August 18, 2023

2023 World Championships Day 1 done and dusted for Grade 1 bands in much smaller arena

The Grade 1 arena stands. [Photo Alister Sinclair]
The 16 bands competing in the Grade 1 competition at the World Pipe Band Championships played in a main arena with about a third of the seating enthusiasts had been accustomed to over the last decade, which one person said looked more like Markinch Highland Games than the globe’s biggest pipe band contest.

The day was overcast but dry and breezy, with temperatures rising to about 19°C, relatively ideal for setting up fickle instruments.

Results from the Friday MSR and Medley events were kept secret so as not to sway judges’ perceptions of the next day’s mirrored events.

The Friday events were live-streamed for free by organizers Glasgow Life. Even with the no cost to watch, worldwide viewership topped out at about 3,000.

The judges for the Medley were Jim Semple, John Connor (piping); Gordon Parkes (drumming); and Tony Sloane (ensemble). Judging the MSR: Mark Faloon, Nat Russell (piping); Paul Brown (drumming); and Jim Campbell (ensemble).

Judges’ tasks were again made even more difficult by having to assess and compare bands with as many as 25 pipers and 13 snare drummers against those almost half the size.

The events were again ably hosted by Fergus Muirhead, who provided welcomed brief introductions and acknowledgements and no opinionated commentary on the performances – perhaps appropriate given his lack of experience actually playing in a pipe band.

The MSR event started at 10:30 am, and the Medley concluded at about noon, each band landing at the starting line exactly at their assigned time.

With fewer seats available, the now partially covered stands were priced at £35.90 ($61) – £5 more than in 2022. Nonetheless, everything was sold out well in advance.

Tickets to enter the park on Friday were priced at about £9 ($15). Hundreds opted to stand to the side where they were closer to the competitors and, perhaps, the beer tent.

While those who paid £35.90 for a sheltered seat, competing bands that invested as much as $150,000 to get to Scotland were subjected to whatever elements met them when they performed.

The monetary award for the Grade 1 World Champion is reportedly again £1,500. The award itself is priceless.

The cost of two burgers, fries and Cokes from one vendor was £33.15, or about $57 — maybe enough to buy the winning band’s members and accompanying family and friends a burger van meal.

The competition continues on Saturday, with all grades going at it back at Glasgow Green. The weather forecast is slightly warmer, with rain showers likely.

The Grade 1 performances, along with commentary and behind-the-scenes interviews, will be broadcast via BBC Scotland: with Canterbury Caledonian Society, also from New Zealand, landing on the four-part-tunes MSR trigger at 10:30 am GMT.




  1. I’m not a close friend of Fergus MUIRHEAD but I very much respect him and think he is an excellent commentator and interviewer.
    I always enjoy listening to him and like many other people who have an interest in Piping, bands etc he does everything for no monetary reward.
    Thank you Fergus.

  2. Can I ask if there is a commonly agreed level of experience ‘actually playing in a pipe band’ required before ‘opinionated commentary’ is allowed?

    And for the record, the reason that neither I, nor anyone I interview, makes any comment, opinionated or otherwise, on the performance of a band is nothing to do with our level of experience, or lack thereof, and everything to do with the fact that the organisers asked me not to do so while the contest is still in play.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Fergus. Again, excellent job on the intros and interviews on both days. Everyone has their preferences, but I believe most people would want someone passing judgment on a Grade 1 band’s performance to have had considerable experience (10 years, maybe?) of playing in a winning Grade 1 band or bands. Compare it with, say, premier league football. The colour commentator (not the play-by-play guy) who analyzes the moves and comments on the quality of play would always be a former premier league player. Someone who has done the business. Like judging, there are minimum criteria for becoming a judge of the top grades, and that usually includes at least 10 years of “successful” playing with a Grade 1 or 2 band.

  3. Why aren’t any bands playing Carradale Bay 2/4 March in competition these days as part of their MSR?
    It’s such a great tune that Shotts excelled at in the late 60’s early 70’s!
    Not original or obscure enough?



Forgotten Password?