Published: November 30, 2009

Update 1: PPBSO to decide President, competition formats

Not only will the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario choose a new President at its annual general meeting on November 28th, attending members will also decide on several potential changes to rules that could have lasting implications on Ontario’s competition system.
 
The two-year term of incumbent President Bob Allen finishes this year, and Allen has stated that he will not stand again if nominated. The popular Allen returned to the executive post in 2007 after two years away, following an eight-year period in office.
 
It is believed that current Vice-President, Charlie MacDonald, and active Chief Steward, Andy Donachie, have expressed interest in running for the presidency if nominated.
 
Several significant motions have already been put forward by branches that have held their own AGMs, with the Toronto Branch still to meet on November 14th. Among them are proposals to introduce a 6/8 March event to Grade 1 and Grade 2 solo piping, taking the place of the existing Jig event at select competitions.
 
“6/8 marches force players to hold notes and play short notes short.  Playing them at a high level for competition will improve their ability to play  the rest of their competitive light music,” said Ed Neigh, who put forward the motions. “6/8 marches are played as an event at both of the premier invitational amateur contests in North America – the Nicol-Brown and the Sheriff. Ontario players are not used to this competition because we do not offer this event at our games.”
 
“It’s hard to catch the context of Ed’s motion on the cold page,” said Michael Grey, the prominent soloist and Pipe-Sergeant of the Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe and. “For what its worth I love a 6/8 march, especially played on the accordion, but not keen to hear around the games more than it is. Where a jig might attract me to an arena to hear a solo performance, 6/8 marches would make me walk on by, if not repel me. Maybe we should think of events that attract listeners.
 
Also on the table is a motion to scrap the current system in Ontario where band judges are allowed to hold a consultation after a competition event before handing in their scoresheets. Added in 2003 at the request of the PPBSO’s Adjudicators Panel, the consultative process has been lauded by many as a progressive move. The motion was put forward by Duncan MacRae, a non-playing steward on the Ontario circuit.
 
“I always thought the conference thing was progressive,” Grey said. “I am sure there is good background and context to be heard from Duncan.”
 
Iain MacDonald, Pipe-Major of the Grade 2 City o Regina Pipe Band, said, “I have little experience with judges’ conferences, or the outcomes. I have heard concerns that sometimes certain personalities try to dominate or drive the discussion or result, and I have heard it reported that judges were truly grateful for them, because the conference helped avoid a dumb-looking result where one judge either caught/missed something critical that would greatly impact a placing. I would look to the judges’ panel for its view on conferences.”
 
Another motion from Neigh, to change the Champion Supreme points structure for soloists, has been put forward. It suggests a system like the one currently used in the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association, whereby competitors receive points commensurate with the number of competitors in the event and the prize they received, up to six places.
 
The motion reads: “Competitors shall receive Champion Supreme points if they place in the top six in any event. The Champion Supreme points awarded to those in the top six will be equal to the number of competitors who played and placed below each of those in the top six. (e.g., third in a 12-player competition will earn nine points, first in a 15 player competition will earn 15 points).  Players in the top three will receive additional points – three points for first; two points for second, one point for third. No special weight for solo competitions will be given to Champion Supreme games.’
 
About the motion Neigh said, “The attempt is to have system which is more equitable. In this proposal, you get points for the number of players you place ahead of, not for attendance at the most games.”
 
“I have no clue how [the Champion Supreme point structure] works today and not sure I’m much better off having read Ed’s suggestion for improvement,” Grey said. “I’m sure it’s a good one, but I’d prefer really that we make the award mean something. Right now it’s pretty meaningless, especially to bands and experienced players. Maybe time to re-brand it or give it the boot.”
 
Another motion calls for a return to the PPBSO’s weighting system for judging at pipe band competitions before this year after the organization approved a motion at its 2008 AGM to move to an equal 25 per cent split between all four judges. The previous system gave more overall importance to piping and less to drumming and ensemble marks. The RSPBA currently uses the equal 25 per cent split system.
 
Geoff Neigh, who put forward the scoring motion, said, “My concern here is philosophical, not that a large number of results from last year were in some way ‘wrong.’ I think the pendulum has swung a bit too far regarding drumming in the evaluation of bands. In the scoring format used for years, if a band had the best pipe section and was close in drumming, they could win. Now, it seems to be the other way: be first in drumming and close in piping for the win. If pipe sections are close, the band with the better drum section will usually be first in ensemble, and with ensemble preference, it then works out that better drumming beats better piping. Of course, it is more likely to be this way in contests with few bands.”
 
The PPBSO does not allow proxy voting, leaving rule changes to meetings generally attended by round 50 of the organization’s 1200-plus members.
 
“It occurs to me that alien invaders attending pipe band association AGMs would consider humans to be among the universe’s most boring and trivially obsessive creatures,” MacDonald said. “With so many large-picture items to ponder – the disappearance of bands and Highland games, the development of appropriate venues and formats for performance and competition, etc. – we humans seem intent on re-writing the fine print on everything.”
 
The PPBSO’s annual general meeting will be held on November 28th at the Lion’s Club Hall, Campbellville, Ontario, from 1 to 5 pm.

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