July 09, 2019

RSPBA finally confirms Grade 1 World’s format

The RSPBA has finally confirmed what pipes|drums reported back in April: Grade 1 at the World Pipe Band Championships will be a two-day event with 15 bands playing both of the MSRs and medleys, one each on separate days, with all performances counting towards the final result.

The Glasgow-based association made an official announcement on July 8, adding that results from the Friday events will be withheld until the Saturday final awards ceremony.

The RSPBA’s Chairman, John Hughes,  released the following:

  • All 15 bands will play own choice MSR and Medley on the Friday.
  • All 15 bands will play their alternate MSR and Medley on the Saturday.
  • All 4 performances will count towards the final result.
  • The adjudicators critique sheets for all 4 performances will be handed out after the prize giving on Saturday.
  • There will be a pre-draw for playing order for the Friday, and a separate pre-draw for the playing order for Saturday.

The format for the World’s is a departure from previous years. The dilemma was initially brought to light in February when pipes|drums surveyed the world’s Grade 1 bands about whether they planned to compete at the competition. It was concluded then that the entry would be no more than 15, due mainly to bands’ high operational expenses, low personnel numbers or going on hiatus.

The outright dissolution and demotion of several bands after the 2018 season also contributed heavily to the decline in numbers. Dowco Triumph Street of Vancouver and Scotland’s Vale of Atholl disbanded permanently, while the 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) and the Toronto Police put Scotland competition plans on hold for at least a year due to personnel challenges.

The RSPBA also demoted several bands to Grade 2, while electing not to promote any to Grade 1.

Under RSPBA guidelines, for a grade to be split into heats, with a final deciding the winner, at least 22 bands must be entered for a competition.

The association elected to keep its two-day Grade 1 contest despite 90% of competing bands saying in a pipes|drums survey that they prefer a one-day competition.

The format for Grade 1 at the World Championships has changed numerous times over the last 30 years. Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, all bands would play twice on a single day, performing their MSR drawn at the line, tuning in a holding area for 15 minutes, and then performing their medley, also drawn at the line.

The format moved to a league table system in the 2000s, where bands would pre-qualify for a place in a final, either through their success at the previous four major championships or, if an “overseas” band, if they gained a prize at the previous year’s World’s.

The league table format was subsequently scrapped, the association responding to what it said were the wishes of its members, creating a two-day format, where all bands would compete in two heats on the Friday for a place in the 12-band final on Saturday.

That format was increasingly criticized by both strong contenders for the title and those fighting to gain a place in the final. Non-UK bands, which spend as much as $150,000 to get to the World’s, generally disliked the format because it heightened the chance that they would play only once, while contenders often felt that the Friday was a superfluous and expensive formality.

Though it has not yet been confirmed, the Friday and Saturday events are expected to be live-streamed for free worldwide.

Based on the gate, legal licensing for the two-day festival of music is believed to be about £5,000.

Field Marshal Montgomery is the reigning World Pipe Band Champion, winning its twelfth title in 2018.

The archived articles that follow provide a summary of the evolution of the format for the event.


Related articles

All performances will count for Grade 1 World’s
April 28, 2019


RSPBA keeps World’s two days; pipes|drums survey shows 90% of bands favour one-day
March 10, 2019


RSPBA polling Grade 1 bands on World’s format
February 27, 2019


One-day 2019 World’s likely a non-starter
February 19, 2019


World’s Grade 1 probably only 15 bands
February 16, 2019


World’s format to stay the same for 2015
October 13, 2014


Mixed reaction from bands to Grade 1 World’s format
July 12, 2013


The World’s Format: what YOU think
May 31, 2009


RSPBA taps bands for input on World’s format
February 28, 2007






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