The biggest championship in the world for pipers and drummers is this weekend in Scotland.
And 20 Tri-City residents — from two different Grade 1 bands — will be there to play their medleys and March, Strathspey and Reels in the hopes of winning the coveted title.
The Port Coquitlam-based Dowco Triumph Street Pipe Band, led by pipe major and PoCo resident David Hilder, will be up against 21 other Grade 1 ensembles, including six-time champions the SFU Pipe Band, which is managed by Coquitlam’s Rob MacNeil.
Each band has 10 representatives from the Tri-Cities although MacNeil won’t be performing.
Last year, both teams fared well at the worlds: SFU clinched seventh place overall while Dowco took 10th spot overall out of 22 groups hailing from Canada, the U.S., Scotland, Northern Ireland, Eire and New Zealand (the Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band from Northern Ireland defended its title).
The Tri-City News was unable to reach Hilder before the Dowco contingent flew out last week; however, MacNeil said he’s confident about SFU’s chances on the Glasgow Green.
On Wednesday, the 52-member band — led by pipe major Alan Bevan — will play a sold-out show at the at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. The concert is titled Nous Somme Prêts (French for We Are Ready).
MacNeil said only Grade 1 bands who can fill the 2,000-seat auditorium in downtown Glasgow are invited to perform to help kick off the international piping contest.
The invite comes as SFU marks its 50th anniversary. And MacNeil said tickets for this year’s event ran out two weeks ago. “Definitely, people are looking forward to seeing the pipe band and are looking forward to a great show,” he said, adding, “This gives us a chance to spread our message of the university engaging the world.”
It is the third time SFU has been asked to play the prestigious hall. In 2002 — a year after it won the worlds — the team it played the Glasgow venue as well as a big hall in Belfast. Both sold out, MacNeil said. “People just know SFU is a draw no matter where we go in the world.”
Already, the SFU band has had a banner year leading up to the 2015 worlds, he said. It secured the overall position at all the competitions it attended and travelled the province to work on its competition and concert material.
Last month, it hosted a preview worlds show in Vernon, which sold out.
Also in July, the SFU band swept all Grade 1 events at Enumclaw in Washington State with Coquitlam piper Alastair Lee and snare drummer Grant Maxwell each taking professional solo prizes.
In an SFU news release, Bevan said the band has spent the past two years preparing for this summer’s schedule and has paced itself accordingly.
Added MacNeil: “When we’re doing this breadth of activities… it has this effect of the band raising its game. We just think that, like the title of the Glasgow show, Nous Somme Prêts, that we are ready for the worlds.”
• To live stream the competition on Aug. 14 and 15, go online to the worlds.co.uk.