August 31, 1999

Controversy rages after World’s

In the aftermath of the 58th annual World Pipe Band Championships, held August 14 in Glasgow, Scotland, a rebound of dissatisfaction about the event has clearly emerged.

Complaints of appalling conditions and a questionable Grade 1 format have been the talk of the pipe band world, rather than Simon Fraser University’s formidable victory over the rest of the field.

While there was little dispute that the SFU were deserving winners, and that Shotts & Dykehead were a worthy runner-up, controversy about the placings of the final 12 bands have ensued perhaps more than most years.

Competitors have both criticized and praised the format, which was introduced last year in an effort to alleviate dependence on a draw system, and with an eye to making the event more enjoyable for spectators. Currently, bands from the previous year’s prize list get a bye to the 12 band final. The remaining Grade 1 bands compete in a qualifying round for six additional spots.

Bands most critical of the system tend to be the ones that qualify for the final, and feel they are at an immediate disadvantage playing three times – particularly problematic when horrendous weather is the order of the day, as was the case at the 1999 World’s.

“Forcing the world’s best bands to play in pouring rain is a test of luck rather than skill,” said one enthusiast. “The Grade 1 event should be held under cover – in a marquee tent or a concert hall.”

Others are more pragmatic: “Everyone knows that Scotland has bad weather. It rains a lot there. Bands know what they’re getting into when they decide to play.”

As for the judging, bands not in the prize list complaining about the panel would appear to be more a tradition than anything else.

Said another piper: “Every year it’s the same: bands that get prizes are happy, and the bands who don’t cry foul.”


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