May 31, 2010

Updated: Competitions cancelled at Montreal

In another blow to the Ontario piping and drumming competition circuit, the popular Montreal Highland Games has cancelled all piping and drumming contests at its 2010 event, reportedly for financial reasons. The games have opted instead to hire several higher-grade bands to perform in a concert setting in a tent enclosure.

The Montreal competition traditionally follows the North American Championships at Maxville, Ontario, making the weekend a popular destination for bands across North America.

The organizers reportedly cited financial reasons for the decision, after bad weather had impacted the event for several years, reducing income from the gate.

“After more than a month of back-and-forth negotiations with the PPBSO, we could not agree on a fee for their services and the required contests to be offered,” said Montreal Games Chairman Kirk Johnstone. “If the games can rebuild its financial reserves, we will consider returning to the competition format in the future.”

Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario President, Charlie MacDonald, relayed the news to competitors in a message on the night of May 17th, and stated that, “[Montreal organizers] have indicated their intention to come back to the PPBSO in 2011 with hopes of running full sanctioned games.”

The event had previously opted out of holding professional solo events due to finances.

To have a competition sanctioned by the PPBSO, events must negotiate flat-fee terms with the organization to provide judging, stewarding, prizes, travel allowance and administrative costs. The RSPBA provides a similar turn-key contracting of events, while other associations, such as the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association, allow competitions to operate in a more arms-length sanctioning relationship.

MacDonald’s message added, “We are confident at this point that all other advertised PPBSO games and events will take place as indicated.”

The cancellation of events at Montreal comes after the Chatham Highland Games cancelled its entire event. The Sarnia Highland Games closed down two years ago after attempting to re-start the competition. There are now eight events on the PPBSO’s outdoor games calendar.

Johnstone added that the Montreal event is still looking for one or two more bands to perform, and said, “Qualified bands could possibly cover a good portion of their weekend expenses for Maxville by including Montreal.”


  1. I remember years ago as a member of a grade I band thatthe bands” were complaining that there were too many highland games in the circuit and that they did not want to support them all. A few years after that I started seeing sporradic attendance at the various games becoming a habit as everyone ficussed on “winning the Worlds” and ended up not competing against each other as a result. Soon after that

  2. There are some surprisingly good points being made by everyone here! I tend to disagree with the way us pipe bands perform for the public” though. I pay dues to compete against other pipe bands for one. If I want to really perform for the audience then I’ll put on a concert. While I don’t knock our admiring fans and the money they bring to a games

  3. Right on Steve. The beer tent competition, bands in togas, a day and night of great fun. What a shame! It wasn’t hard to read the writing on the wall after last year’s final minute funding resolution. We can only hope that it, along with Chatham, will rise from the ashes.

  4. I can feel a Buckley Distillery re-union commin up! Is Maxville, Fergus and Georgetown the only long term survivors? Brantford, now that was a games, too many have perished!

  5. Bagpipermann is very wise to point this out… It seems that the neverending quest for the Worlds has resulted in the loss of a few really good Ontario bands. eg (Windsor NRP & Hamilton Police.). The passion for competition within Ontario has been waning in recent years, lets hope that it rekindles or we will lose more games as well.

  6. Seems like people aren’t reading the article very acurately. The Montreal Games ARE NOT cancelled. There will be a full afternoon of great pipe band concerts. I think those that have been focusing too much on competition might find this approach very attractive and interesting. I look at bands like Metro Police who are putting a lot of effort into the concert thing. 78th Freasers did the same for a number of years with shows like Shambolica. The Montrreal Games live on; athletics and dancing competitions are still on and the band shows sound really fun.

  7. Interesting. It might be a blow to the competition circuit as it is today but is it a blow to piping and drumming in this part of the world? Not sure, though I suspect not. I mean the MacCrimmons seemed to have great luck making piping for the ages” in the 17th and (a good part) of the 18th centuries without competitions. Maybe this is an opportunity to be seized. “

  8. With 6% of people dropping out of Maxville as a result of this would it not make sense for the good folks there to advance them some money to keep things going for a year?

  9. Michael, we both know the handwriting has been on the wall for years now. You’ll recall we talked about these issues 20 years ago. In the games environment, with the exception of massed bands, we don’t give the public a very interesting show. We give them what the PPBSO membership wants, not what they want. Our system is quite flawed in this way. Yet we keep doing the same old dance and somehow expecting a different result. We spend all our time in the basement thinking about the intricacies of ensemble judging and trying to figure out whether the mid-section should face forwards or backwards, and meanwhile the house is burning down above our heads. It’s only a matter of time.



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