October 24, 2016

PPBSO changes mind on Grade 4 MSR

After three competition seasons of requiring Grade 4 bands competing at events sanctioned by the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario to have a “mini-MSR” ready, the association recently reverted back to the previous requirement that called for either a march medley or a 3-5-minute medley, depending on the event.

The organization had seen a substantial decline in entries to Grade 4 since implementing the requirement, and feedback from Grade 4 and Grade 5 leaders indicated that the transition from Grade 5 to Grade 4, adding an MSR as well as a medley, was too difficult for many bands.

The PPBSO defined a mini-MSR as comprising four parts of each tune-type, including mixing two two-parted tunes. The organization had allowed bands to re-use tunes in both its mini-MSR and its medley to try to “lessen the burden.”

“The results of the survey itself were mixed, and while they were a factor in the deliberations of the Music Committee, the committee made its recommendation based on a number of criteria including the challenges in teaching Grade 4 bands both a medley and the mini-MSR, the transition path from Grade 5 to Grade 4, and the number of bands in the grade,” said PPBSO President Chris Buchanan.

Before abandoning the requirement, the PPBSO had offered at least one workshop on the mini-MSR to pipe-majors of Grade 4 bands.

Buchanan added that the problem that it had identified was not the mini-MSR specifically, but having to learn both a medley and a mini-MSR at once. “We could have chosen to go with a march medley and a mini-MSR in Grade 4, but chose to go back to the older requirements instead.”

Reverting to a march medley and a medley makes the PPBSO something of a Grade 4 outlier among the world’s associations. The medley and mini-MSR requirement was in line with the rules of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association. The RSPBA requires a Grade 4B band to play a selection of four two-part marches and, in Grade 4A, an MSR comprising four total parts of each tune type, with two-part tunes permissible, from a prescribed list of tunes.

“I am far less concerned about matching the requirements for associations outside of Ontario (e.g. RSPBA) at the lower grades than I am at the upper grades,” Buchanan said on the organization’s Facebook page. “If matching those requirements forwards our objectives and helps us obtain our goals, then that’s fantastic and we should embrace them; on the other hand, if they prevent us from meeting our objectives (such as education), then we shouldn’t feel bound to match them.

“Ultimately, the PPBSO has to do what’s in the best interest of its members (both in the short and long term). So while this means that even if a Grade 4 band travelling to Scotland to play in 4A is disadvantaged by not competing with [an MSR] in Ontario, that’s an acceptable limitation if it means that the Ontario bands are stronger as a result of the overall change. My position on this doesn’t extend to the upper grades, where the ability of bands to compete internationally becomes increasingly critical.”

The previous rule change was enacted after a membership vote at the 2013 PPBSO annual general meeting, whereas the change back to pre-2013 Grade 4 requirement was by order of the organization’s Music Committee and Board of Directors, with no member vote.





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