It could be the biggest issue of our time: whether or not to place limits on piping band section and/or roster sizes, and two of the world’s foremost authorities on the idiom will go at it hammer-and-tongs in a special debate sponsored by pipes|drums Magazine at Piping Live! at 11 am, Friday, August 16th, the day before the World Pipe Band Championships.
Piping legend Bill Livingstone, who led the 78th Fraser Highlanders for nearly 30 years, winning the 1987 World Pipe Band Championship, will argue for limited section or rosters, while Chris Armstrong, pipe-major of the Grade 1 ScottishPower Pipe Band, rising stars on a global scale, will argue against placing limits on numbers.
The 45-minute event will begin at 11 am at the Street Café, out in front of the National Piping Centre, focal point of the Piping Live! Glasgow International Festival of Piping. Strategically timed on the day before the big event, a more sober discussion is likely to take place.
Armstrong’s ScottishPower is one of the larger and most successful bands in the world, and he has been an outspoken critic of capping numbers. Ironically, Livingstone’s 78th Frasers of 2008 brought the issue to the fore when he competed with 30 pipers and had 38 on his roster, but sees the merits on maximum numbers.
pipes|drums Magazine has openly discussed the pluses and pitfalls of unregulated section sizes, particularly in the top grades. “RIP Grade 2?,” A recent blog post by pipes|drums editor Andrew Berthoff, brought into question the pressure on Grade 1 bands to compete with large numbers. The Blogpipe article spurred online discussion worldwide, including Armstrong’s original suggestion on Facebook to hold a debate.
“I see the appeal to both sides of the argument,” said Berthoff, who will act as a moderator for the session. “I love the sound and sight of a large, finely tuned and orchestrated band as much as the next person, but I also see the negative implications. It’s not unlike the climate change argument: people say that something must be done for overall good and even survival, but we’re all just having too much fun to do anything about it, and legislation is fraught with politics.”
The session will take on the structure of a traditional debate, with Armstrong and Livingstone going at it for 30 minutes. There will be a 10-15-minute period for the audience to pose questions and stand on their own soapboxes.
Invitations will be extended to members the RSPBA’s board of directors, who ultimately will decide on section and/or roster maximums. Because Grade 1 bands around the world prepare for the World Championships, which is governed by RSPBA rules, any change would realistically have to come from that association first.
The “Size Matters” debate is free to all who wish to attend and part of pipes|drums’ presence at Piping Live! The magazine’s annual free Pipes+Drums recital will be at 2 pm, Tuesday, August 13th, also at the Street Café. pipes|drums is media partner with Piping Live!