I was thinking back to 15 or so years ago. Grade 1 bands had pipe sections of between 11 and 15 pipers. Twelve or 13 were considered optimal numbers. Today, of course, a Grade 1 band without a pipe section of at least 18 is unusual. I know of one top band that plans to hit the 2007 contest field with 26 pipers, choosing from a pool of 32. Explosive.
But, back to 15 years ago. I remember sitting around many times with pipers in bands I played with reviewing potential new members for the section. It tended to be an elite club. One way or another, it was difficult to get in and, if a candidate didn’t have a great track record in Grade 1 and an additional solo piping record and an acceptible personality he/she didn’t have much chance. Not only that, but if they did get in, chances were that he/she often would have to serve at least a year of being dropped before they got to know “the style.” What bollocks.
How times have changed. Now there’s a much bigger talent pool of pipers with professional-calibre hands and a desire to commit to the band completely. They can play whatever material is thrown in front of them. And they don’t make blooters.
Time was that if a piper had not made a name for him/herself, they wouldn’t get a game. Today one wonders every new season, Just who are these pipers and where did they come from? It’s remarkable too that, while the standard of Grade 1 bands goes up, up, up, the standard of top solo piping holds steady.