August 15, 2020

RSPBA Zoom meeting with Grade 1 bands “really positive”

According to sources who participated, the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association’s video conference call with pipe-majors and lead-drummers from the world’s Grade 1 bands was overall a positive and promising experience.

Though there was no set agenda for the August 15th, 6 pm meeting, which ran about 80 minutes, the discussion centred almost entirely on the World Pipe Band Championships and different ideas on how Grade 1 might be improved. “About 90%” of the world’s 24 Grade 1 bands reportedly were represented.

The organization had described the event in advance as “ground-breaking,” and was a rare time when full- and associate member bands assembled.

“They had their act together,” said one source who attended the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They did a good job of saying, ‘Let’s hear from you.’ ”

It was not lost on anyone that the conference call coincided with the exact time when the results of the 2020 World Championships would be announced, had the event not been scuttled by the coronavirus.

“It was really positive that they took the format and used the platform to gather opinions.”

A new four-person “Format Committee” managed the Zoom call. RSPBA Music Board Chair and board member Kevin Reilly led the event along with the well-known Grade 1 Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia tenor drummer, Stevie McQuillan.

“It was really positive that they took the format and used the platform to gather opinions,” another source concurred.

Contrary to assumptions, the meetings did not touch upon the actual competing format of bands. “Concert formation” was assumed to have been the crux of the discussion. It was reportedly “pushed aside” in favour of a more free-flowing dialogue. “Concert formation is going to be a conversation for another time.”

The meeting was broken into two groups, each discussing how to improve the World’s. Consensus emerged that having all four Grade 1 events count for every band, with no qualifier, was well received. There was discussion and agreement that the Friday of the World’s, with only Grade 1 bands playing, could be far better with all qualifier competitions for all grades taking place and finals or second rounds happening on Saturday.

The actual format of the medley reportedly had the liveliest conversation, with bands wondering if rules could be relaxed. Concepts like pipers cutting out, abandoning the three-paced-rolls and quick-march introduction requirement, and extending the maximum time limit to 10 minutes or even longer, were discussed.

Bands expressed concern that Grade 1 has a lower threshold number of bands competing before a qualifier would come into play. Currently, Grade 1 moves to a qualifier at only 18 bands, while all other grades require at least 22.

As for next steps, sources said that the RSPBA representatives were clear that they want to hear more from the bands themselves. In the meantime, remarks are to be compiled and consolidated, recommendations formed, and the group will reconvene for more discussions.

“It seemed like everybody is on the same page,” one Grade 1 pipe-major said. “If we’re going to progress, we need to look at different things. We all went in with an open mind. Full marks to them for taking this step. What they’ll do with it, we’ll see. It’s the first time they’ve done something like this, and it was really good. I can’t say it enough; I was impressed with what they did here.”

The RSPBA has been criticized for its lack of transparency in its financial and organizational dealings. Following a preliminary investigation prompted by a concern lodged, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator recommended that the association be more open and forthcoming with information.

Sources said that organizers requested that those attending should not discuss details about what transpired at the meeting.

At publication time, representatives from the RSPBA had not responded to requests for comment.






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