February 01, 2007

The matter of size

The news of the Scottish Lion-78th Frasers’ plan to 28-to-30 pipers and 14 snare drummers resurrects the question of size. It’s been debated for years now, probably ever since Davey Barnes’s Polkemmet competed successfully with 18 or 19 pipers back in the early-1990s.

I predict that 2007 will be the year when the issue is again formally addressed by the RSPBA? Why the RSPBA? Because that organization is the only one that realistically can. If the PPBSO or BCPA legislated something first, bands competing in the UK would create so much uproar that they probably wouldn’t even play in those areas, since they wouldn’t be able to prepare for the blessed event in Glasgow.

But I’ve been through all that before.

I like a big band as much as the next person. But it is increasingly difficult to keep a level playing field when one band has 12 pipers and the next has 22, let alone 30. We have minimum requirements for this exact reason, so it seems to me that maximum limits should be put in place – not necessarily on how many can compete, but on how many can be on the roster. Those limits don’t have to be static; they can increase as bands naturally and uniformly push the boundaries.

The RSPBA has to be watching this closely. I can count at least seven Grade 1 or 2 bands that have gone out of business in the last two years due to loss of personnel. Survival of the fittest and de’il tak the hindmost, you might say, but the increasingly open-door policy that some top bands are implementing is encouraging people to leave their Grade 2 and 3 bands for a shot at the top.




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