June 30, 2008

Update 1: Oran Mor to compete in Grade 2 at World’s

The Grade 1 Oran Mor Pipe Band of New York will compete in Grade 2 at the World Pipe Band Championships. Sources close to the band said, on condition of anonymity, that the band was asked to compete in Grade 2 at the event by the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, and the band accepted the request.
Oran Mor was upgraded to the top grade by its home organization, the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association, after a successful 2007 in Grade 2. The upgrade at the time was the topic of debate.
Oran Mor changed leadership in April 2008, with Andrew Douglas taking over from long-time Pipe-Major Donald Lindsay.
“Oran Mor has always believed in setting the bar high for itself,” Douglas said. “We had a very good overseas showing in 2007: a win at Bridge of Allan, a win in the Grade 2 qualifier at the World’s, and a seventh place finish in the final. In the EUSPBA, the band won its third consecutive Champion Supreme in Grade 2. Given this momentum, and an influx of talent coming into the band, we felt the time was right to attempt a move to Grade 1.

“The band requested an upgrade in the fall of 2007. We had no expectations, one way or the other, as to whether or not the RSPBA or the EUSPBA would grant the request. After corresponding with both associations, it was determined that the band would be allowed to move to Grade 1 in the EUSPBA, but not in Scotland. The RSPBA committee did not think we were yet ready to make the move. Oran Mor was certainly prepared for this decision.”

Douglas concluded: “Oran Mor’s official standpoint on the matter is this: We feel like the band is moving in an upward direction. That is the most important thing to us. We are happy to compete in any grade, and respect the wishes, regulations, and standards of all pipe band associations. Thus, the band is not concerned with supposed pre-exisiting precedences regarding international pipe band grading. We are most concerned with being respectful to all parties involved.”

At the 2005 summit of the Alliance of North American Pipe Band Associations in Winnipeg, RSPBA Chairman Kevin Reilly agreed on behalf of his organization that the RSPBA would not re-grade any North American bands. At the time he did reserve the RSPBA’s right not to allow bands to compete in a certain grade if his organization deemed that they did not meet or exceeded the playing standard of the grade.
The RSPBA upgraded the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band to Grade 1 in October of 2006 after the band won the Grade 2 event at the 2006 World Pipe Band Championships. Robert Malcolm was subsequently dissolved by its parent Simon Fraser University organization, merged with Triumph Street and was then assigned to Grade 2 by the British Columbia Pipers Association.
Oran Mor entered the Grade 1 event at the 2008 North American Championships at Maxville, Ontario, and the Pipers & Pipe Band Association of Ontario accepted the application without reservation.
The RSPBA has not yet responded to questions from pipes|drums on the matter.
In 2001 the Prince Charles Pipe Band of San Francisco, which was graded Grade 1 by the Western United States Pipe Band Association, had its entry to the Grade 1 event at the World Championships accepted, only to be told two weeks before the event that the band would have to play in Grade 2.


  1. I think P/M Andrew Douglas is absolutely correct about the band’s position.” Bands should never be “self-graded.” My concern is what is the “official position” of the EUSPBA? I have the battle scars to show for trying to legitimize grading in the EUSPBA. Whether I personally agree with the decision to place Oran Mor into grade 1 is not the issue here. I have faith in the EUSPBA’s grading process. I also believe the EUSPBA has an obligation to support its grading committee decisions as well as the affected bands. Let’s face it

  2. For the record, I agree with both masons apron and srmdrummer. Apron needs to understand it WAS the EUSPBA who upgraded Oran Mor. The band did NOT do this on their own. This is why I tried to put the focus on the EUSPBA instead of the band. Having stated that, I think there are a some questions needing answering such as: 1. when was the EUSPBA made aware of RSPBA’s decision? 2. when was Oran Mor made aware of the split grade situation? 3. did the EUSPBA know Oran Mor was intending to compete at the World’s their first year in grade 1? 4. did the EUSPBA make this decision knowing their grading decision would NOT be honored by RSPBA? I would urge pipes/drums to pursue these questions. I think it is safe to say IF (heavy emphasis on if”) this was one of the “wink wink” grading decisions

  3. Here’s yet another example of the RSPBA thumbing their hairy noses at North American pipe bands. What happened to reciprocity among associations? Things won’t change until the blinkered, out-of-touch old boys club members either retire or bands decide not to make the trip. Bollocks!

  4. Don’t see a problem with RSPBA’s decision. They were placed seventh in the only RSPBA Major they entered. Why should they be upgraded when a good number who beat them on the day, and were highly placed at other majors, didn’t?

  5. Personally, I do think something is wrong with this no matter which way one looks at it. Those bands who are looking to compete in the international contest area surely should be about a ‘global standard’. Regardless of whether the EUSPBA had it wrong in upgrading the band in the first place, or the RSPBA has it wrong in not recognising the grading of an overseas association, the situation is quite awkward for the now global world of the competing pipe band. That the band itself is ‘happy’ to accept the RSPBA ruling, to me, speaks volumes. What will the situation be come August if Oran Mor again fails to finish in the top three in Grade 2? How could the EUSPBA sustain it’s premier grading decision? Furthermore, if one of the many higher finishing Grade 2 bands at the 2007 Worlds decided to compete at a EUSPBA event with Oran Mor present, would it compete with the band it beat at said Worlds, or a grade lower? I believe that bands who have, do, or intend to compete internationally – and their home organisations – have a duty to ensure they are competing in the ‘correct grade’. To do anything otherwise would be to do a disservice to all concerned. Of course, the notion of ‘correct grading’ is exceedingly subjective. Do all pipe bands in the world who are in ‘Grade 1’ around the world (according to one or other of the many associations) really deserve to be there? From the sounds of it, Oran Mor themselves are happy to be tested in Grade 2 as their best effort, not 1, and that should be how it is for the EUSPBA. If Oran Mor – and I wish them all the luck in the world – do really well in Grade 2 at the Worlds this year, then they should let the determination of the RSPBA be their guide. When it’s all said and done, bands – generally in local contests – may ‘chance their arm’ playing up a grade, but not down one. The Worlds, rightly or wrongly is the most watched benchmark for bands internationally, simply because it has the largest and most international field. This should be the acid grading test. My two cents worth… I’m sure there will be other takes on the issue.

  6. Kudos to the RSPBA for stating what the EUSPBA and the PPBSO were afraid to say. Contrary to many opinions ,The RSPBA does recognize the EUSPBA ,but at the same time they recognize that Oran Mor belongs in grade 2.

  7. With regard to masons apron’s comment the PPBSO were afraid to say”. The PPBSO is not involved in any way in this discussion or matter. It is the position of the PPBSO to honour the grading assigned by a home association to any individual or band. Period.”

  8. Not sure the RSPBA has got this right. If they have asked the band to play in Grade 2 so they have a better crack at the whip then surely that would apply to 75% of the Grade 1 bands?? I believe they should honour the EUSPBAs decision – and Oran Mor should do the same.



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