team, especially when it comes to musicality and tuning. We are not insecure; but don’t talk about us or disrespect us – we do have feelings 🙂 and yes, I am a bass drummer 🙂 Mr Stronach does go some way clarify things with his response though. This workshop was moreover a holistic overview on the current importance of the bass sections; more than a bass & tenor drumming workshop that focussed on ensemble. Reinforcing the importance of modern bass sections, to people charged with the assessment of the ensemble component, can only be viewed as progressive, and enlightening. If there had been respected bass & tenor people there to reinforce the two principal lecturers, then that would have further reinforced the organiser’s desired outcome. The icing on the cake so to speak……. I was lucky enough to attend one of Mr Worrall’s seminars on ensemble, whilst he was in Sydney last year. His presentation was crafted, informative, and very sophisticated. One thing did stick with me and that was the attention to detail that Mr Worrall paid to bass sections. It was refreshing that someone noticed the contribution of a modern bass section, and that he could discuss said contribution in a clear, precise, and knowledgeable manner. It is encouraging to see bass sections develop in sophistication, and moreover, become a unit within the band that is capable of contributing dynamics, as well as aural and visual coloration to a band’s musical performances. It is even more encouraging that ensemble adjudicators are taking more notice of the contribution that a bass section can offer a band’s overall musical performance.

  9. Maybe it’s just me but I am yet to meet a single piper or drummer that takes the flourishing tenor drumming bass-section thing seriously. Everyone who has been around just seems to roll their eyes, shake their head and think it is ‘a necessary evil’. At best they seem ambivalent. I think the time is coming when a big band starts to reduce the mid-sections role in the band and curbs the whole trend. Its getting a bit out of hand.

  10. The fact that such a seminar was held in the first place acknowledges the transition that midsections are undergoing and the need for creating general awareness and understanding of the current trends. I’m sure Bob & Doug did a grand job speaking about such factors as composition, functional tuning, chord progressions, dynamics and expression as well as the visual elements of tenor drumming which are often completely misunderstood. You know Rob, it’s funny… I am yet to meet a single SERIOUS piper or drummer that DOESN’T take the flourishing tenor drumming bass-section thing seriously. I actually find it refreshing that a seminar about midsection tuning was presented in a positive manner by speakers (yes, a piper & drummer) other than tenor drummers. Well done, guys!

  11. Well said Mr. Currie – at least the first part. I agree that the more talk there is on the topic the better people will understand it. My first thought about you saying you have never heard any serious piper drummer saying they dont take it seriously is that mayb they are telling you they think you want to hear! Believe me there are doubts out there but time will be the biggest decider of the fate of bass sections. Time and guys like Mr. James Hutton!!!!



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