Sunday 8 March 2015 saw the third Scottish Schools Pipe Band Championships held in Broughton High School and Fettes College in Edinburgh. Promoted under the banner ‘Fair Play for Pipes’, the Championships are independently organised by the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust, but they also carry the support of the RSPBA.
As part of the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust’s overall objective of facilitating and assisting the funding of teaching of piping and pipe band drumming in schools across Scotland, the primary aim of these Championships as a major annual event is to encourage the formation and development of traditional pipe bands in public and private schools in Scotland. The event offers different levels of competition for school pipe bands which already have some competitive experience in and outwith the RSPBA system. It also provides a friendly opportunity for schools which have never competed before. School pipe bands from other parts of the UK are also welcome to participate. The Championships this year again offered five different levels of pipe band competition:
Juvenile Pipe Bands: For RSPBA-registered Juvenile Grade school and combined school pipe bands.
Novice Juvenile Pipe Bands: For RSPBA-registered Novice Juvenile Grade school and combined school pipe bands (or school pipe bands with RSPBA-registered players in that grade)
Junior “A” Pipe Bands: For school and combined school pipe bands with some competition experience with no players registered with the RSPBA.
Junior “B” Pipe Bands: For school and combined school pipe bands with experience of competing in the Debut section of the Championships in 2014; and with no players registered with the RSPBA.
Debut Pipe Bands: For school pipe bands competing for their first time (including school bands reforming after an absence of at least three years, provided that none of the players had competed before or are registered with the RSPBA).
In addition to the traditional pipe band categories there was an invitational Quartet Piping competition (held in the prestigious Fettes College close to Broughton High School) for schools as yet unable to form a pipe band but who wished to give their pipers competing experience. The programme again also included a Freestyle Musicianship competition which was open to all schools, or groups of schools from the same education authority. Its primary aim was to offer a less formal opportunity for schools with limited numbers of pipers or drummers and no pipe band to participate in the Championships along with other types of musicians from their school. This competition also encouraged existing school pipe bands to showcase their skills in the form of an innovative concert-style performance. The general aim was to illustrate to parents, teachers, education authorities and the general public the musical scope and versatility of the bagpipes and pipe band drummers, and to demonstrate their parity of status alongside other musical instruments. The approach was tried as a taster in 2014 and the fact that entries for the Freestyle Musicianship competition more than doubled this year confirmed the value of continuing the venture again. On this occasion each of the competing schools set new parameters in terms of musical scope, range of instruments, originality, innovation, ingenuity and musical impact. The profile of the competition was also enhanced by the adjudicators giving X Factor-type comments after each performance.
The High School of Glasgow Freestyle Ensemble
The statistics for the Championships were also impressive, totalling 78 individual band or quartet performances across the various categories. These were representative of 111 individual schools from across Scotland, and also including the Ampleforth College and Sedbergh School Pipe Band from North East England. Entry was free of charge to the competitors and the spectators. Bands from remote locations were also offered funding assistance to help towards the costs of travel and accommodation etc. Piping, Drumming and Ensemble Adjudicators for the pipe band competitions were provided by the RSPBA. The Quartet Piping competition was judged by Harry McNulty and Tom Speirs. Judges for the Freestyle competition were Robert Mathieson and Craig Munro (of Red Hot Chilli Pipers fame), former Simple Minds keyboard player Mick MacNeil and Tudor Morris, Director of the City of Edinburgh Music School.
Contributors to the success of the Championships were senior Broughton High School and Fettes College pupils and a number of volunteers, all of whom acted very efficiently for stewarding, announcing and other important tasks in ensuring that the programme ran seamlessly. A 10%+ increase in entries compared to 2013 again illustrated the interest being generated in this annual event, as well as the wealth of young talent which exists throughout the country providing the foundation for maintaining Scotland’s traditional music.
Winners of each of the categories of competition were:
Juvenile Pipe Bands
1st George Watson’s College (see main picture at top)
2nd Dollar Academy
3rd George Heriot’s School
Novice Juvenile Pipe Bands
1st George Watson’s College
2nd Dollar Academy
3rd North Lanarkshire Schools
Junior “A” Pipe Bands
1st St Columba’s School
2nd Queen Victoria School
3rd Glenalmond College
Junior “B” Pipe Bands
1st Gordonstoun School
2nd Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools
3rd Morrison’s Academy
Debut Pipe Bands
1st Lochalsh Junior Pipe Band
2nd Kinross High School
3rd City of Inverness Youth Pipe Band
1st Tobermory High School “A”
2nd Banff Academy
3rd St Agatha’s Primary School “A”
1st The High School of Glasgow
2nd Gordonstoun School
3rd Davidson’s Mains School