Monday, September 6, 2010

After thoughts regarding the World Championships


It has been a few of years since I had the opportunity to attend the World Championships and this year I was more than delighted to accept the opportunity to compete with the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band at this prestigious event and of course some lead up competitions.
I arrived in mid-July and competed at the European Championships in Belfast. The band gained a respectable fourth place and seemed delighted with their third place in piping. The following weekend the band put in a strong performance at Bridge of Allan where we won all elements at the event, setting us up for a good run the following weekend at the “Worlds”.
The set up of “arena one” at the World Championship event has changed with a larger grand stand and the location near the grassed hill. This makes it easier for spectators to see the competing bands and also for fellow competitors to see the other bands without fighting the crowd. It was good to see spectators sitting on the hill enjoying the event from a distance but still being able to see and hear the bands. The large screen also makes it easier to get a close up view of the action. It is however one of the things as a competitor that I found I had to ignore. Not a hard job, but certainly something that competitors should be aware could easily distract their attention.
Overall as a competitor the event seemed to run very smoothly. The only distraction during our preparations for the event was one band blocking the entrance to fine tuning leaving our band to have to fight through the crowd in single file to get past. Not ideal at this crucial stage.
The weather was very nice, but the sun coming in and out seemed to affect the balance and sound of some of the bands. Obviously getting drones perfectly set and maintaining a balanced top hand are considerations in this type of weather.
I gained the impression leading up to the event that St Lawrence O’Toole was the popular favourite and they did not disappoint. They clearly were thrilled with the result as was the crowd. Terry Tully gave a touching and heartfelt speech. Some surprised this year in the results and an unfortunate mix up between third and fourth place. We gained a seventh place overall, which due to some small errors I did not think reflected the potential that the band could have achieved. A strong accurate sound, some talented young players and a lot of interest in the band bodes well for a strong future.
I do have one criticism of the events that I have attended that I personally think needs some review. I have heard numerous complaints from spectators and bands alike about the drawn out nature of the final ceremony. Playing in the centre bands is a hard chore after the day’s events and the long procession of bands marching past and being announced seems to have little favour with the audience. Whilst it is nice to acknowledge the bands it does seem very long winded. A small note is that some of the podium members need to be careful to sit appropriately in a kilt, especially when “regimentally” attired.
Having all bands move onto the arena together in an organised manner, play the salute; prize announcements and the winning band in each grade then being given the opportunity to march off individually in front of the audience and other bands could be the highlight of each event. This could dramatically reduce the length of the final ceremony and make it more spectator friendly.
There are moves afoot overseas to trial an open circle format. This makes the even a little more spectator friendly and also gives the opportunity for bands to present their performance to a fixed judging location. Surely preferable when considering balance, harmonies and other ensemble concerns. The contests in Brittany that I have seen have a significantly larger panel of adjudicators, seated in front of the bands. This gives a focal point for the performances and less chance of personal preferences and large discrepancies in placings interfering as significantly with the final results. We saw some significant variation in results at this championship, especially in the qualifying rounds meaning that only one adjudicator prevented some bands from progressing to the final round.
Congratulations are due to the organisers for the continuing improvement of the event which is obviously the world’s premier pipe band competition.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more with the suggested improvements. The worlds goes from strength to strength and I enjoyed it immensely this year. However, we need to look at the Bagad championship to improve further. The location and format of the Brittany event is great for the audience.