They haven’t seen each other all season on the Pacific northwest highland games circuit.
But, this month, the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, which has a handful of Tri-City residents, and the Port Coquitlam-based Dowco Triumph Street Band will face each other — as well as 20 other Grade 1 pipe and drum groups — for the worlds at Glasgow Green in Scotland.
It’s a fiercely competitive event, seeing elite bands from New Zealand, Canada, France, Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland vie for the trophy clinched last year by Inveraray & District.
This year, the Scottish winners are defending their title with second and third place finishers Field Marshal Montgomery (Northern Ireland) and St. Laurence O’Toole (Ireland) also in line.
But SFU and Dowco say they’ve never sounded better and also aim to reach the top in 2018.
SFU’s Grade 1 band has been there before — six times, in fact, most recently in 2009 when they beat Field Marshal Montgomery and St. Laurence O’Toole (the last time they placed in the Top 3 was in 2012, taking third after Field Marshal Montgomery and ScottishPower Pipe Band).
Coquitlam’s Reid Maxwell, SFUPB’s lead drummer and a Scottish native, said the Grade 1 band has competed against itself this year on the Pacific northwest circuit, starting in May in Victoria followed by the B.C. Highland Games and Scottish Festival at Coquitlam Town Centre Park in June; last month, they also travelled to the Kamloops Highland Games and the Enumclaw event.
“We’ve had a great winter of rehearsals and we’ve been playing really well. We can hear it. The sound is where we want it to be and we’ve been very organized. That comes in part to Alan’s leadership,” he said, referring to Pipe Major Alan Bevan who took over from Terry Lee in 2013.
Maxwell added, “I think it’s easy to see that one thing leads to another. There’s momentum.”
On Sunday, the SFUPB will give a free outdoor concert on Burnaby Mountain at 2 p.m. (by the Lot E parking lot) before it flies to Scotland for the worlds on the Glasgow Green, Aug. 17.
Dowco’s past year also has seen growth, scooping the Bellingham Highland Games in June with its entire international crew. Two weeks later, it scored ninth overall — with an eighth place in the piping category — at the United Kingdom Championships in Belfast, North Ireland.
Dowco has placed in the world finals eight times in a row and “we continue to strive for improvements year over year,” pipe major David Hilder told The Tri-City News on Monday, noting the band has recruited top musicians such as Johnny Rowe, a world champion bass drummer from Toronto, and world champion lead drummer Gary Corkin, of Northern Ireland.
Dowco is playing three concerts at Bard on the Beach (during the Honda Celebration of Light), said Hilder who is one of four Tri-City residents in the band along with family members Shaunna Hilder (pipe sergeant), Andrena Hilder (lead tenor drummer) and Liam Hilder (veteran piper).
• The 71th annual World Pipe Band Championships are on Aug. 17 and 18 in Scotland. Visit theworlds.co.uk for more details about the bands, competitions and events at Glasgow Green.