17 July 2018
Whether or not you know your chanter from your blowpipe, you’ll find something to love at The Worlds.
But if you’re a piping novice, and would like to understand a little bit about how pipe band competitions work, then here’s a beginner’s guide to competing at the World Pipe Band Championships, affectionately known as ‘The Worlds’.
The Pipe Bands
There are several different grades of pipe bands competing at The Worlds, from Grade 1, the highest standard of players, through Grades 2, 3A, 3B, 4A and 4B, and the under-18s Grades: the Juvenile and Novice Juvenile bands, with the newest players competing as Novice Juveniles. On these grades, only the Pipe Major can be over 18.
There is no upper limit to the number that can perform in a pipe band, but there is a minimum, which changes dependent on the grade the band performs in.
You don't have to wear kilts to play here
Not all pipe bands appear in kilts, the rules dictate only that bands should wear uniform dress, which may not necessarily include kilts or tartan, but may include national dress. But don't worry kilt lovers, you'll see many kilts on display over the weekend!
The tartan that each band wears is listed in the Worlds Programme, next to the Pipe Band name.
In Grade 1, all bands will compete twice each day, and will perform an ‘MSR’ and a Medley.
The 'MSR' is a set consisting of three traditional types of tune: a March, a Strathspey and a Reel. The Medley is free choice; each band plays a unique medley they put together themselves and can be much more inventive, for instance including jigs and slow airs, and with different time signatures.
Bands perform in a circle, facing inwards.
Each performance is judged by four adjudicators: Two piping judges, who listen carefully to the pipers, another who is focused on the drummers, and a fourth who judges the overall ensemble performance. Judges are very experienced musicians themselves, who have all been accredited by the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA).
The Drum Major
The Worlds also includes the prestigious Drum Major competition, when solo performers, also from around the world, compete for the championship title. The Drum Major is a ceremonial role and performers are assessed on their dress and deportment as well as their musical ability – which makes this contest a spectacle in itself!
The March Past
The Worlds closes with the impressive March Past, when every band joins a huge procession to salute The Worlds’ Chieftain. A real highlight of the day, this is a spectacular celebration of the event, and everyone who has come together to compete. It culminates in the truly unique sight (and sound) of every piper on site playing in unison! NOT to be missed.
How can I follow all the action at The Worlds?
With so many pipe bands performing, there are several arenas with simultaneous performances happening across Glasgow Green. A competition schedule is published before The Worlds each year so you can find out which grade is playing where, and when. On the day, a programme is also available to buy.
This year’s schedule can be found on the RSPBA's website.
The World Pipe Band Championships take place on Glasgow Green on Friday 17 and Saturday 18 August. Book your ticket now.