Published: May 28, 2015

A snapshot of the new Grade 1 season

take them on. The 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) are expected to make the trip back to Scotland, but without Bruce Gandy, who is taking a season away from the band, while Dowco-Triumph Street and the 78th Fraser Highlanders look to do a bit more than simply qualify for the World’s Final. Ontario’s Peel Regional Police, without long-time Pipe-Sergeant and sound-man Jake Watson will be looking to get back in to the final after a strong home campaign.

Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia have added even more talent to its roster, now sporting perhaps the youngest average-aged band in Grade 1, under third-year Pipe-Major Ryan Canning. As with retirement rumours about Richard Parkes, the same hearsay abounds about Shotts Leading-Drummer Jim Kilpatrick, but, as reigning World Pipe Band Drumming Champions, there seems no sign that Kilpatrick will be slowing down any time soon.

“The band has already been able to perform in public this season at our recent concert, but we’re really excited to get on the grass for the first time this Saturday,” Canning said. “We’re also really excited to air our new number one medley, but we’ll need to wait until the second major, and the luck of it being selected, of course, for that!”

Shotts getting on the grass last year at the World’s.

Watching section sizes and overall band numbers, things seem to have settled down at the top with relatively smaller groups. Pipe sections are coming back down, with ScottishPower playing with 18 pipers, St. Laurence O’Toole with 21. Expectation is that bands will play 22 or fewer pipers, and drum sections coming back from 11-12 snares, now probably averaging eight or nine. Perhaps the high-numbers pressure has hit a tipping-point, which would be a relief to bands around the world struggling to find enough quality players to fill out the ranks and still be competitive.

Speculation and predictions are easy, but the rubber-soled ghillies hit the grass starting Saturday and reality will set in for what is sure to be another lively pipe band season.

Stay tuned to pipes|drums throughout the summer for developments as they arise.

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