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.”
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.”