October 31, 2007

Toronto Police working on CD release, building roster

The Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe Band, which won the 2006 North American Championship only to see its pipe section reduced to eight in 2007, has been working on a major rejuvenation and recruitment project that includes the release of a CD with a launch-target of May 2008.

According to Pipe-Major Ian K. MacDonald, the disc will feature “music never recorded coming from our concert at Loon Mountain and some new stuff from ideas from current members and hopefully more from new members.” Half of the new CD will reportedly also feature the playing of MacDonald, who is recognized as one of the world’s top solo pipers.

MacDonald said that the band is adding members in a selective manner, rather than a come-one-come-all approach.

“I am looking to add eight new members (six pipers and two drummers) into the band who possess the skills to play at the highest level in the world,” he added. “I . . . use a monthly practice scenario throughout the winter up until late-March/early-April and then it will be weekly practices until the competition season. Practices will be organized and there will be no excuses for coming unprepared. What I have seen from the current band is that there is a strong commitment from the members to improve their own personal level of play and a belief in me to maintain a Grade 1 standard. I am responsible for the latter and I believe I have become a leader who will do what is best for the band.”

MacDonald has made personal invitations to 14 prospective players whom he feels fit his stringent criteria, which he says means Professional or Grade 1 solo or recent successful Grade 1 pipe band experience.

“I am totally convinced that in Grade 1 the time for teaching is over and the time for playing great music should be the only focus,” he went on. “I respect and understand that great players just do not magically appear and it is for this reason that we have created a successful Grade 3 Band lead by my cousin, Brian Urkosky, and Leading-Drummer Brian McCue.

“However, the Grade 1 band is for great players to get together and play challenging music at the highest level in the world. In my opinion, we have the right people in the right leadership positions but we require more talent to get the band out there. There is a strong history of success for each corps and I believe that an improved pipe corps would enhance the overall quality of sound from our band.”

Despite the band’s losses, the Toronto Police managed to compete throughout the 2007 Ontario season, finishing third at the North American Championships, and garnering several first-placings during the year. The band’s drop in personnel followed the sudden departure of James MacHattie, pipe-major since 2004, in February 2007.

In addition to its recent sold-out concert at Loon Mountain, the band performed with the legendary Irish folk group The Chieftains on October 2nd at Toronto’s Massey Hall.


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  1. I think that what Ian is trying to do is very commendable. After such a huge drop in numbers he still gave it his all. That has to say something about strength of character. I can only wish Ian and the whole organization the best of luck and I’ll be first in line to buy the CD. Cheers, Andrew Flynn.

  2. I shouldn’t come as any surprise to see Toronto Police back in full force with Ian and Doug at the helm. A great band with a remarkable history and a bright future. All the best gentlemen!

  3. Ian has exactly the right philosphy – the majority of learning should have stopped by grade 1 (although we should never trully stop learning). What I particularly liked about reading this though, is that Toronto Police undertake the learning by running a feeder system. I can think of several top bands that have the same philosphy (e.g. they want players that are at the top of their game and can play without further tuition) but they don’t undertake any teaching programme. In other words, they let other, lower grade bands do all the teaching, then cherry pick what they want!

  4. Wow this is good to hear. TP was doing so well in 06, it was a bummer to see them struggling with #s. Their drum section is still amazing. hopefully they find the #s and can reach their potential. There seems to be a lot of shake ups i the Ontario G1 bands (Browns & Peel, Carl Lenny & Windsor, plus the 78ths *always strong) which will probably create some very high quality playing. Quite exciting.

  5. Thanks for the comment S. MacKay! In response I want to let you know that IMO beggars choose to be beggars and our Pipe Band has chosen to be Grade 1. What we are searching for are people that possess the skills required for Grade 1 and anyone else are welcome to build their skills and confidence with our Grade 3 Band!! In life and Pipe Bands there is ALWAYS choice and we have made ours…Grade 1 bands require the most talented musicians!!!



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