August 24, 2008


As Harry Tung alluded to recently, the decision to put Oran Mor into Grade 2 at the World’s has received a lot of post-contest discussion. Promoted to Grade 1 by its home organization, the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association, Oran Mor was subsequently asked to compete in the penultimate grade by the RSPBA, which the band then gamely accepted.

Oran Mor went on to gain a fourth prize in Grade 2 at Glasgow Green. Some people seem to think that this is confirmation that the band is in fact Grade 2 standard and the RSPBA made the right call. It’s not.

I didn’t hear Oran Mor or, for that matter, any of the Grade 2 bands at the 2008 World’s. But I do know that it’s not uncommon that the bottom two, three or even four bands in a larger band or solo competition would not gain a prize in the next grade down. Conversely, the top two, three or four bands in a big contest often would easily meet the standard in the next higher grade. That’s why grading committees go not only by the results they see, but also by the sound they hear.

I heard the Grade 5 band contest at Maxville this year and thought that the Paris/Port Dover band on that day actually met the Grade 4 standard. A few weeks later, the band finished second in Grade 4B at the World’s. Similarly, I heard one or two UK-based Grade 1 bands at the World’s and thought that they might not win a Grade 2 contest in Ontario.

But the issue at hand is not the grade-standard that the band meets; the issue is that of reciprocity between organizations. If one of those bottom-tier UK-based Grade 1 bands decided to make a trip to compete at the 2009 North American Championships, then (assuming it’s still in Grade 1 next year) I am certain that their entry would be accepted unconditionally. There would be absolutely no question as to their proper grade: it’s the one assigned to them by their home association, in this case, the RSPBA. End of story.

When Oran Mor entered Maxville there was never a question as to the grade the band would compete in. It was Grade 1, the grade assigned to them by the EUSPBA, and the grade the band entered. It was well known that Oran Mor would be competing in Grade 2 at the World’s and that it would be competing against very successful Grade 1 bands at Maxville. It did not matter.

Oran Mor finished last in Grade 1 at Maxville, but it still won’t matter in 2009 if a Grade 1 Oran Mor enters Grade 1 at Maxville. Their entry should be accepted.  Likewise, if Cap Caval, Ravara or Torphichen – the bands that finished ahead of Oran Mor at the World’s – come to Maxville in 2009 and enter to compete in Grade 2, then that is the grade they would compete in, provided they were assigned to Grade 2 by their home association.

I’ve read the arguments for and against the decision to put Oran Mor into Grade 2 at the World’s. What I haven’t heard, so far, is the reaction of Bagad Brieg and Buchan – the bands that finished, respectively, fifth and sixth, or, for that matter, Dumfries & Galloway Constabulary, which would have gained a prize had this Grade 1 graded band not bumped them from the list.

Who would really care if Oran Mor had competed in Grade 1 at the World’s? If they didn’t qualify for the final, then that’s their problem. If they did qualify, then the other bands would at least be able to say that they were beaten by a band legitimately graded Grade 1 by its home association.

The same cannot be said by the Grade 2 bands that finished behind Oran Mor at the World’s.


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