Published: October 31, 1999

World’s Recording Again Reveals All

The annual release of the recordings from the World Pipe Band Championships refocuses attention on the year’s biggest band contest, allowing post-season analysis to carry through the winter and into the next competition season.

For all the ballyhoo about the judging at the 1999 event, it’s important to say at the outset that, overall, the adjudicators performed their primary function just fine: they got the winner right. Going by what can be heard on the CD, Simon Fraser University is a good distance away from the rest of the pack when it comes to tone, unison and ensemble. It’s difficult to understand how any piping judge could have had them anything but first, but, amazingly, one of them managed it. SFU leaves little to quibble with and delivers two consistently solid performances.

The only other band close to SFU in terms of piping tone and unison across both performances is Field Marshal Montgomery, which finished third on the day. FMM’s MSR, in particular, is a case study in technical precision.

There’s plenty of good playing on the recording, with touches of brilliance along the way. ScottishPower demonstrates their ability to present tunes with the finesse of a top solo piper; McNaughton’s Vale of Atholl again stick their collective neck out with a musically adventurous medley; and Shotts & Dykehead comes in strong with their usual crowd-pleasing selection. David Urquhart Travel’s opener, “Boxing With Cyclops,” will likely be heard around the pipe band world next year.

The biggest value the World’s recordings provide is the benchmarking of musical tastes for the past year. It’s fun to play Sunday Morning Adjudicator and argue whether the result was right. Going by the recording alone, it could be said that the order of the prize list after SFU was a bit of a farce.

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But the winner was clearly the correct choice, and, at the end of the day, that’s what matters most.

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