There seems to be a fair bit of upset these days aboutÂ aÂ ruling that came to be as a result of a vote at the recent Annual General Meeting of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association.Â Apparently members in attendance voted to remove the “best bass section” prize from the list of those awarded at major pipe band championships.Â Â Â The upsetÂ appears to be coming mainly from bass and tenor drummers caught off-guard by theÂ rule change.Â Â Like most meetings of this kind attendance was reportedlyÂ sparse and a poor representation ofÂ general membership.Â Â What transpired is a good reminder for next year’s meeting:Â turn up if you want a voice.Â I have to admit,Â to be fair, that not turning up at an AGM never stopped me from crabbing about what I viewed was an ill-conceived rule or policy change.
Regardless,Â I view this change as not only a long time coming but one fairly enlightened andÂ forward-looking.Â
Pipe bands in competition are about pipe bands inÂ performance.Â Â It’s whereÂ we seek toÂ create the best pipe band impact, the best pipe band sound — an explosive feast of sound for the listening audience.Â Â With aÂ fairly limited array of musical voices the band sets out to create an ensemble of tasteful and engaging sounds.Â Rhythmic textures, percussive accents and sonicÂ colour all playÂ their part to create the sound, the ensemble feeling and impression delivered inÂ the performance.Â Â Â Â
In a pipe band it is percussion that’s centralÂ to conquering the challenge of delivering a balanced, yet impactful,Â overallÂ performance, one that connects with the listener.Â Â Percussion will make or break the product.Â
However,Â while percussion (snare, bass, tenor drums) might be described as lynchpins in theÂ great mystery of pipe band ensemble their voices hold equal sway with their chantered team members.Â Â Maybe, like a really fineÂ soup, great pipe band ensemble is made up of just the right blend of just the right sounds and rhythms: a dash of this, a bit of that, all with the right preparation.Â Its a tricky businessÂ and too much of one thing, one sound, can spoil the whole thing.
So, toÂ my point:Â myÂ competitive pipe bandÂ utopian state would see a group of adjudicators charged with assessing the band’s sound, their “ensemble”.Â Not one flavour or section of the band; not piping,Â not snares, not bass and tenor secctions,Â but the band, the overall band.
As we stop isolatingÂ pipe band voicesÂ through specific award recognition we move away, ever so slightly,Â from sonic ghettos andÂ move closer to that state where we acknowledgeÂ the band as a group ofÂ equally important voices.Â
I’ve been around long enough to have learned a few hard lessons and one of them I am happy to share:Â Â in a great pipe band it’s all about us – and not me.Â Seriously.Â
M. Â Â Â Â Â
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