November 03, 2008

Boom-boom – on goes the light

Yes we can.When Craig Colquhoun and Scott Currie approached pipes|drums a few months ago about having the 2008 World Champion Bass-Section winner decided by the magazine’s poll, I was a little reluctant. Is this right? Should the world’s pipers and drummers determine what Grade 1 band’s mid-section should receive the award? Don’t all pipe band-related prizes have to be decided by accredited judges?

To be honest, I forgot about it until Hoss raised the idea again last week. My immediate response was, Yes, why not?

Why have the award decided this way? Well, for a start, the RSPBA decided to eliminate the prize so certified judges can’t award it in any official way any longer.

Second, we all know that, sadly, the Best Bass-Section prize when it is given out, it’s often in a relatively informal manner. There are no specific bass and tenor judges at pipe band contests, and the prize is usually determined by the ensemble and/or drumming judges, both of whom are either snare drummers or pipers. To my knowledge, there are no RSPBA judges who have specific expertise in modern bass- or tenor-drumming either as players or arrangers. Today’s mid-sections are captained by a player within the section itself, and the band’s leading-drummer and pipe-major pretty well just sign off on the arrangements that they compose and choreograph.

Third, the BBC and the RSPBA kindly put out a lovely (albeit out-of-sync and possibly illegal) DVD of the World’s Grade 1 Final. We can all see and hear first-hand every one of these mid-sections without actually having to be there.

Lastly, the trophy is the Hosbilt Cup and was donated by Colquhoun’s company with the expressed agreement that it be awarded to the best Grade 1 bass-section at the World’s. Since the RSPBA’s prize no longer exists, and since the association clearly doesn’t want to award it, then the trophy should be returned. If Craig wants to award the prize this way, then fine, we’re happy to help.

PPBSO and RSPBA judge Ken Eller has already questioned the relatively harmless method of determining the prize. Why should anyone feel threatened by an award being determined not as an after-thought by accredited judges with piping and snare drumming backgrounds, but a by fair, popular vote of all of the world’s competitive pipers and drummers – including bass- and tenor-drummers, the people who care and know about this the most?

Leading lights from the strong-voiced community of mid-section players consider this popular-vote method a good way to do it for the year (at least) when there appears to be no other way. Why should anyone feel anything but good for bass and tenor players and the bands in which they play?


  1. Forget just the bass-section awards.

    What if bands made recordings of performances at home, made DVD’s or posted them to YouTube, and then had the masses decide on who they think is best.

    Think about it: no politics, no “judging issues”, no $125,000 trips to Scotland, no greazy and overpriced food at Glasgow Green, no Qualifier! The best band as decided by the people would be awarded the spike.

    I may miss the late nights and great food (and dancing) at the Best Kebab, but sometime’s you just gotta let go…

    With the economy tanking at an alarming rate, and the price of oil and gas on a slippery slope, this could be a cost effective alternative to the usual August pilgramage.

    I like it!




  2. Great idea Andrew, et al. Nice to see matters taken into the hands of the masses, versus the stodgy, elite minority that is the RSPBA. And why the long face Kenny? Why so much loyalty to the rat infested grounds of Glasgow Green? First this little thingy…then maybe one day the World’s can move to places like Dublin, Vancouver, Toronto, Belgium, Los Angeles…

  3. I can see both sides of the argument…Ken is right in that there is no “real” way to determine if those who vote are listening, much less listening with a trained ear. However, what shall we do until the award is reinstated with adjudication by section-specific judges? This method at least seems like a pretty good way to get the attention of the folks in charge to let them know the award was missed this year. Perhaps formal proposal is in order to get the award back on the table with it being judged by contemporary mid-section players.

  4. I have read with interest some of the comments on Ken’s blog, Blogpipe the new Delphi and on Andrew’s article.

    I even had a titter to myself when I read that we were being accused of ‘gradism’, something I never heard the RSPBA being accused of when the awards actually existed… in Grade 1 only at two out of three majors! Jeez, another beer tent champion is even calling for the RSPBA to release the hounds on us! Let’s remember, ther RSPBA washed their hands of these awards, so this has absolutely nothing to do with them.

    Look, this is not an acceptance of the situation or conceeding defeat, but merely a fun and innovative use of technology to empower pipe band people to have a say in the short term. Is it perfect? That’s open to debate, but it’s a damn sight better than the alternative which is bugger all at the moment! Treat it as it is, it’s a poll. The winner of the poll wins a prize. Simple! Nobody died!

    Is this poll open to a certain amount of abuse? Possibly, as some have already attested to, but no more open to abuse than the Best Bass Section awards were in the hands of a minority of adjudicators. Allow me to cite two known examples by two accredicted and serving members of the RSPBA adjudication panel:

    …at a major championship in 1992, the drumming adjudicator was reminded after he submitted his summaries that he had to award a Best Bass Section Award. He asked which band was the overall winner of the competition. When provided with that information, he instructed that the Best Bass Section should be accredited to the winning band.

    …at a Scottish provincial competition in 2004, the drumming adjuducator submitted his summaries, collected his expenses and left the control area before it was discovered he had omitted to nominate a Best Bass Section. He was tracked down by an official and asked who his Best Bass Section was. He instructed the official to award the prize to the drum corps he had first.

    This is exactly why the Best Bass Section award should be properly administered and adjudicated if it is to return. However, in the interim period, I have no more concerns over the pipng and drumming public casting some votes in a poll than I did over certain individuals holding a clipboard and yellow sheet making the same decision.

    I have not given in, lost my marbles or allowed ‘ego’ to rule in supporting Hoss and pipes|drums. I agree that Best Bass Section Awards should be nominated by accredited adjudicators in the first instance as the people who oppose this poll beilieve. I wonder if those people will be so vociferous in informing their Music Board representatives and affiliate associations of their opinions as they have been online!

    So if you don’t want to vote for whatever the reason, then don’t vote! If you do want to vote, fantastic!

  5. Scott/Craig – pursuant to my other comment on the main article, congrats, I think this is a great and novel idea for the award. And given my fun with the topic in the past – and the fact that I didn’t make it to the Green for the annual smackdown, and so can’t make an informed vote – I’ll abstain from voting myself.

    I appreciate that some folks have other views about the seriousness/efficacy/wisdom of making the award in this way. For me, I’m with Mr. Currie – you don’t wanna vote, don’t – you wanna vote, vote. WUPWUP! It’s all in good fun! Cheers all

  6. I’m with John on this. Use the AGM and the meeting motion system to reinstate the contest.
    I’m also with Joel and Scott. regarding the on line contest. Vote if you want and feel that you have something to contribute.
    Enough said?

  7. I hope that potential voters will take the voting seriously and won’t just cast a vote for whichever mid section their best friend happens to be in, for example. I’d like to vote but haven’t gotten a chance to hear all the candidates; so I’ll do the responsible thing and abstain this time ’round.



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