August 17, 2019

Opinion: The World’s needs a shakeup

With full credit to those who put on this complicated event, the World Pipe Band Championships needs a refresh.

For sure, take the best of what it already offers, but the rest of the piping and drumming world looks to this event for guidance. As goes the World’s, so goes the world.

Based on everything we saw and heard, following are a few recommended changes:

Drop the MSR. At least in Grade 1 and Grade 2, it’s time to bring in a new medley format, where essentially anything goes for between, say 10 and 15 minutes. Keep the familiar 5-7 minute format and require bands to use only certain genres, but bands are ready to expand and listeners are ready to hear it. There is a reason why the Pre-World’s Concert sells out: people want to hear new and creative material.

Concert formation. The huddle of pipers and drummers closing ranks against the judges and audience is something out of a Victorian novel. Play to the audience so bands can be seen and, most importantly, heard. Even the BBC mics have a hard time picking up the audio with the circle mob.

Add more judges. Along with the new medley format, take a cue from the Breton scene and expand judging panel to about 15, including those for bass section, and maybe one or two accomplished non-pipe band piper/drummer musicians.

Take the Grade 1 Final indoors. We’ve said this before and will keep saying it: there is absolutely no good reason why a 10- or even 15-band final can’t be held at a venue like the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall or the SECC. Sell tickets. Provide neutral conditions for bands, judges and listeners that avoid pelting rain, belting wind and the wee granny talking incessantly on her phone as you crane to hear from the sidelines. Fergus Muirhead does a great job, and he should continue as emcee of the indoor final.

Split Grade 1. Time for a premier grade. The divide between the elite Grade 1 bands and the rest is widening and it needs to be addressed. The problem is there are fewer Grade 1 bands worldwide than ever. Perhaps it’s more a re-calibration of Grade 1 and Grade 2 standards that’s needed.

Pay the performers. It’s simple: if you can’t afford to hold a live music festival and pay the entertainment, you need to reassess the whole thing. But it IS affordable. So at least compensate those performers populating the live-stream, radio and TV shows accordingly. And for God’s sake, raise the Grade 1 first prize to something respectable – nothing less than £15,000. The money is there; share it around.

Make the live-stream pay-per-view. We’re thinking maybe a $10 charge for each day. If the BBC isn’t allowed per their UK mandate, sell the rights to a broadcaster that is. If the 40,000-odd viewership that the BBC claims is true, this is a lucrative deal for some company. That’s $400,000 a day. They can pocket $200,000 and the rest can go to the performers.

Ditch the march past. We’ll keep saying this, too. No one likes the interminable march past, so why does it continue? Put the drum-majors in the spotlight, and bring waves of bands, marching down the hill. North America can teach you how this is done.

These are just a few suggestions. As long as the World’s remains status quo the rest of the world will, too.

Time to shake it up.



  1. Hi. 1 Don’t agree with dropping the MSR. Teaches players how to play properly. You are trying to appeal to those with a short attention span. Same as cricket where test matches are seen as not appealing any more in favour of 20 20. You are trying to appeal to the idiot Twitter generation. Won’t work. 2. Concert formation, yea no issue with that. 3. Add more judges. There is a shortage of judges as it is, so how is that going to work?. What you could do is appoint judges on the basis of their band experience rather than them having to pass exams in theory and practice which for many people is not possible, but that does not mean that some people are incapable of judging. 4 Grade 1 final indoors. Don’t agree.Pipes are an out door instrument. It rains, that’s life. 5. Split Grade 1. Why? If a band is not fit for the grade put them in Grade 2. 6. Pay performers. Definitely not. There are enough mercenaries out there. You will turn a hobby into a rich man’s club. 7. Pay for live stream. Why? Why can us fans not get some little perk. 8. Ditch march past. Yes, yes, yes. It’s pathetic really. Just watching this one which is currently been going for nearly two hours and we are only at novice grade yet. The North American idea sounds good. Can I just add one suggestion. Move the world’s from Glasgow. It’s the same thing every year and to be honest it is becoming a bore. But only on condition that the venue is chosen carefully. Some of the venues for major championships are terrible. It was more exciting when it moved around.

  2. Re: more judges. Specifically your comment about accomplished musicians from outside the piping/drumming realm. I was always told that the ensemble judge was initially set up that way. A director of music from a military band / wind ensemble who would judge the ensemble as a whole and how they worked together. Maybe just return to the initial intent. And yes, add in a midsection judge.

  3. Definite yes to concert formation. As it is, the players are playing to themselves. COMMUNICATE with the audience !! Yes to having at least one non piping drumming judge who would judge only Music. Definitely move indoors. Apart from all the other great reasons for it, what self respecting musician allows their precious musical instrument to be treated like this — pelted with rain etc. Yes, split Grade 1. Bands like Johnstone deserved something. Yes increase the prize money. it’s an insult as is. Pay per view — I would happily pay £10 per day or more. Bob Worrall’s commentary is worth ten times that alone!! I enjoy the March Past, but make it snappier with bands diligent about being ready. But please please please bands, if you win a prize, have the decency to send someone straight up to the podium to collect it!!! Don’t celebrate first then dawdle up, keeping the whole world waiting. I think at least half an hour could be saved here. Not sure about dropping the MSR. I’ve waited 14 years to hear what IDPB did on Saturday. I’m really glad it was recognised even though chances are the judges didn’t fully realise what they were recognising. Bands could really score, if they paid a lot more attention to what they give off unconsciously. It’s still great event though, and for me, the music won the day on Saturday. Hands down.



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