I penned these notes a few hours after the close of play last Friday…..
There is not a band that let themselves down today. The top outfits are all in the mix going into tomorrow’s last two legs, the standard among them unbelievably high. Equally in the mid table bands.
The weather was kind, no rain, and the day ran to schedule as per the RSPBA’s usual efficient system, kicking off at 10.30am and finishing just before 5pm with a half hour lunch break. I listened to each of the 32 performances from the small side-on stand, a good position at the junction of pipes and drums.
By the Editor
To the armchair fans I will say this: don’t go by what you heard on your television or computer today. The actual differences in tone and technique did not come across to the viewer the way they did to the audience round the Grade 1 arena.
Over the two legs I have Inveraray just ahead of Boghall with the Field Marshal behemoth third. Thereafter SLOT, Shotts, SFU and the Power are all vying for the places.
I need to say something about band sizes. Field Marshal played 25 pipers and had a huge sound, but was this a sledgehammer trying to crack a musical nut? They played brilliantly but left me a little cold in the medley where I find the assassination of Mrs MacPherson hard to take.
In contrast Inveraray’s Stuart Liddell went out with 17 pipers yet still had big, full, refined sound. Their playing was refined too. No edges blurred in the technique, everything fluid and well put together. Less was more.
However, I had Boghall first in the Medley. Last on they were simply outstanding, with the slow air exhibiting the finest pipe band tone you will hear. The Boggies also had a stirring march in John MacFadyen of Melfort but for me the strathspey and reel lacked punch.
What about Shotts? This may not be their year, but in young Pipe Major Emmett Conway they proved they have someone who will lead them to the very top. Listening to the technique and cohesion in their playing and the understanding of the basic idioms, how could you draw any other conclusion? Watch them go in 2024.
Could SFU have phrased Lord Alex better? For sure, but there was no Wednesday concert hangover for this band; powerful in every department, yet they must have been exhausted with only a 24 hour break.
SLOT: much, much better than Dumbarton, the Medley particularly outstanding with the ear constantly attracted to John Dunne’s caressing bass. Not far off the top three.
A good MSR from Scottish Power but the lack of melody in the Medley is a definite negative. Johnstone and Fife Police struggled with unison in both runs and they were usurped in the middle order by Canterbury. The New Zealand band were terrific and their sound put them narrowly ahead of the well-schooled pipers of Manawatu.
Those Texans from St Thomas Alumni cemented their place as the second band in North America with two entertaining performances and compliments to the pipe major for his decisive tempi, his refusal to be cowed by the occasion.
I cannot close without mentioning the adjudicators. Can someone please tell me why one piping judge felt it necessary to stand behind the drummers to listen to the piping? And how can it be possible for an Ensemble judge to do his job if he wears out his shoe leather continually on the move around the circle, stopping one minute behind the drummers, the next behind a piper playing seconds and the next behind the pipe major? Would someone judging an orchestra stop behind the timps, make some notes then head on over to the double basses, with perhaps a moment or two at the brass? It defies logic.
Lastly, why did one judge sport a hat more designed for the bush-tucker man? Should it not be Glengarry or Balmoral? And those tartan breeks masquerading as trews……
My combined result from the two legs of Day 1:
1 Inveraray 2 Boghall 3 Field Marshal 4 SLOT 5 Shotts 6 SFU
- A review of Day 2 tomorrow; full results here.