The Grade 1 Los Angeles Scots are the latest band to confirm that they will not be competing at the World Pipe Band Championships, and in fact will not compete at all until the fall of this year at the earliest.
Pipe-Major Colin Armstrong confirmed that the California band has seen a decline in numbers, with members already joining other bands for the summer. But he said that most of those members are still committed to returning to LA Scots, and reforming for the September competition at Pleasanton, California.
“We have decided to pass on the World’s this year, but the band will be debuting the new drum corps and new tunes at the Pleasanton games with plans for a return to the World’s in 2018,” Armstrong said. “Numbers-wise, we are looking good. We have had a few of our members commit to playing with other bands for the World’s this year, but they have all made commitments to come back to the band for 2018 starting with the Pleasanton games in September.”
The band previously announced the re-appointment of Carl Lenny as lead-drummer after numerous changes at the position over the last 10 years.
According to sources close to the band, LA Scots were hoping to compete at the North American Championships at Maxville, Ontario, as an alternative to the World’s, but those plans have been scuttled.
“The band is doing good,” Armstrong added. “Carl [Lenny] is now settled out here in southern California and the band is back to weekly practice.”
LA Scots are the latest North American Grade 1 band to pull out of the World’s due to numbers and other pressures. The 78th Highland (Halifax Citadel) and Ottawa Police also will be giving the competition a miss.
For these bands not going, it’s a matter of the usual three factors: numbers, finances and vacation time. The 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) appear to have the personnel, but vacation time, including for Pipe-Major Alex Gandy, is the deciding factor, especially with a number of key players working with the Canadian Government and under tighter demands during Canada’s 150th anniversary year celebrations.
78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) have competed at the World’s in five of the last six years, and in 2015 qualified for the Grade 1 Final for the first time under Gandy. Gandy said that band members were disappointed at first, but also welcome the added vacation time and the relief on their personal bank accounts.
The band plans to compete at the United States Championships at Alma, Michigan, in late May, and the Georgetown Highland Games in Georgetown, Ontario, in June, as well as more local events in the Canadian Maritime provinces.
The Ottawa Police previously confirmed that the band would not attend in 2017 after making their first trip in 2016, and that the band is actively recruiting a lead-drummer to take over from Brendan Kelly, who has effectively stepped down from the role after the band confirmed that it would not compete in 2017.
On the other hand, the World’s will see Buchan Peterson and Johnstone of Scotland and Police Service of Northern Ireland make their debut in the premier grade at Glasgow Green following their move to Grade 1 after the 2016 season.
The Grade 1 Canterbury Caledonian of New Zealand also confirmed earlier in the year that the band will miss the 2017 World’s, with new Pipe-Major Jamie Hake and Lead-Drummer Brayden Drummond working to establish themselves before the band’s planned return in 2018. Hawke and Drummond took over from Richard Hawke and James Loughlin, respectively.
Grade 1 Dowco Triumph Street of Vancouver are making two trips to compete in Scotland, beginning with the British Championships at Paisley on May 20th, and then the World’s in August. The band will be sporting a new-look drum section under new Lead-Drummer Gary Corkin, with many of the section’s members and several pipers residing in Scotland. The band made its 2017 debut at the Vancouver Annual Gathering last month, where it placed second to Simon Fraser University both overall and in drumming in two-band events.
For a North American band, a trip to Scotland costs typically around $75,000, and is generally funded by each member personally. Bands from the antipodes will generally spend more than $100,000 to get to Scotland. The self-induced pressure to compete at the World Pipe Band Championship and other RSPBA championships can have both positive and negative impacts on bands and local piping and drumming scenes, including Scotland, with groups focusing attention, funds and personnel on the competitions, often choosing them over smaller regional events.