May 31, 2011

Toronto Police off in a Huff at 2011 el Mocambo concert (video highlights)

Toronto Police Pipe Band

In concert with Tony McManus

el Mocambo Club

Toronto, May 21, 2011  

The Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe Band returned to the legendary el Mocambo Club in downtown Toronto for the second straight year to perform a two-hour concert before a sizable and energetic audience at the 200-person capacity main floor room. Throughout the evening the band was accompanied by Celtic guitarist Tony McManus, who provided a unique underlay of musical colour to the pipe music.

The band sported new bright red t-shirts, riffing on a comment made on a score sheet by a piping judge at the 2010 Cowal Championship that described the band’s music as “nothing but mumbo jumbo.”

Some 14 different selections populated the event, including a memorable performance by newcomer piper Bill Livingstone and McManus of “Lament for the Viscount of Dundee,” a tune that both musicians were well known for previously.

A new suite by piper Sean McKeown, another addition to the band for 2011, made its debut. “21 Days” challenged both rhythmical and melodic boundaries in a mainly minor-key manner. As an encore, the band unveiled its new medley by Pipe-Sergeant Michael Grey entitled “Huff,” which seemed to provide the creativity that people have come to expect from the band, while also recalling several classic and well-kent tunes, molded in interesting new musical ways.

The band played throughout the evening with a complement of 17 or 18 pipers and newly reconstructed drum section under new Leading-Drummer Ken Constable, and made considerable use of the band’s talent in the pipe corps, with  Pipe-Major Ian K. MacDonald, Kyle Coughlin, Grey, Livingstone, McKeown and Thomas Munroe each taking solo turns in the spotlight.

The band had intended to broadcast the concert via live video streaming, but a technical glitch made it impossible.

Throughout the evening the el Mocambo’s bar provided a steady stream of refreshment, and by the end of the first very warm Toronto nigh, well after the concert finished, a large crowd of revelers remained, looking forward to a return in 2012.


  1. I love this band and I love it’s music, but it makes me chuckle to see them have t-shirts in response”? To a judges comments. Yet a week ago I was chastise for insinuating that they complained about the outcome of that contest. Whether the remark by the judge is just or not (clearly it isn’t here). I can’t see how you would think this helps. Anyway

  2. Lawrie, whoever you are: A comment like Nothing but a mumbo jumbo” says more about the judge than the band or the performance. It also says something about the RSPBA. If I were the judge who wrote “nothing but mumbo jumbo” on a scoresheet at the Cowal Gathering I’d be ashamed of myself and I would not expect to be asked back. If I were the RSPBA I would reprimand that judge for providing unhelpful negative feedback. It’s a totally unprofessional comment to write at one of the most prestigious pipe band events in the world. It shows a judge who is not articulate enough to describe what he doesn’t like about the performance

  3. Yesterday I was inclined to agree with Mr. McGillivray’s comments, but that was before Lawrie placed his well written if not graphic portrayal of the issue. The best point here, is that the only listen most of us has of this Cowall performance is on youtube” which we know makes you shine when you shouldn’t and can turn around and make you sound ten times worse. I agree that you cannot just throw this certain style of medley at people who are trained and grounded in a more traditional style. It would be like introducing booty music at the senior centre and then getting upset when Marth doesn’t take to the dance floor. I still believe that “Variations” was fantastic

  4. Wow. That’s a lot of anger from people who don’t sign their full names. In fact, that’s just a lot of anger. Lighten up. It’s only bagpipes – and silly shirts (shirts, btw, with no mention, no neon arrows, no footnotes as to what that superb phrase mumbo jumbo” referred to – they are seriously funny shirts). So this music: you felt something

  5. I was at Cowal, and heard the Toronto Police, and all the other bands. That was not a fair result for their efforts, in my view. Tonally and technically [even if you hate the medley] they were far superior to a few bands who placed above them. The comments on their score sheets were not brave, tell-it-like-it-is assessments; they were petty, unprofessional, we’ll-show-you” jibes. Hate the music? No problem. Say why. Use real words

