Flourishing is the term used for the dramatic turning and throwing of the mace. However, a drum major is not only defined by his or her flourishing.
Flourishing does not have a military background and therefore does not give any «orders» to the band. This is merely a show element, which is done with a special mace. This mace must be balanced and flexible. The wooden part is mostly made from malacca, a type of bamboo, which is very flexible and does not splinter if it breaks.
The different turns and throws cannot be learnt from a book, they must be passed on from drum major to drum major. In Switzerland, the forming of the Swiss Drum Major in 2014 was the cornerstone to teaching and perfecting these skills.
Flourishing first came to the fore in the late 1940’s. It led to many changes, as civilian as well as some territorial army drum majors began experimenting with new turns and throws of the mace. Predominantly non-military drum majors were trying out new techniques and presenting drum majoring in a totally new light in the public. Nowadays, flourishing is only done by civilian drum majors.
One of the best know drums majors who started flourishing in the 40’s was a shepherd. He would practise with his shepherd’s staff while looking after his flocks up in the hills. He tried out all possible turns and throws and presented these when he led his band on parade. He did not worry about his flourishing not conforming with “Good Military Practice”, as he was performing for the enjoyment of the audience, and so a new era of drum majors in the pipe majors began.
The flourishing of the drum majors in the modern pipe bands is an element of entertainment and does not play a role in the musical programme. A band that has a good drum major can consider itself lucky, as this is definitely a crowd pleaser! All eyes will be on him as he proudly leads his bands and he cannot afford to make any mistakes.
Lastly, to answer a question that is often raised: yes, flourishing can be dangerous! One small mistake or a lapse in concentration can quickly lead to injury. Many successful drum majors have broken a bone, had a nose bleed or been hit on the head.