Think tank

The editorial in the June 2005 print edition of the Piper & Drummer is really an extension of a stream-of-consciousness Blogpipe posting on “authority.”

As it happens, one concept led to another, and feedback from Blog readers helped form more thoughts, and all that came pouring into the final version. I’ve written on similar topics in the past (to be honest, it’s difficult sometimes to remember all of the topics from the 70-odd editorials I’ve written), and this extends the challenge further. (It’s now posted on P&D Online in the Editorials if you’re interested.)

Many people in piping and drumming fear and resist and reject change. I like what we do and our music as it stands today, and it’s always great to hear perfect renditions of things that have been played before. But there’s always room to extend our art and we should never be afraid of that.

I do think that, if piping and drumming had incorporated an attitude that’s more accepting of change, what we do would today be far more popular with and accessible to far more people. Pipe bands really started to accept change about 20 years ago. Solo piping is only now just starting. But it is happening.

Some are frightened and work hard to keep things status quo. Others are excited and energized by new challenges and changes. I know where I stand, do you?



Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood . . . is an excellent recording. The group’s first CD was pretty good, too.

So I downloaded the band’s new X&Y album yesterday and have listened to it a few times. Good God. What a total treacle-fest. The whole thing is so repetitive and self-absorbed. It should be called “CD About Gwyneth.”

I’m sure Paltrow wouldn’t permit it, but Chris Martin needs to hang around a pipe band for a year.


Section sizes

I posted a poll asking if there should be caps on pipe band section sizes. There was one two years ago, too, and so far results show that about 10 per cent fewer people now think that there should be maximum limits than in 2003. The polls aren’t scientific, of course, and maybe it’s the time of the year. Ask the same question in September and people might answer differently.

Here are the pros and cons of putting limits on section sizes:

1. More players to go around for other bands.
2. Strengthens the competition community.
3. Levels the playing-field.
4. Makes members practice harder to keep their spot.
5. Shortens tuning time.
6. Lowers band overhead costs.
7. Less travel time for judges walking around the circle.

1. Stifles natural evolution.
2. Limits creativity.
3. Smaller overall numbers at practices and competitions.
4. Less visually impressive.

At any rate, no association will ever put caps on section sizes unless the RSPBA does it first. Non-RSPBA bands that want to compete at the World’s can’t have their size limited if they want to rate against the UK bands. If Field-Marshal Montgomery (note the hyphen and the single L in Marshal) goes out with 22 pipers, then sure as hell SFU will, too.

Personally, I think it’s a good idea to put limits on sections, but I do admit that there are drawbacks. I just think that there are fewer cons, and the pros are weightier.

In Grade 1, I’d say a maximum 20 pipers, 10 sides, two bass drums and five tenors is reasonable. Bands would have to submit their final rosters two months before the first contest, which allows enough time for players who don’t survive the cut to find other places to play. Grade 2 might be 18, 9, two and four, and so forth.

Capping sections at large-but-not-crazy-large sizes makes sense for all — and especially for the overall competitiveness of the grades themselves.