Listening to lower-grade bands at Georgetown on Saturday, I can draw a few fairly well informed conclusions:
- Bands are playing music that they can actually play. Only a few years ago I was constantly thinking “This material is too hard for this pipe section.” Now, this is infrequent. Rather than trying to wow judges with over-ambitious content, Grade 4 and Grade 5 bands are choosing music that’s within their reach. Whether this is a function of MAP or judges constantly writing “This material is too hard for this pipe section,” it’s a good development.
- Some lower-grade bands are coming out with top-grade ensemble presentations. The influence of trends in mid-section accompaniment over the last 10 years is being felt all around. A few Grade 4 bands were really working to provide well-scored and choreographed bass and tenors, but scaled back in a style that’s manageable for the grade. A few Grade 4 bands are producing an ensemble sound better than what you would have heard 20 years ago in Grade 2.
- Grade 1 and Grade 2 is not necessarily the most interesting listening experience on the day. The lower grades are becoming very inventive and entertaining in a wide sense. Obviously, tuning, technique and unison are far better at the top, but there is great variety in Grade 4. And it’s always fun to see really young players do their stuff.
The trends of the top grades continue to filter to the lower ones, as they have always done. But it seems like suddenly Grade 4 and Grade 5 bands are remembering to keep it simple, and play within themselves, while at the same time putting on a good show.