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Members of the Simon Fraser University Grade 1 Pipe Band have settled in at John Forty’s Court in Stirling, Scotland and spent their first few days tuning up for Saturday’s World Pipe Band Championship.
Wasting no time, the real work toward the Worlds has begun with daily courtyard practices in a rare, blazing heat.
It’s critical legwork, considering rival bands continue to improve. Both Scottish and Canadian pipe bands have been gaining momentum over the past few years, details not lost on Pipe Sergeant Jack Lee.
“There’s no doubt this year will be as tough as ever,” said Lee. “The so-called gap between the top bands and the other contenders is getting smaller all the time, giving more bands a reasonable chance to win.”
SFU is one of 26 bands facing off in the elite Grade 1 category, one of seven Canadian bands to compete this year. In total there are 11 Scottish bands, five Irish, including reigning world champion Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band, one from France and two from the U.S.
“If you look at the last 20 years a majority of wins have gone to SFU and Field Marshal Montgomery,” said Lee. “We are still two of the strong favorites to win. But in addition to them and us, there are a number of strong bands out there. The Scottish, with bands like Scottish Power, have gotten stronger over these past few years and so has the Canadian contingent.”
SFU’s junior bands—the Robert Malcolm Memorial Grade 3 band and its juvenile Grade 4 band, also in Scotland to prepare for the Worlds—face tough competition and are practising daily.
The Grade 3s, which have previously competed in the novice-juvenile category (for those 18 and under), will compete in the 3A category with the majority of its members now in their mid-20s. They’ll be among 23 bands, most from Scotland and Ireland, squaring off on Saturday afternoon.
The Robert Malcolm Grade 4 band—appearing for the first time at the Worlds—will be among the youngest bands performing in the novice-juvenile category.
More than 200 bands, 8,000 musicians and 40,000 spectators are expected to fill Glasgow Green for the championships this Saturday. Live streaming of the competition will be at www.bbc.co.uk/music/events/edvg9r.