  6. As tongue-in-cheek and dismissive as the T-shirts might appear to be, they actually suggest that the Cowal experience has dented the band’s ego quite a lot, and the bruises on their backsides can still be seen almost a year on. But one does have to wonder what they were expecting to happen at Cowal. It’s like they went there to thumb their noses at the establishment, and now act indignantly about the response they got. Seems illogical (and somewhat childish/disrespectful) to me. There’s always room for opinion in this caper. I respect TPPB for indulging the pen of their resident composer. But draw a line through all that stuff when you hit the contest field, please (speaking as a long time admirer of the band). That material (I can’t call it music, sorry) is such a huge distraction that it actually becomes a detraction because it automatically takes so many things off the table that would normally showcase this fine band – phrasing, expression, sound etc. You’re on the back foot before you get off the bus. I’m sure that every note/’tune’ (whatever?) that was played that day at Cowal has already been forgotten by those who were there to hear it. But the result is still there, however, in black and white for all to see, forever. Being ‘different’ and being musical are mutually exclusive things in this instance, in my humble opinion. If that material continues to be trotted out on the contest field, I’m concerned that a very fine band, producing a full and robust sound, with good technique and attention to detail, will be pegged as an attention-seeking ‘one trick pony’ for many years to come, even well after the novelty of the current ‘coz we can’ approach has worn off. But if this is the best thing since sliced bread, and I’m just a killjoy, maybe TPPB can put their money where their mouths are and produce a CD of nothing but this material, or try all this stuff on for size at the Glasgow Concert Hall in the guts of Worlds week…… People still (and will continue to) talk about Strathclyde’s Hugh Kennedy MSR, for example, or their break from ‘The Rant’ to Pretty Marion. Those specific moments of glorious playing and music will always be remembered for the right reasons.

  7. By the way. Really liking some of the arrangements of tunes in the medley. Variations is still my favorite though.

  8. Apart from anything else, what serious musical association or organisation would allow an accredited judge to write something like ‘nothing but mumbo-jumbo’ on a critique of a performance in a contest? It doesn’t say anything other than make a statement about the person who wrote it. Surely that isn’t good enough? In any case, I don’t see how anybody hearing a new composition of that nature for the very first time, can make a judgement there and then on the piece. Professional musicians don’t do that, so how are RSPBA judges going to manage it. They’re attempting the impossible.

  9. With all due respect, Jim, judge-bashing is old hat and is the easy fallback here. TPPB at Cowal were last in piping, last in drumming and second last in ensemble. Was it their sound that sunk them? No – they weren’t the worst sounding band there, not by a long way. Was it the execution? Well, who would know???? They were playing material that no reasonable person can get their head around during a first-time listen. A friend of mine remarked that he and many other people of similar ilk were hanging over the fence to watch the spectacle of this pipe band hari-kari. “It was like a car crash – you just couldn’t help but look!” was his remark. I like the fact that this judge just came out and wrote what he did. It is actually quite articulate, I think. Maybe he was moved to write it because the performance actually upset him and denied him any listening pleasure. Is he not allowed to express how it made him feel, as a listener? I can’t say I blame him. The music has no start, no end and seems rather pointless and directionless throughout. It does not take you on a journey, it just takes you into the woods and leaves you there with no map. The judge could have written some ambiguous fluff and still awarded them last place. But what is the point of that? Kudos for coming having the balls, I say. He put his name to it, so it’s not like he can/wants to walk away from the comment. Writing “Mumbo Jumbo” on a sheet is no more ‘amateurish’ than spending tens of thousands of dollars to present an established and highly regarded grade 1 band at Cowal to play 7 minutes of non-descript mash and to expect to re-educate established ideas and shift convention in one action, and to then achieve a different outcome to last place. TPPB overlooked the worlds and the perils of the qualifier because they just wanted to air this medley, at a major in Scotland, and make a statement. Well, the judges also made a statement (all 4 of them). It was basically ‘Thanks for coming. Didn’t like it one bit. Last place. See you next time.’ Some medleys are progressive and blaze a trail for future development across the scene. I don’t see any uptake with the TPPB ‘model’ for medleys, not even 3 years on. The horse is dead. The vocal minority are the only ones who like it. There’s a difference between scratching your bum and tearing it to shreds. If a band wishes to present that sort of stuff at a major in Scotland, they are fair game. If you’re going to poke the sleeping bear, be prepared for what comes your way. And instead of taking their medicine and rising above it, they ran off to a T-Shirt shop to have a cheap squeal…..which displays a lack of class more than anything. Fail.

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