A snapshot of the new Grade 1 season
This Saturday marks the start of the UK championship season, with the first major of the year, the British Championships at Bathgate, Scotland. While bands in the southern hemisphere go into hiatus for their summer, bands in the north are full-steam-ahead, culminating with the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow on August 14-15.
So what might we look out for this season with some of the bands in the top grade?
Start with reigning World Champions Field Marshal Montgomery. The band came out strong last weekend at Inniskillen, besting Irish rivals St. Laurence O’Toole (SLOT won the drumming).
“FMM have had a good off-season and all elements of the band are in excellent shape for the challenges of the new season,” Field Marshal Pipe-Major Richard Parkes said. “Our aim is to build on the consistent level of performance we have achieved in recent years.”
And consistency is the name of the game for FMM. While the band sees members come and go (e.g., perennial pipe section anchorman Donald MacPhee has retired), the group has maintained an unrivalled level of steadiness, producing world-standard performances week in and week out. The usual rumours have circulated that this will be Parkes’s last year, but the piping and drumming world has learned to take those with a lump of salt.
But, as with every band, success can’t last forever, so many are wondering if 2015 might be the year when the door is opened a little more for perennial rivals champing at the bit to beat FMM.
Peoples Ford-Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia seems to be the band that everyone loves to root for. The home-grown group from West Lothian has carried the mantle of “best band never to win the World’s” for maybe 30 years now, and every year seems to be the one that might be the one for Boghall.
“We’ve been working hard on our sound over the winter, addressing some deficiencies I feel we had last year,” said Pipe-Major Ross Walker. “The early signs are very encouraging and the first test at Bathgate should show that improvement. Both pipe and drum corps as strong as ever so we approach the season with confidence.”