Hope for a New Premier Grade Event

September 27, 2008 on 4:02 pm by Michael Grey | In News, Pipe Bands, Stories | 15 Comments

There was a time I was heavily involved in the administration of the Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario.  Bigtime involved.  Vice-President of the Toronto Branch when I was 18, President at 19.  Can you imagine!  What a presumptuous little brat I must’ve been (or am, depending on who you ask). 

I’d go to all the Annual General Meetings.  I was an active member of what was the precursor to today’s Music Board, the “Advisory Council”.  At 23 years old or so I can’t really imagine what wisdom I might’ve possessed to “advise”.  But there you have it.  There I was.  The whole admin-activist thing wore me out.  And I dropped out of all of it.  Cold turkey.  I can’t remember the last AGM I attended.  Not a point of pride, that’s for sure, just a point of fact.       

So here I am today.  I plan on attending the AGM of the Niagara-Hamilton Branch of the PPBSO October 3rd.  The N-H Branch is always a good night out.  It’s well-organized, a great location, always a good programme. 

I’m going, though, to present for consideration a rule change.  Specifically, the elimination of the individually staged grade one MSR and Medley events (today we have an MSR at one contest and a medley at the other – like most places around the world) . 

I’m suggesting – and hoping – that membership will go for a new Grade One pipe band event: the “Grade One Performance event where Grade One bands play both a medley and an MSR at all competitions. 

How will it work? The band enters the field, performs their MSR, is given 5 minutes to tune and prepare in situ for the performance of their 5-7 minute medley, which is played following the alloted tune-up time.  All this is carried out, dare I say “performed”, in the same location, same set of judges, same prize money.  A lot of “same” here. 

I am hoping this event change would set the stage for the evolution of a real “Performance” event, one where staging and music are given greater consideration and audiences are given their due.

First things first.  It’s often said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  I think this is the right one -though on the left foot, of course.



  1. Michael… the concept is excellent for both the listeners and the bands. It would especially assist the preparation for Maxville and the World’s… the mechanics of staging such an event with only 5 minutes or so tuning between plays does lay a new tuning dilemma on bands…. can they tune a large pipe section with potential chanter concerns in that minimum time… would you consider an appraoch that might give every band 20 – 30 minutes to perform….MSR compulsory – tuning for any time frame – no medley restrictions – no time infractions allowed… or is this too radical to introduce?…It could be said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with bigger steps. I think this might be the right one – though on the left foot, of course….cheers, The Captain

    Comment by Captain — September 28, 2008 #

  2. Well, Kenny – now your talking. I would much rather have what you suggest. I think the 5 minute tune-up “interlude” IS a challenge. All part of the test. I have a feeling what you’re talking about is too radical for where we’re all at today. Though, who knows? I think the modern bagpipe/drum set-up lends itself to longer, more sustained tuning. This is a mind-set change, I think, as much as anything. Love your new site/blog layout, btw! Cheers, M.

    Comment by mike — September 28, 2008 #

  3. Your typical concert arrangement may last much longer than your typical competition set. Do you think that bands could play both with only a brief pause between for a breather? It’s certainly within the skill set of these bands. Five minutes seems like it could be enough time to do more harm than good to a band’s sound with no turning back.

    Comment by Vince — September 28, 2008 #

  4. Vince: I don’t know about a concert arrangement (I take it you mean one that doesn’t follow competition rules) but I think what I am proposing is easily doable: One MSR performed followed by a quick tune of the instruments finished off with one 5-7 minute medley. I’m basically suggesting that bands strut their current competition stuff all in one go – at every games. M

    Comment by mike — September 28, 2008 #

  5. Yes! But why give 5 minutes? Band stops after MSR, pipers and drummers take a couple of deep breaths, and then right on to the medley. This is essentially the conditions of the concert stage and seems totally do-able.

    Comment by Vince — September 28, 2008 #

  6. For information, every contest in Australia for Grade 3 and above consists of both an MSR (8-9 parts of march for Grades 4 & Juvenile) and a medley – every time, no matter the size and status of the contest.

    Contests are organised so that bands alternate. One band will play a MSR then move off to a holding area whilst the next band comes on to play. It’s all timed so that each band waiting gets around 10 minutes between plays. The two sets of adjudicators alternate with them, so it all works well.

    So we here can certainly attest to how well it works. Nothing particularly startling here, but it is a fact that we get both an MSR (or equivalent) and a medley every time, no matter what. Makes the day’s outing more worthwhile for bands and spectators, and the contest more interesting!

