Worlds Grade 1 Qualifiers Announced by RSPBA – Comment Added

Twelve bands have made it through to tomorrow’s final in the World Pipe Band Championships Grade 1 competition. After a full day of playing in torrential rain two sets of four judges settled on the following names. They are:

Shotts & Dykehead
Inveraray & District
NZ Police
Simon Fraser University
Fife Police
Spirit of Scotland
Glasgow Police
St Laurence O’Toole
78th Fraser Highlanders
Manawatu (pictured)
Field Marshal Montgomery
Scottish Power

This is the order in which they will compete tomorrow. Others who played but who didn’t make it through: LA Scots, 78th Halifax Citadel, Ottawa Police, Peel Police, Vale of Atholl, Bagad Cap Caval, Bleary & District, Ravara. These bands alll receive free entry tickets for Saturday.

Tomorrow’s contest begins at 10.15am.

The Editor writes: After today’s endurance test in dreadful conditions I’m not so sure that this Qualifying round is either necessary or worth it. There was never any doubt that Scottish Power, Inveraray, Field Marshal, SLoT, SFU and Shotts would be in the final. Making them play for a place that was guaranteed just does not make sense. No one could have complained if they had been given a bye to the next round on the basis of their efforts in other majors this season and SFU on their consistency at the Worlds over many years.

The mid to bottom table bands would then be called on to play for the remaining six places. Some say this is unfair in that the above named bands arrive fresher on the Saturday than those who have had to qualify. I say this would be one of the privileges earned by the supreme efforts and abilities of the top bands. And you could argue that this is balanced to some degree by the Friday bands who get through having had a good run out, are therefore up to speed and buoyed by the success from the day before.

Yet to avoid any dispute could the qualifier not be done away with altogether,  the 21  bands playing on the Saturday in a consecutive MSR then Medley, ten minutes between, as used to happen at Bellahouston all those years ago? Would that not be possible to fit in on the Saturday?

These are just a few of the thoughts passing through the sodden frontal lobe as I listened today to all of the performances in a very exposed Arena 2.

So let us look at the performances of some of those mid-table outfits. Manawatu‘s MSR marked them down as certainties for the final in my book: good sound, steady playing, fine expression. Spirit of Scotland‘s medley showed signs of just what this band of superb pipers could do if they stayed together long enough and worked as hard as they obviously have been doing this week. The unison was up there; their Medley breaks controlled and precise, the sound clear and steady. Fife Police, again playing nearer the edge than hitherto, gave hints in their Medley of a rapidly maturing band. Another push and they could start to go places. These three all thoroughly deserve their place in the top 12 as far as I am concerned.

I wasn’t so sure that Boghall, NZ Police, Glasgow Police and the 78th Frasers would make it. All had various issues in their Arena 2 performances –  but I only heard one run remember. Of the others Peel Police had  a well put together Medley with bright tempi but may have suffered in the tone department. Bagad Cap Caval had a good idea of the MSR but need to work on sustaining tempo and phrasing throughout the set. Vale of Atholl have all the ingredients, but pipes and drums didn’t always seem in synch in the Medley. 78th Citadel – good MSR playing but issues drums to pipes. LA Scots, Ravara, Bleary (good sound) Ottawa Police? Back to the drawing board I’m afraid.

Former RSPBA Adjudicator Alistair Aitken writes:


Despite the terrible weather I took the opportunity to sit in the stand in the main arena at Glasgow Green to listen to all the MSR and Medley performances in this year’s Grade 1 Qualifiers. The editor of Piping Press asked me at short notice if I would provide him with some comments on the performances. In the steady rain it was impossible to take any notes, so the following are little more than general impressions from an “ensemble” perspective from memory. It was a miserable day for any band to play, let alone in a major competition, but I applaud all the bands for coping so well in these conditions. Surely the weather can only be better for the Grade 1 Finals and all the other grades tomorrow!!

