Without question the most important event in the week leading up to the World Pipe Band Championships is the major pipe band contest staged each year on the Wednesday by Glasgow Skye Association Pipe Band. The concert, now held in Glasgow’s prestigious Royal Concert Hall, has showcased the biggest names in bands and invariably attracts a sell out crowd of 2,000+. The hall provides a spectacular backdrop for the bands as shown in the picture above of Field Marshal Montgomery last year. We thought it would be interesting to find out some of the background to the concert and put some questions to the band’s marketing man in chief, Kurt Mackintosh…..
How many years has the band been running the Worlds Week concert? The band has been organising it since 1994, 23 years. The very first band to take part were the 78th Fraser Highlanders who presented their ‘Live in Scotland’ concert. This was at the Motherwell Civic Centre, our venue for the first five years. The aim at the time was to bring the prominent concert bands of the day to a wider audience and this first concert was a result of a friendship between our band’s previous Pipe Major, Kenny McLeod, and the then Pipe Sergeant of the 78th Frasers, Iain Donaldson. These early concerts were really successful and it became clear that there was a huge demand from the pipe band community to hear the best bands in the world showcasing their material. Later the band took the decision to change venue to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall which doubled the capacity and we have been there for the past 17 years.
Highs and lows? I’m sure there must have been some challenges along the way, but from a personal point of view I have found everyone to be hugely supportive of the band and the concert in general. I think it’s a great testament to the pipe band world that the concert has been supported throughout the years to become known as ‘the pre-Worlds concert’. Long may it continue.
Is it a good earner for the band? It is our main source of funding so it’s important for us to ensure that the concert remains the huge success it has become. As you can imagine there is a lot of work involved behind the scenes but time is given freely and gladly by band members to make the concert work. We certainly appreciate the support of everyone who comes along on the night and the wider pipe band world who continue to support the concert through advertising, merchant stalls and significant raffle prizes. I am pleased to say that this year ticket sales are going really well and we are heading for another sell out.
Do you feel it takes Glasgow Skye’s focus away from doing well at Glasgow Green? No, not at all. There are sub-committees in place within the band to deal with the concert and the other usual aspects of running a band. Any such meetings happen outwith practice times. I can assure you our pipe major Ewan Henderson and leading drummer Arthur Cook wouldn’t have it any other way! Our practice nights are Tuesdays and Thursdays so the Wednesday night concert fits in nicely in the build up to the main event on Saturday.
Douglas Orr ran things for many years very successfully; is he still involved with the band? No, Dougie stepped down from the band last year. It’s always an interesting challenge picking up the reins from someone else, but thankfully there is a lot of experience to call upon from within the band. It also helps when you have really good people to work with and I must say the guys at Shotts [this year’s performers in case you didn’t already know] have been fantastic.
How much control does the promoter have on the running of the concert? We set out the guidelines and timings that the performing artist has to adhere to. From our point of view, as long as the repertoire meets the pre-set minimum performance time to ensure value for money, it is left solely at the band’s discretion for the musical content. The bulk of our work is behind the scenes dealing with the venue, promotional aspects and programmes and working with sponsors and concert supporters to organise all the additional bits and pieces that go into making the concert happen. We also co-ordinate with the performing band to secure any additional requirements for the actual concert.
One of the finest concerts ever staged was that given by the St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band from Dublin in 2010:
Will you be doing anything to make sure it finishes at a reasonable time to allow for socialising? Less is more in fact? Part of the initial discussions with Ryan [Canning] and Andrew [Lawson] covered this very point. We, as the promoter, dictate the minimum length required but everyone is well aware that it is counter productive to have any concert go on too long. What we are all working towards is an excellent night of music and entertainment. I agree that the social aspect of pipe bands is an important part of what keeps us all going. This year, the bar at the concert hall is staying open after the concert so I’m hopeful that many of the audience will stay on and get a chance to catch up and chat with friends and the Shotts guys after the event.
What about acoustic balance. Would you get involved if you thought the drums were dominating things or the sound people had got the wrong mix? The Tuesday rehearsal day is used to fine tune these things. To be honest there are far more qualified and experienced people than me to decide upon the right mix. I will leave that with Andrew and his people.
MC? We don’t get involved with that aspect unless specifically asked. Ryan and the Shotts team have this in hand. All we do ask is that whoever is chosen can keep the concert moving along.
Who do you have in mind for next year and thereafter? The 2018 concert artist has been confirmed for some time but won’t be announced until later in the year/early 2018. As soon as this year’s concert is over we will sit down and have some discussions around the 2019 concert. It is a huge commitment for any band to come up with a repertoire and plan a concert over and above the competition material so its important we try to give them as much time as possible. It’s also a big ask to know with certainty how your band is going to look in two or three year’s time so it’s a fine balance.
• Read P/M Ryan Canning’s take on the forthcoming concert in the latest issue of Pipe Band Magazine. Read Leading Drummer Andrew Lawson’s concert interview on Piping Press here. Not got your tickets yet? Click here.