January 31, 2010

Toronto Police choose Cowal over World’s

In 2009 the Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe Band made a trip to the Breton Pipe Band Championships and Inter-Celtic Music Festival in Lorient, Brittany, instead of the more expected annual journey to the World Pipe Band Championships. This year the band is again giving the World’s a swerve, opting instead to compete at the Cowal Championships in Dunoon, Scotland.

“We thought we’d get to take in more of the traditional Scottish piping experience,” said Toronto Police Pipe-Sergeant Michael Grey. “Love them or not, Cowal games have a great history.”

The band has in the past expressed frustration with the existing format of the World’s, where non-pre-qualified bands have to compete in a traditional MSR event in order to go through the two-event MSR and Medley Final.

The band has drawn attention in both 2008 and 2009 with its unusual medleys, composed and arranged by Grey. In 2008 the band’s “Variations on a Theme of Good Intentions” gained considerable discussion and debate around the world, as to whether it adhered to written and unwritten rules of pipe band competition medleys.

At the 2008 World’s the band did not qualify for the Final competition, and so did not get the chance to perform its medley in Scotland.

“This year [Cowal] games also offer a medley event, which is interesting to us,” Grey continued. “The way the [World’s] is currently set up is just not that appealing to us.  It’s great to have a chance to lay out an MSR at the World’s, but the option to fully participate in the  event – where a band can be sure to play their whole  musical arsenal  – well, it’s just not there.  Also, for the solo-minded people in the band  Cowal’s timing allows us to take in the Argyllshire Gathering and Cowal solos on the Friday.”

The Toronto Police reportedly will continue with another new medley along the musically adventurous path of the previous two years. When asked if the band would alter its approach to fit better into a more traditional format, Grey said, “We haven’t changed the way we go about building medleys.  We have a new medley ready to go for 2010 and we  can’t wait to play it. We’ll be respectful of RSPBA rules.”

 Toronto Police on the march at Lorient, Brittany, August 2009.

In 2009 Breton Grade 1 band Bagad Cap Caval also opted to compete at Cowal instead of the World Championships.

Grey also indicated that a unique Dunoon element is an additional attraction to competing at Cowal.

“The band plays a set of tunes composed  by John McLellan – ‘The Bloody Fields of Flanders,’  ‘Highland Brigade at Magersfontein,’ and ‘Lochanside’ – and when it was agreed we would go to Dunoon someone mentioned, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could  see where John McLellan lived?’ Anyway,  I know a lot of  band guys would be  really happy to see a little John McLellan real estate. He  may be long-gone but he’s left a great impression  with us.”


  1. I’ll put this in a better way this time. LEARN HOW TO PLAY AN MSR!!! all the big bands do, and that is what gives them the chance to play the medley in the afternoon. All this for the music” speak is starting to look like excuses. And I love the police

  2. If you cant stand the heat…… ……get out of the Worlds. TPPB dont have a great ensemble sound, the drums, whilst inovative, sound hidious. And really it doesnt matter who the PM is or who is in the band, it always remains the case, whoever plays best on the day” wins. I personally do not believe a Medley performance at Cowal will make a huge difference

  3. lugnuts, Very aware of who the PM is, and pretty sure they know how to play an MSR. But my point is, they seem to be spending way too much time wrapping their minds around these inovated” medleys

  4. No, 1986, grade 2. During the march past play down Argyll Street some of the front rank and a few in the back rank had an old style pair of shorts on called Jam’s”. Very loud and flowery. Some elderly lady asked Craig

  5. Author: JamieDE You know what….I’m going as far to say they may just be looking for attention now days

  6. Well, they know how to get ink. I think it’s great that they’re going against what’s expected and going with what they think should be done (in more ways than one). GO TPPB!

  7. WOW- I like those ingredients- the music itself, John McLellan, combining the whole-band competition with the chance for solo opportunities. That’s surely going to produce some quality cake! I love the emphasis on the music, and quality.

  8. It’s one way to guarantee that their musical selection will be heard. Interesting though, that when you consider the main drive to increase the length of Medleys in Ontario GRI competitions from 5-7 minutes to 5-8 came from member(s) of this band and yet they are now restricted to 5-7 minutes per the RSPBA rules at Cowal. Is anyone actually playing an 8 minute Medley? Also, are the solo players working on their 6/8 Marches? Madness……..

  9. when they play at the solo’s what are they going to play..the antiquated ceol beag..or the even more antiquated ceol mor..or do we get another epic dvd…toronto’s struggle in scotland

  10. This bands meledy is for the concert areana and not for the competition circle. I am given the impression by what I read on the internet that they have a problem distinguishing the difference!

  11. And what medley is that. The article mentioned its new so have you heard it or are you just assuming?

  12. And to the ‘learn how to play an MSR’ guy…wow do you even know who the P/M is of that band?? Incredibly insulting you are.

  13. Wow, this band really polarises people’s opinions. And that’s all they are – opinions. TPPB are doing their thing. Their recent “medleys” aren’t my thing by any stretch, but then again most medleys these days, ‘conventional’ or not, leave me cold and wondering when I might hear a melody or two, versus some harmony and ensemble-dependant w*nk. But that’s just my opinion. Good luck to TPPB. They are obviously testing the waters with the material they have in a bigger field that has a lot more quality. Chances are they might miss the cut at the worlds, so why not play where you can trot out a medley that you wish to be assessed. Like Cowal. It’s not a bad logic to apply. I can’t see them troubling the engraver, but I’m quite certain this and other forums will be buzzing away. Good luck to them.

  14. You know what….I’m going as far to say they may just be looking for attention now days, and not the good kind.

  15. I just hope that they’re not too disappointed when go through the ‘Cowal experience’ and realise that they’ve spent their hard earned cash on the worst of the RSPBA majors (in terms of organisation, value for money and location).

  16. I believe the TPPB are not really interested in what everybody thinks of them or what they are doing, I think they are having fun and doing the things they enjoy to do. Good luck in Cowal guys all the best in 2010. Steve T

  17. Quite an interesting read today. Lot’s of haters that know it all. I must have missed competing against some of these guys in the MSR solo and band MSR competitions. Both Ian and Michael are well accomplished soloist’s and bandsmen. Both are hard working and innovative . I’m sure all they need is 6 or so of you know it all’s in the pipe corp to show them how it is done and help create that hot MSR. I think your choice to play at Cowal is a good one. Not only is it home for my family but I think the venue is quite nice different to one writer. If it were about money we probably wouldn’t ever go to Scotland. A lot of solid history in that town. Typically a venue that will allow the best band to win, interprit that any way you want. May even bring back good memories to Ian and memebers of the 1986 TPPB, won everything except the Worlds. Another memory was that prominant Canadian grade 1 band running down the hill for massed bands, think they were a little late, what do you think Michael? Keep up the interesting work TPPB and hopefully you will get some new players as the others have to help this up coming season. Salinte, Calum Mac Donald (Website abrev. name Calum Mac Donald)

  18. Thanks for the clarification (and amusing story). I was thinking GRI and remembered that as being a slug fest between the Clan and the 78th. I had forgotten(?) that Metro” wasn’t in GRI at that point……..”

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