Published: August 06, 2007

Maxville musings


Welcome to Maxville.
Another Maxville’s in the books, and I thought a few recollections might be worth highlighting. These are the things that will stand out in my mind for a while to come:

Triumph Street: A number of people have asked me since the contest finished, “Are they a Grade 1 band?” My answer is a solidly waffling Maybe. TSPB is definitely a top-of-the-heap Grade 2 band, but I noted the lack of punch to their pipe section sound. It was well in tune, and the drones were very good, but it was one of the softer sounds in the MSR, the contest I heard. It begs the question of what comprises a good sound? I always look for an impressive presence. It’s not a “loud” contest, but there is a requirement for a band in Grade 1 to leave a strong tonal impression.

Ben McClamrock: This American piper easily won the Grade 1 Amateur March section that I judged. He played the seldom-submitted Peter MacLeod 2/4, “Willie MacLean,” and executed a flawless, swinging rendition of this great, difficult tune. Watch this name.

Lightning storm: On Friday morning a thunder-storm rolled across the Glengarry County sky, and when I saw fingers of lightning bolts coming near the games field, I decided that was enough. Considering the piobaireachd event I was judging was under one of the biggest trees around, I reluctantly decided to stop Lyle Davidson’s tune (still in the ground) to run for cover before we both become newspaper headlines. Fortunately, Lyle agreed it was the right thing to do, and he of course was allowed to start again after a half-hour delay, and he played impressively well.

Toronto Police: The 2006 North American Champions competed with the minimum eight pipers but produced an excellent sound and a thrilling, error-free medley with excellent unison and tight drones. One of the few top bands still to play Sinclair chanters, when these chanters are well-set with lively reeds they produce a sound that attracts me.

Peel Regional Police: Piping-wise, Peel’s medley was as good as I have heard from them in years. Another band that suffered personnel losses, it is definitely on the up-swing. Impressive unison. John Elliott is a master at pulling the maximum out of his pipers.

Cramped space: With the 78th Frasers competing with 30 or so pipers, I often had little choice but to be virtually in the middle of two pipers. There was little room between the crowd and the band. Being able to hear the overall effect of the pipe section, particularly when it was playing complex harmonies and counter-point, was difficult. If bands continue to get bigger, the solution will have to be to spread out the chalk contest circles and move the crowd back. But is that fair to listeners when relatively smaller bands come on? One thing I know, trying to assess a pipe section of eight and one of 30, while within the rules, was not easy.

Windsor Police: No one can blame this band for opting to miss Maxville to do a performance in Ohio to raise money to get to the World’s, but I couldn’t help but wonder how they might have done had they competed. It’s a shame that such choices need to be made, and that “overseas” bands have to go to such lengths to get to Glasgow. I hope they – not to mention SFU, Alberta, LA Scots, and the 78th Halifax – decide next year to try to make their mark at the North American Championships. And isn’t it about time a UK Grade 1 band made the trip?

I’m sure other thoughts will come to mind, but these are the facets of Maxville ’07 that leap up today. Here’s to a great 2008 event.

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