Toronto Indoor marks debuts for bands
The 2018 edition of the Toronto Indoor Games all day Saturday, March 31st, at Moss Park Armoury in downtown Toronto will be the usual clamour of more than 150 solo pipers and drummers, quartets and full band competitions overtaking the cavernous indoor training ground for the 48th Highlanders of Canada Canadian Reserve part-time militia.
But this year’s event will have the distinction of being the debut contest for a brand new band: the Grade 5 teaching group of the Peel Regional Police Pipe Band, which came together after only a few months following the main band’s move to Grade 2 status.
Rather than fight their demotion to Grade 2 by the RSPBA, of which they are not even a member, the Peel Police took a more magnanimous route by applying to their home association, the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario, to be regraded. The band also recognized the need to build their ranks by creating a feeder band and formal teaching program, putting a competitive group on the field in less than a year.
“The decision to downgrade the band in the fall really caused us to look inward, especially at what we needed to do to move forward,” said Peel Police Grade 1 Pipe-Major John Cairns. “In looking at those organizations around the globe who are thriving, that seems to be in large part to the fact that they have a terrific teaching program and bands at various lower levels, that are all part and parcel of a developmental program.
“So, in the fall of 2017, we started a teaching program as well as establishing a new Grade 5 band. The response was wonderful: we have 18 students in our teaching program and our Grade 5 band has more than 35 members.”
The Grade 5 band is being led by Pipe-Major Jamie Connolly and Lead-Drummer Andrew Stevenson.
“If all goes well, in the fall of 2018, we hope to take the players at the top end of the Grade 5 band and create a new Grade 4 or Grade 3 band, obviously depending on skill level, and replace them with the students who are now in our teaching program,” Cairns added.
The Grade 5 Peel Regional Police is the latest teaching initiative for Ontario-based bands, The Niagara Regional Police, Hamilton Police, Guelph, and the Toronto Police’s Ryan Russell Memorial bands are each successful outfits, providing quality instruction for pipers and drummers across the province.
The event will also mark the first appearance in Grade 2 for the Hamilton Police after their promotion only a few weeks ago, following the appointment of former Grade 1 North American Championship-winning pipe-major, John Elliott, to the top job.
Toronto Indoor Games organizer Rob McKenzie said that entries to the event are “about on par with last year,” and that another highlight of the event this year will the use of “concert formation” for the full band contests.
“A number of the upper-grade pipe-majors have been asking for it, so we are giving it a try,” McKenzie said. “We have researched how it is done in other jurisdictions (Vancouver Indoor and RSPBA branches), and hope it will be an improved overall experience for both players and the audience.”
Along with the British Columbia Pipers Association’s Annual Indoor Gathering, the Toronto Indoor Games are one of the longest-running and largest indoor piping and drumming events in the world. During the 1970s, the competition highly anticipated as the first event after a long season, with Grade 1 bands debuting new medleys.
In recent years, the contest has declined in popularity with regional top-grade bands, as they have become more selective with appearances due to increasingly further-flung membership. There are no Grade 1 bands entered for this year’s Toronto Indoor, and the Hamilton Police and the Peel Regional Police are the only Grade 2 bands entered.