April 14, 2023

No contest? Peel Regional Police bands bring the competition home to prep for the season

The Grade 2 Peel Regional Police Pipe Band in mock competition.

When the Toronto Indoor Games, originally tentatively scheduled April 8th, had to be cancelled due to a problem with the venue, the Ontario piping and drumming scene was collectively disappointed that the event wouldn’t return for the first time in three years.

But rather than moping, the three bands of the Peel Regional Police organizations decided to bring the contest to them by hiring three local judges to visit their practice that weekend to put the bands through a mock “competition.”

There was no actual competing, against other bands, but the organization’s Grade 2, Grade 4 and Grade 5 bands prepared for and ran a simulated event as if it were an actual contest.

Each band prepared for their performances using the tuning routine they use for an actual competition, including having to report to a final tuning room and be ready to play at a specific time.

The bands had one shot at playing before judges Ken Eller, Michael Hunter and Bob Worrall, each of whom assessed the performances as if they were at a competition, complete with the actual scoresheet templates for piping, drumming and ensemble.

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No matter how the bands played, a condition would be that the performances would be posted publicly, “to increase the stress level . . . knowing that the performances would be posted, created almost the same element of tension or stress that we would feel in a live contest.”

They even invited friends and family to watch and listen, giving the whole endeavour a live feeling, and, what’s more, all band members were required to compete in uniform.

“We normally use the Toronto Indoor contest as a chance to work in our new players, to get some feedback – not only on how we are doing so far, but to identify what we need to focus on moving forward, and to see how all of our player will respond under pressure,” said John Cairns, pipe-major of the Grade 2 band and head of the Peel Police Pipe Band organization overall.

“I am thrilled with the results and extremely proud of how every band member was able to rise to the challenge,” said Rob Gardner, leading-drummer of the Grade 4 and Grade 5 bands. “We were able to play all our new players and put each band through the tune-up routine. We wanted to add a sense of ‘reality’ to the performances, which is why we hired three world-class judges and had a live audience watching every performance.”

With piping and drumming competitions increasingly on tenuous ground, perhaps a do-it-yourself approach like what the Peel Regional Police came up with will become more prevalent.

Actually, running competitions is not new for the Peel Police organization, which held a series of online solo piping events in the first year of the pandemic.

Cairns offered that the concept might continue in the future, with other local bands invited to participate in actual “competition” with an emphasis on gaining feedback and preparing for the real deal.

You can check out the videos from the mock competition at the bands’ Facebook page.





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