As already reported on Piping Press, the World Pipe Band Championships took place at Glasgow Green on 18/19th August, a week later than normal due to Glasgow hosting the World Cycling Championships.
Unlike the extremely hot weather of last year the conditions were variable, cold and warm, and slightly windy at times. Thankfully there were no lengthy periods of heavy rain as we have experienced in the past.
By Alistair Aitken OBE,
former RSPBA Adjudicator
This year, due to my advancing years, I attended only on the Saturday, but watched most of the Friday performances via the BBC Scotland livestreaming. Listening remotely is not the same, however, as being at the actual event. The BBC recording equipment comprises nine separate microphones placed around the competing circle, all of which are recording simultaneously. As a spectator at the event you cannot hear the performances the same as those which are broadcast. I am also never sure about having two microphones either side of the starting line. To my mind this causes imbalances in the sound recording as the pipers and then drummers progress past the starting line.
What struck me on arriving on Saturday morning was the changed layout of Glasgow Green. Gone were the large spectator stands of previous years and in their place were a number of smaller and lower stands, reduced in size and capacity and each with a canvas roof.
A roofed stand for the first time had been publicised well in advance as an improvement but the outcome was more like a country fair than an event which is a showcase of Scotland’s national music worldwide. Had we experienced some of the strong winds of the past the canvas roofs would not have lasted long, like what happened at the Worlds in Lanark in 1971 when the stand blew down. Hopefully the normal stands can be resurrected in future despite the current funding problems.
Despite the smaller capacity of the stands, they were only partly occupied both days, although claimed to be sold out. Strangely, their lowered height also seemed to affect the sound projection for the spectators standing adjacent to the competition circle. The bands could not be heard anything like as clearly as in previous years, even if you could get close to the barriers. That also seemed to affect the general atmosphere around the Grade 1 arena. This year some of the other competition rings also seemed to be located much closer to the trade stands, making everything appear rather cluttered.
Having said all that, these issues were outweighed by the positive ones. Total entries of almost 190 bands were up significantly from 146 in 2022. Taking account of heats, the total number of actual performances by my calculations was 286 as compared to 170 in 2022. Bands from other countries increased from 22 in 2022 to 50 this year. I hope all of these bands enjoyed their trip to Scotland.
All of this of course represented a massive logistical challenge for the RSPBA. There were seven separate competition rings, all of which went like clockwork to their scheduled timescales due to the efforts of RSPBA officials and many volunteers. Well done to all concerned.
I have no intention of challenging any of the results, although as always there were differences in adjudicator placings across the grades. Grade 1 was a major challenge with 16 adjudicators involved and the outcome based on the amalgamated results of four separate competitions. That was always bound to create some anomalies, talking points and accusations. Just imagine what it would have been like if all 16 adjudicators had been judging the same competition!!
I was lucky to be given a seat in one of the stands for the Saturday Grade 1 MSR competition. All the bands performed very well. The likely contenders all had excellent performances but, from where I was sitting, I thought Inveraray had one of the finest MSR performances I have heard for a long time.
One thing which also struck me was the different tempos of the bands in that competition, all of which were appropriately structured and controlled to suit their tune selections. From those MSRs and Medleys I heard over the two days I was also particularly impressed with Canterbury Caledonian Society and Manawatu bands for the quality and musicality of their performances.
At the end of the day the three bands which have been the Grade 1 winners at the earlier Championships this year took the first three places. It was pleasing that the Worlds Grade 1 title went to People’s Ford Boghall & Bathgate, a band which has been so close to the accolade for so many years. Hearty congratulations to Ross Harvey, Kerr McQuillan and the band members.
It is good to see the Worlds title back in the East of Scotland for the first time since 1978. Congratulations also to Reid Maxwell and his SFU corps for again taking the drumming title (Reid is another product of the East of Scotland!).
I was also able to listen to all five of the Juvenile grade performances. The standard was good, once again demonstrating the level of tuition at private and state schools in Scotland. The St Andrews College band from New Zealand, however, presented the Scottish bands with their first challenge from elsewhere this year and took a well-deserved third place.
In conclusion another enjoyable occasion. Well done to all concerned and haste ye back next year.