May 31, 2008

Updated: Hamilton Police hook up with Scottish Lion-78th Frasers

The Scottish Lion-78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band has operated for almost 30 years without a formal feeder band until now, after striking a “tentative agreement” with the Hamilton Police Pipe Band organization on a “reciprocal player development program.”

The Hamilton Police currently operates bands in Grade 5, Grade 4 and Grade 2 and, according to a statement from the SL78FH, “will provide a training ground for players at all levels of play from Grade 5 through 1.”

The Grade 2 Hamilton band is led by Pipe-Major Peter Aumonier, while the organization’s Grade 4 and 5 bands are run by Don Forgan. Bill Livingstone will continue to be the pipe-major of the SL78FH, and the two organizations will continue to operate autonomously. A teaching program designed so that pipers and drummers can progress through the grades is likely.

The agreement will not only see players move up to the Grade 1 band, but allow for demotions for those not yet up to the challenge.

“It will also see those players within the SL78th organization who require further development to come and play with the Hamilton Grade 2 band to hone their skills before ultimately returning to the Grade 1 band,” Forgan commented in a release.

“We . . . see this as a plus for piping and drumming in Ontario and expect that such a system will draw more players to the competition side of the arts, benefiting not only our two organizations, but the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario through increased membership and interest in our craft,” Bill Livingstone commented. “I can’t think of a development in pipng and drumming in Ontario in the 38 years I have been involved in it, that presents a better opportunity for improvement of all of the pipe band arts,” he added.

“We did not invite this; the Hamilton Police Pipe Band did. Their mandate does not ever invisage a Grade 1 band. When their folks have come through their program, they will have choices to make. The leadership of HPPB have trust and faith in our band. If I’m now good enough for Grade 1, [where] do I go? The leadership of the HPPB think that we are the best choice for their people. We are completely honoured that they feel that way, and we embrace their enthusiasm. Each group will retain complete autonomy, and the SL78FH will do what it is asked to do, and what it can do, to improve players in the HPPB."

The SL78FH made news by competing at the 2007 World Pipe Band Championships with 30 pipers from a roster of nearly 40. The band finished fourth overall in the Grade 1 contest and won the Best Drum Corps award. “The Frasers have been accused of being a dragnet for piping and drumming musicians. We are not. Those who come to us are volunteers. We do not solicit anyone. If they like us, and what we stand for, they come to us. We have an open-door policy. My idea is to give them the rope. As as a former, lamented member once said, ‘Bill, you give them the rope, and they can climb up it, or they can get hung by it.’ Nothing much changes, except that the player who isn’t quite there will be asked to play in the Hamilton Police Grade 2 band.”

Livingstone stressed that the Grade 2 band will continue with it’s current leadership in place. He added that a “mentoring program” designed to share techniques in tuning, set up, maintenance and musical direction will be set up. At competitions where the two organizations are present the bands will tune up close to each other, with the SL78FH providing assistance as requested, and “more importantly to foster the development of the realtionship.”


  1. curt, the lesson learnt” is that 30 pipers made no difference to the result compared to previous years….that comes straight from one of their pipers too. They played 30 because they could…..just ask Toronto Cops! I’m sure they were scratching their heads….but then again maybe they need to analyse why they lost players to another band. The volume and power comes from accuracy of tuning and unison playing/technique. Fact. FMM are all over the rest and they are not tempted despite the chance to play more. Vic Police

  2. The majority of grade 1 bands do not teach or ‘build’ their own from a learner level, especially not the top flight bands. Good players will gravitate towards the better bands without any stealing”

  3. Congratulations to Pete and the HPPB on their strategic alliance with the SL78th Frasers. Seems like there could be benefits both ways. People who feel like Jamie about numbers should go read Ken Eller’s blog at the Captain’s Corner. Great commentary from Bill Livingstone about why the numbers, and no, it isn’t volume. Our own band has had a strategic alliance with top bands for years. City of Regina Pipe Band players have found their way to SFU, Triumph Street, Alberta Caledonia, SL78th Frasers, Peel, Toronto, Halifax and Clan Gregor. Now’s the time: send a few back! : )

  4. Just read the Captains Blog with Bill………………..amazing! Why I am not biased towards them, it’s nice to know there is a reason behind the madness.

  5. Yeah, didn’t Toronto Police feed 75% of their corp last year to them? And seriously, when you walk out with 30 pipers……… you need a feeder system?

  6. Had to add another tid-bit. But I saw them last summer at the Worlds, and was almost bracing my self for this giant sound wave from them, and yet they were no louder, and possibly not as loud as FMM. Not saying loud is good, but what other effect could you possibly be going for? It’s proven that sound does not continue to get louder just because you keep adding more. (Mass bands would be deafning). So, why not just trim it back and go out with the best possible 20?