The MSR competition in the morning started with Bleary & District from Northern Ireland who set a good standard with a competent overall performance. The band sound lacked a bit in depth but was well balanced between pipes and drums. The introduction from the drummers came through rather forced. The clarity of playing was generally good but I noted that the pipers and drummers were not quite integrated at times in the strathspey and reel. The next performance was from Shotts & Dykehead. The overall band sound was well balanced with excellent clarity of piping. The drumming in places was I thought a little deliberate and lacking in rhythmic flow, but overall the performance was marred mainly by one of the snare drummers unfortunately dropping a stick (which was quickly replaced). No doubt this would affect the final placing from the drumming adjudicator.

Los Angeles Scots was next with another balanced performance, which would perhaps have benefitted from more dynamics and variation of expression from the drummers. They were followed by Inveraray & District with their trade mark musical style and an excellent sound balance between all the sections of the band. The drumming presentation involved some subtle interpretation which was very effective. Next up was Peel Regional Police, another band which lacked depth of sound (particularly from the drum corps). The first drum roll was not quite precise and I thought the strathspey was lacking in dance rhythm.

New Zealand Police then produced a very good performance in terms of integration and musical effect. Strangely I could not hear the Bass Drum in the first introductory roll and the snare drums lacked depth of sound and snare response. Simon Fraser University followed with a very strong performance. The clarity of piping and the piping sound were excellent, and the drum corps balanced well with good musical interpretation and subtle effect.

Next was Vale of Atholl whose piping sound deteriorated a little probably due to the weather. The snare drums were rather light affecting the band balance. They were followed by Police Scotland Fife with another solid piping performance. The drummers I thought were rather dominant and aggressive at times, affecting the balance of band sound and the musical interpretation. Second last to play was Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia with another strong performance and arguably in my view the best ensemble effect of all, although the number of pipers (which I think was 14) was lower than normal. I was very disappointed to learn on my arrival back home that they had not made the Final. The final performance was from the Spirit of Scotland, a large band with a powerful sound and generally well integrated. The first introductory roll was not clean but the integration and technique of the drum corps was excellent, although at times a shade aggressive and a little deliberate in the strathspey.

The Medley performances in the afternoon started with Greater Glasgow Police Scotland. I felt that the tempos were being driven by the drummers, causing some slight problems of integration between pipes and drums. The band sound also seemed to deteriorate, no doubt due to the weather. There followed a strong performance from St Laurence O’Toole. Excellent clarity of piping and the band integration was very good apart from the drummers rushing some phrases slightly at times. The snare drums also seemed flattish in tone compared to the pipes, affecting the sound balance of the band. Next up was the 78th Fraser Highlanders, where again the drummers were rushing slightly at times affecting the band integration. The piping sound also deteriorated a little as the performance progressed. Ravara from Northern Ireland then had a nice piping sound but again the band integration was affected by the drummers rushing in some phrases. The snare drummers were also rather aggressive and the musical interpretation could have been improved with more subtlety and weight variation.

The Ottowa Police Service selection of tunes did not inspire musical impact, possibly also affected by the fact that the snare drum pitch was rather flat in relation to the pipes. To be fair, however, the rain was very heavy at this point. However, a solid performance followed from Manawatu from New Zealand. A well balanced band sound and a confident performance in the conditions. A nice deep Bass sound helped the band balance. The next performance was by the 78th Fraser Highlanders Halifax Citadel. Apart from an uninspiring first tune this was another solid performance with a well-balanced band sound and nice spirited and dance rhythm strathspey playing. This band experienced the worst weather conditions of all and coped very well.

Next up was Bagad Cap Caval with a well-integrated performance but a rather harsh overall band sound. The band balance was also affected by a rather dominant drum corps. Field Marshal Montgomery then followed with excellent clarity of playing, the hallmark piping sound and band balance, and some very exciting and innovative musical interpretation as a collective pipe band. The band coped very well with the poor weather conditions. Last to play was Scottish Power with another strong performance, solid and clear piping sound and effective musical interpretation from the drum corps. I particularly liked the interpretation of “The Little Cascade” at the end.

Well done to all the players in such difficult conditions.

Alistair Aitken

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2 thoughts on “Worlds Grade 1 Qualifiers Announced by RSPBA – Comment Added

  1. I couldn’t agree more with Rab’s suggestion of getting rid of the qualifier and letting all the Grade 1 bands play on the Saturday in a streamlined format. After all, these are the top 21 pipe bands in the World – let them play!

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