    Stephen Matthews

    Comment by srmdrummer — September 29, 2008 #

  7. Vince: you are right, and I do not disagree – at all! I just think there’d be a snowball’s chance of passing that rule change right off the bat … again, one step at a time…save your point for next year’s ammendment!

    Stephen: Thanks for your insight. As regards the degree to which this proposal is “startling”, well, I guess that just depends on which end of the world you stand 🙂

    At smaller games in Ontario, where entry is lowish, grade 3 and 4 bands often play twice (MSR/march medley and medley). I have a feeling that the push-back here (I am hoping not too much) will be the plan that the band stays in place, tunes for a fairly brief period, and plays again (for instance, do we allow players to be “dropped” in the intermediary tuning time?, etc).


    Comment by mike — September 29, 2008 #

  8. Its a really interesting idea Mike. Just trying to think through some of the details in this. Would the band tune up again within the circle in front of the audience or would they move out to more of a staging area and then re-enter?

    Comment by ccrosbie — September 29, 2008 #

  9. Thanks, Cam. I am suggesting that the band tunes up in front of the audience. A canny band might take this as a performance challenge and either not tune, simply perform – or use the tune-up time in a creative way (though, of course, there is no adjudiation during this period, and judges are not present). M.

    Comment by mike — September 29, 2008 #

  10. A great idea Mike. Besides making for a more interesting competition, it would be far more enjoyable for spectators.

    Comment by jamsie an t-sealgair — September 29, 2008 #

  11. Mike, I was saying there’s nothing particularly startling about what we do, not suggesting anything about your proposal 🙂 If you need an example of how a contest day – comprising around 60 performances works, just ask. By the way, bands are far enough away in our system so as not to disturb the next competing band, and players can be added or subtracted at will during the changeover.

    Comment by srmdrummer — September 30, 2008 #

  12. Actually, more like 80+ performances, two for each band.

    Comment by srmdrummer — September 30, 2008 #

  13. Why not just scrap the MSR and play two medleys? The MSR is just an antiquated mini-medley anyway, no? For the purists, maybe one medley would have to include a tune from a set list of “big” marches, strathspeys and reels.

    I like the idea. Although, speaking from inside experience with scheduling, the biggest challenge would be finding the time to squeeze in an extra round of performances at the larger contests and still have the prize-giving start at a reasonable time. Even three bands would tack on another 45 minutes.

    Comment by aberthoff — September 30, 2008 #

  14. Stephen: Do your performances happen in one go? Or do bands play, leave, and come back and perform? I really like the performance challenge of letting it all hang out in one stretch. A little more interest for all, due in no small part to the riskiness of it all.

    Andrew: I agree with you. I would love to scrap the MSR. I am hoping this proposal might be the thin edge of the wedge. I doubt grade one bands on the trail of the worlds will want/support ditching the MSR (yet). It would be great if we could maybe trim the first massed bands, push up the schedule and assure games committees they will get more bang for their games’ entertainment prorgramme. M.

    Comment by mike — September 30, 2008 #

  15. A quick update – the following motions for rule ammendment were passed last night at the Hamilton-Niagara Branch of the PPBSO – now to be taken to the PPBSO AGM November 22 for consideration by all members:

     D-10.6 The performance will commence from the “at ease” position with the pipes down.
    Motion to remove
     D-12.1 Grade 1. Grade 1 bands shall submit 2 sets, and 2 medleys of 5 to 7 minutes duration.
    Motion to amend to read “…and 2 medleys of 6 to 8 minutes duration”
     D-12.2 Grade 2. Grade 2 bands shall submit 2 sets, and 1 medley of 4 to 6 minutes duration.
    Motion to amend to read “…and 2 medleys of 5 to 7 minutes duration”
     D-17.1 Award. The best Pipe Section in each grade or category shall be determined by the combined scoring of the Piping Judges and be announced. [2004 AGM]
    Motion to remove this rule.
    New rule proposal under D-10. Contest Performance
     Motion to introduce a new grade one event:
    “Premier Show”: All grade one pipe band competitions will see each band perform both set and medley, in that order, with draw of performance pieces at the start line. Bands will be provided the option to use a tuning interlude that will not be adjudicated and will not exceed 5 minutes or face disqualification. The same set of judges will be used for the entire “Premier Show” event with overall prize list determined by a combination of the 8 sets of judge’s ranking (i.e. each section: MSR (2 Piping+1 Drumming+1 Ensemble=4) Medley (2 Piping+1 Drumming+1 Ensemble=4).

    Comment by mike — October 4, 2008 #

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