  7. In all the years I have been playing I have never actually ever heard of Bill asking people who were currently in a grade one band to leave and join him or even ask players who are not in a band to go and join him. I beleive people jump to bands on their own for their own reasons be it they think it will be better for them socially or they want to be a part of something they believe they will have a great future with or even logistically better for them to make the commitment. All this talk about top grade one bands stealing players and becoming the borg is pretty funny.

  8. I think it’s a great move. For too long, many grade 1 bands have reaped the benefits of other peoples’ hard work in teaching and nurturing the talents of players in lower graded bands. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending time and effort teaching players in your band, to attempt to move the band onwards and updwards, only for top grade bands to swoop and pluck the cream of the crop for themselves once they reach the required standard. More and more grade 1 bands now have feeder systems in place and any addition to that trend is a welcome one.

  9. If 30 pipers are playing well and making good music…why cut anybody? There’s a fine line between wanting to win a contest and the potential for full orchestration (even within our limitations). When it comes down to it, perhaps it’s because people have fun and play music we like in 78th. Why stay in a band if you don’t enjoy it? Go somewhere where it makes you feel passionate about the art…because when it comes down to it, with all the time and money we put into it, shouldn’t it be about having fun and the music we love? No matter what the numbers.

  10. Lower your shields and surrender your players. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.

  11. Yes, it all seems so simple on paper. But so do many ‘great ideas’. I give it 12 months tops. The article states that Hamilton’s grade 2 band does not have aspirations to play in grade 1……what the??? Instead they are now resigned to feeder band status and selflessly giving up players at the whim of their new masters (even though they will not admit they are now subordinates). The 78ths do not necessarily need Hamilton in order to survive (and hasn’t needed anyone since they started). It seems the 78th’s 30 piper experiment is over and a lesson has been learnt. Hamilton is now the only band that will benefit from the 78th’s inevitable down-size to the low 20’s, so well done to them. But it also appears that Hamilton have had to make some concessions to secure this deal – i.e. not being able to aspire to grade 1. Let’s be honest here, they can’t seriously be happy to drop anchor in grade 2 indefinitely…? What PM would be prepared to stand by that? Like I said, 12 months tops. Good luck to all though. Good bands, all of them.

  12. Notice to Hamilton’s PM; do not be too good at what you do. Know your role and stay down in grade 2 like a good little boy. If precedent is anything to go by, you’ll be out on the street if you dare get into Grade 1.

  13. 30 thin sounding pipes, with no volume, guts or richness of tone. also with 30 pipers, you can hide a lot (although not an early chanter or a massive skirl). good on them for getting the results that they did but you hear fmm play and you can’t help but be impressed by their sound. sfu, execution and ensemble. shotts, drum corps. 78ths… bright green drums and 30 pipers! good on them for doing something different though. and good on them for getting the results they did, but i can think of more than 3 other bands who sounded better. not to mention medley construction

  14. I find it odd that people don’t think a band with so many pipers needs a feeder system. Of course they do, so they can field the best pipers they have on the roasters. The pipers that are not quite ready can go down to grade 2 and develop their skills and in turn help the grade 2 band, etc. Seems like a great set up and I wish them all the best. Excellent move on both bands parts.

  15. Steve, What lesson did they learn? Last I looked the 78ths missed the top three at the Worlds by one point. If they didn’t miss it by one then Scotland wouldn’t have had a band in the top three. Just thought I would mention that. Seems the 78ths are doing quite well. There may be more at play here as well. One may wonder if Mr Livingstone wants to keep going 10 or so years from now. Lots may be involved in all this than the whining being posted here by some that seem to not care for the 78ths. Like I said looks like a great set up for both bands. Good luck to them in this venture.

  16. Green drums? What does THAT have to do with it? As James has said ( and Bill, et al ) – we played 30 because we could, NOT because we were trying to make some kind of statement. It really amuses me when theres sooooo many ‘experts’ who really don’t know what the Hell they’re talking about. For those that think that numbers like 30 were a flash in the pan…..stick around. If we got ’em , we’ll probably do it again ( although, ultimately that’s not MY call…)! Don’t be surprised. James brings up a very good point that we in pipe bands seem to so often forget – FUN and enjoying one’s self. YES, I like to win and so on, but I enjoy the people I get to spend time with even more so. If I can do that at a top level and succeed……even better. I’m frankly tired of all the pointless bashing over bulls**t!! Good God people, get a life ! Hopefully the Hamilton organization will get some benifit from our folks….. and vice versa. I just hope they’re ready for all the ‘bad luck’ that the green drums brought us… ; ) Respectfully yours, -johnnyrowe.



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