RSPBA Scottish Championship – Grade 2 Preview

Some say he doesn’t know his high G from an ogee, that when he tunes his snare head it sounds as if he’s been on the Snakehead; others that he thinks KP nuts are fans of a particular drummer….all we know is he is called MacStig – and he was as sober as an RSPBA judge when he wrote this…………

The Old Rock in the estuary of mother Clyde will guard over another Scottish Pipe Band Championship this Saturday. With normal business resumed, as close to a full domestic list of 14 G2 bands are named on the roster.

The grade will start at 15.00h with Messrs Stevenson, MacPhee, Coils and Craig, poised with clipboards and pencils, making the final decisions on the day. As ever, theirs are the only ones that matter.

Since the last major there have been a few run outs for some on the list and it really is the last opportunity (excepting some local events) to get things straight before what we will call ‘the mad week’ and final run in to the World Championship next month. The overseas bands are also going through their paces in various far-flung places, not least Maxville, the Glengarry Games, over in Ontario. It didn’t slip my ken that Peel Police chalked up a win over Hamilton over there and my local sources say LA Scots are knocked into shape too. Of course that will all sort itself out in due course and we will bring you reports from North Berwick and Perth at the time. Before that, the penultimate Major and a day trip to Dumbarton.

Wallacestone & District will kick off this Medley competition – remembering that the qualifier for the Worlds’ is just that. Consolidating their performance will be key and they have improved every step since the nervous start at Paisley. This is a solid band and will grow further in confidence.

Balagan hasn’t had a vintage season by any stretch of the imagination and it’s been a tough old slog. Some work in progress, integration of new players, and perhaps some inexperience all adding to the mix. The intent is there for sure and I’m hoping they simply relax and enjoy the music. Hats off for making it four out of four Majors so far and it will be all five by the time we get to Glasgow. Although I hear the ‘dear green place’ the translation of the original Gaelic for Glasgow, isn’t quite ‘green’ and a recent pop festival at the Green left the grass wrecked.

Manorcunningham arrive at the line next and this is a band to look forward to hearing. It’s musical and the tone is always solid. Plaudits to the drum line too. This is their opportunity to press harder on the top of the list. It’s difficult to see what they could or should do other than go again, but more a pronounced strathspey perhaps coming out of the slow air? The difference between first and third or fourth in this grade is in small degrees.

Contenders Ravara need to push on and hold the concentration right to the stop. They are in the mix for this one for sure and as with ManorC it’s about the run on the day – those six minutes of absolute concentration will seal it one way or another.

The quickest delivery is usually from Grampian Police (GPS), and it’s a good sound, very matter of fact, no gimmicks, on and off. This band could hit the silverware list at tea time with a solid run and no freelancing or wanderers. Easier said than done, but it’s in their hands, literally.

One of the short odds favourites, Closkelt, will wheel in and bring one of the truest tones you will hear in any grade. If you get a chance just come over (stand quietly) and listen. They are on at 15.45h. Theirs is a traditional Medley and there is no messing about going on. All things being equal they will be there on the list and vying for number 1 spot.

Colmcille up next and we welcome them to Dumbarton. Not one of the leaders of the pack but another musical band that is work in progress.

City of London appear on the roster next having been absent from Forres. A transition year perhaps, and one that will define where the band goes next. It is always a tough one to have a P/M change under such circumstances and I’d urge the players to hang in there. The project is worthy of all your efforts to travel vast distances, make practice and simply play for the joy of the music. Having a pipe band beacon shining in London is very important to the wider movement.

Bucksburn & District will follow and another tidy performance is expected. They have had flashes of excellence and been in a mini contest with their near neighbors GPS. I think this might just be their opportunity to get on the list.

City of Discovery will have the P/M back after his absence at Forres. They need to lock in faster and hold the Ensemble together to make a difference in this very nice Medley.

Kilchoman Isle of Islay

The Kilchoman Distillery, Isle Islay band is on next and they are fast improving. Hitting the silver this year and well ahead of where they were a year ago. Piping is stronger and there are some pedigree players in there influencing the youngsters. With a stronger list at Dumbarton it might just be beyond them to make the list, but you never know. I’d say it’s a possibility.

Flush with success, Mackenzie Caledonian will be out to prove their Medley can win again. They are on a roll in this Centenary Year and know that staying ahead is more tricky than chasing. As I’ve said, the sound is better and whatever equipment change was made, it is working. Drumming will need to crack on to firmly close the door to the nearest scores. They’ll be on the lips of the announcer, but just where in the top 1, 2 or 3 remains to be seen. I’m looking forward to that element of the competition.

Royal Burgh of Stirling next and their strong drum corps get some focus. However it’s a good combined unit making its way in G2 after promotion last year. They settled in eventuality and will get up the list as time goes on.

Last up, Scottish Fire & Rescue. A hearty salute to the P/M and the work done to get the blue lighters to this stage. Changes have been announced for next season. The job in hand this weekend is a solid run here and at the Green though this is a programme in process with the feeder Novice band delivering new players.

That’s the grade, that’s Dumbarton and the Scottish Championship.

The forecast is changeable but there looks to be a run of further sun between now and Saturday before it breaks on Sunday. Don’t forget the sun cream and waterproofs because you know how it can be at the estuary. Also the midges might be out in force in the tree areas of the park – you have been warned. The tiny biters can cause mayhem in the fleshy part between hose and kilt. If dry I’ll be bringing out the two-wheeler Vespa for the day and hope as many of you as possible get along. If not, the excellent RSPBA Twitter feed will be doing the needful. Over and Out.

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