Well, friends, Harry was fair glued to the YouTubes all summer when he couldn’t make the games, and he has to say: it was an interesting year. Harry knew that the intense competition in the UK and Eire would make it very tough for any band from other countries come the big one in August, and he was right.
The Greater Glasgow Police Scotland Pipe Band (that’s a moothfu’) proved that great quality music, and not just a recent championship win, can fill a large concert hall. The band’s Ceolry concert was a triumph on its own, and with Simon Fraser University out of the World’s list for the first time in about 20 years it gives the organizers of the concert comfort that winning isn’t everything when it comes to selling tickets.
And post-Glasgow Green I hear that the RSPBA will do its now-normal thing and look at re-grading bands that aren’t their members. Not to name names, but there could be some serious upset in some regions around the world when and if the re-grades happen. (Hints: starts with N and ends with Z; starts with On, ends with tario.)
Inveraray & District isn’t going anywhere, after blasting through the middle of the top to win the European Championships and then seriously threatening Field Marshal Montgomery for the Big One. Harry thinks the George Hotel bar receipts may have spiked over the summer, and rumours of the departures of Stuart Liddell and Steven McWhirter have all but stopped. Quite right. Speculation had been rife that McWhirter was off to ScottishPower after the announcement about Barry Wilson retiring, and online and social media mongering has had Liddell moving to Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Austria, British Columbia or Swaziland. Harry’s impeccable sources say both are staying put. Time will tell.
Meanwhile the search continues for Wilson’s heir apparent, and sources say that there have been six “serious” applicants for the ScottishPower L-D gig, including some fairly prominent peeps. Word has it that a few pipers have shifted out of the band, including piping-dancing superstar David Wilton.
Band mid-sections are increasingly looking more like beauty pageants, which isn’t necessary a bad thing, especially when juxtaposed with sweaty, hard-working pipers and snare drummers. The trend towards glossy red lipstick, heavy mascara and custom manicures was never so pronounced than this year. Just make sure all that warpaint is waterproof, else these bass sections will be looking more like The Cure’s Robert Smith.
Lots of the usual talk about the piping judging at the World’s. To wit, the Grade 4A Group 2 Qualifier piping split for Ogden Legion, with a 4th and a 14th. That Grade 4B Final piping division for 6th prize-winning Irvine & District saw them receive an 8th and a 1st, which could have meant four places up or down. And the same two judges with St. Andrew’s College of South Africa in the Grade 4A Group 1 Qualifier awarding that band 2nd and 13th. And then there’s this little run of gems from the piping judges in the Grade 4B Group 3 Qualifier: Saffron United (10th and 1st); Clontibret (14th and 2nd); Hawick (1st and 12th); and City of St. Andrew’s (4th and 11th). But nothing was so, um, diversified, as the piping rankings for Elgin & District in the 4B Final: an astounding 1st and 18th to the poor band’s pipe section. That 17-band separation in piping could be an all-time record. In each instance, one of the judges must be righter than the other, and it’s up to the association to have a listen to the recordings, and then have a wee word with a few people. The bands deserve some follow-up.
The 78th Fraser Highlanders had a solid year in Ontario, winning everything except the North Americans, which their near-namesake 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) narrowly scooped. The “Frasers” had success with new Shepherd chanters, a profound change of direction, considering the band’s history. Interesting that Shotts & Dykehead, like Field Marshal Montgomery, are also playing Shepherds.
Still with Ontario, the usual rumours and speculation of a Peel Regional Police–Toronto Police merger are in heavy rotation. Favourite name choices for the new band include: PeeOnto Police, Torpeel Police, and the Ford Nation Pipes & Drums. Harry hears Stuart Liddell will be the new pipe-major. Not really, but he thinks that would be fun.
Harry is advised that there is a look into music licensing practices at the World Championships. Officials won’t be able to threaten disqualification to make this go away, and it will be interesting to see what comes of it. If Harry had a penny for every time a band played a certain itchy hornreel, he’d still want to set his ears on fire.
Out-of-tune was the designer of the Scottish athlete gear for the Commonwealth Games ceremonies. Part Brigadoon, part Lahore Celtic, the costumes were broadly panned in Scotland, but Harry thinks maybe they are onto a whole new possible look for pipe bands? Enough of the wool and boring red, green, blue of traditional tartans! Make it a show! Leave ‘em laughing, when you go. Harry’s looked at bands from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it’s band illusions he recalls, he really doesn’t know bands at all. (And if you catch that reference, you’re pretty good.)
Harry does know a thing or two about comfy work gear though, and he’s looking forward to seeing the new “construction kilts” in use this summer in Scotland. Should make for some great views from the sidewalk.
The changes at the College of Piping in Glasgow seemed to have had little effect on the place, and have seemingly actually improved morale and invigorated staff. Reports have come out that there was a climate of uncertainty in the place with the full-time employees. The departed principal allegedly was not an actual full-time employee, and didn’t even have a formal contract, thus the freedom simply to up and leave one fine morning.
And back again to the World’s . . . the organizers will have to look at the way photographers every year are told 15 minutes before the announcement to train their lenses on the winning band, and the scrum hangs out directly in front of them. So, everyone on the park knows who’s won. But what else can the organizers do? If they want the right shots to appear in the media they need to give them the heads up, but it unfortunately lets the cat out the bag for those there. But if there were no photos in the papers, well, they’d be bleating about that as well.
What’s your view? Send a note to Harry with the scoop from your crew, and Harry’ll marry it up with a jibe or two for the next installment.