Pipe-Major John Cairns said that his Peel Regional Police Pipe Band will respect the decision of the RSPBA’s Grading Committee to move the group from Grade 1 to Grade 2, and he will also ask that its home association, the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario, also downgrades the band.
“While I am disappointed with the news about the band being downgraded, I respect the RSPBA’s decision and will not appeal,” Cairns said. “I can understand why they have come to this decision, because we have been at the bottom of the grade in Ontario and in Scotland for a few years now.”
Cairns’s magnanimous decision makes thing easier for the RSPBA, which has been criticized for tinkering with the gradings on non-member bands after a limited number of performances in Scotland. Several years ago, the association confirmed that it would refrain from regrading non-member bands, and held true to its commitment for several years before returning to the practice this year.
The RSPBA reportedly had not consulted with the PPBSO before making its ruling on the Peel Regional Police. The PPBSO’s Music Committee has yet to convene to discuss gradings of its band and solo members.
“Even though we made tremendous strides forward this last year, we know that we still have some issues to resolve,” Cairns continued. ” I am a firm believer that Grade 1 is a place where a band is supposed to ‘refine’ their product not ‘develop’ it. We will request that the PPBSO follow suit and allow us to play in Grade 2 in 2018, so we can use this decision as an opportunity to correct our issues once and for all.”
Among Peel’s efforts to strengthen its well-established is the launch of a local teaching program and, they hope, the debut of a Grade 5 band in 2018.
“For 2018, our goal is to be as successful as we can in Grade 2, not only in North America, but on the world’s stage,” Cairns added. “We are resilient, we will face this decision head on and we will do what’s needed. Our goal is to take the necessary steps to help us get back into Grade 1.”
PPBSO President Chris Buchanan had not yet responded to new questions regarding the move. pipes|drums has still not heard back from RSPBA Chief Executive Ian Embelton or its Grading Committee convener, Bruce Cargill, since inviting them to comment on September 23rd, when the organization announced its grading recommendations.
Bands that are not members of the RSPBA must pay a premium on their entry fee to the World Pipe Band Championships, which include a “temporary membership, thus making them subject to RSPBA grading review as part of that membership,” according to a source close to the RSPBA who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Personally, I think Grade 1 and Grade 2 should have remained status quo,” the source added. “There have been years when bands have won the grand slam [all five RSPBA major championships] in Grade 2, been upgraded and consistently come last. Because the leap was too much. No doubt Peel had a poor Scotland campaign this year but think they should have been given the benefit of the doubt and reviewed in 2018.”
The news of the RSPBA’s downgrade of the Peel Police for many overshadowed the promotion of Glasgow Skye Association and Lomond & Clyde to Grade 1, a significant but widely expected move.
“A huge congratulations go to Lomond & Clyde and the Glasgow Skye Association for being upgraded to Grade 1,” Cairns said. “We see Glasgow Skye as a testament to what a band can achieve after being downgraded from Grade 1.”
Glasgow Skye over its history has been promoted to Grade 1 at least twice, only to return to Grade 2. The promotion to the highest grade is probably the most difficult, not only to make, but to sustain. Grade 2 bands that are upgraded are as a rule accustomed to winning, and with rare exceptions have to commit several years before they get into a Grade 1 prize-list at a major championship.
In the last two years, though, several newly-minted Grade 1 bands have made a solid transition, including Northern Ireland’s Bleary & District and Police Service of Northern Ireland and Scotland’s Buchan Peterson and Johnstone.
Assuming that the PPBSO will accept Peel’s request to move to Grade 2, the region could be left with only two competing Grade 1 bands, the 78th Fraser Highlanders and the Toronto Police. The Ottawa Police took a hiatus from competition for all of 2017, and so far has not announced a return.
Similarly, assuming the PPBSO does not regrade the Pipes & Drums of the 400 Squadron Tactical Helicopter and does not upgrade any of its current Grade 3 bands, the association will will have two Grade 2 member bands.
Cairns added that his band has not yet decided whether it will make the trip to Scotland to compete at the World Championships, something that it has done consistently for the last few decades.