Pipe band mergers have happened in the past, but mostly with top-grade bands that are struggling in competition and with membership. But for two competitively successful lower-grade bands to merge to help each other mutually during a temporary period of personnel loss is a rarity. That’s exactly what appears to be happening with the Grade 3 Durham Regional Police and the Grade 4 Brighton Legion bands of Ontario, as both are getting together for one season to bridge the gap.
If the merger goes ahead as planned, the bands will compromise on repertoire, carrying over Durham’s MSR and Brighton’s medley from the 2010 season. The bands, with approximately 100 kilometres between Brighton and Oshawa, Ontario, will hold biweekly practices at alternating locations.
“Needless to say, both groups are excited,” said Durham Police Pipe-Major Tom Bowen. “And although combining bands is rather tricky business, it’s easy when you are dealing with someone as level-headed as [Brighton Legion Pipe-Major] Fred Carmichael. And their drumming is outstanding. Durham has struggled for years with that; but not now. It’s fun again to be able to play with a full drum corps. I’m originally from Peterborough, and I played with several of these guys, way, way back. So it’s like going home for me.”
Brighton Legion had a very successful 2010 season in Grade 4, winning the overall PPBSO Champion Supreme title by a wide margin. Durham enjoyed success in Grade 3, particularly in marks in piping.
Both bands have suffered the loss of members mainly due to young members heading to university and the retirement of others from competition. Each band likely would have had difficulty fielding a competition in 2011 as they worked to rebuild. With Durham Police having a healthy pipe section and a shortage of drummers – and vice-versa for Brighton – the merger made sense.
“The opportunity to create this hybrid band was too good to pass up,” Bowen said.
It is not known yet what name the merged bands will compete under, and it appears that Bowen will be pipe-major and Brighton Leading-Drummer Pat Hennessey will direct the drum section.