Walloped by hefty wind and driving rain at a crucial time in their play, the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band placed fourth on Sunday in the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.
“Not what we came for, but we’re in the prizes,” said Pipe Major Terry Lee as first place went (for the ninth time) to the Field Marshal Montgomery band from Northern Ireland. Second was Scotland’s Boghall and Bathgate band and third was Scottish Power.
SFU, a six-time championship winner, placed third last year behind the Montgomery band and Scottish Power.
Pipe Sergeant Jack Lee said the fourth-place standing was “disappointing, but we have been here for 32 years and this isn’t our lowest point by any means. We can say the weather was a factor, but the Montgomery band is great, and they had two great performances.
“There are few bands in the world who can beat Montgomery, and I know we’re one of them. So we’ll be back.”
Things went well for the SFU band in its March, Strathspey and Reel (MSR) program on Glasgow Green on Sunday morning. But during its Medley performance Sunday afternoon the band was hit by a downpour of cold, driving rain and wind gusting to more than 45 km/h (blowing some spectators’ umbrellas inside-out).
“It was going pretty good for us until the weather hit us like that. Not the worst we have ever had in 32 years, but close. Then after that we get this (sun, and some dry, blue sky that followed the short storm) and it’s not a level playing field. The bands after us have an advantage,” said Jack Lee.
“The judges aren’t allowed to take the weather into account. They have to judge each band only on what they hear. They might give you just a little leeway, but they can’t go ‘Well, SFU would have been better if the weather had been better.’
“There is no ‘would have’ in the subjective judging. They judge on what they hear.”
Piper Angela Burleigh added: “In that wind, you think, ‘OMG, am I going to lose my blowpipe out of my mouth?’ Then it’s ‘Am I actually going to get blown over?’
“I mean it, literally. The wind started to blow me backwards. I had to move my feet apart to avoid being blown over. Then you start to laugh inside because it’s so ridiculous.”
Lead drummer Reid Maxwell agreed.
“It was a bit hurricane-like in the middle there, for five or 10 seconds.”
In contrast, the day started well with the morning MSR performance, Jack Lee noted.
“It was very, very good. It felt solid. It was much colder than Saturday. That means the pitch of the pipes goes lower. We got adjusted to that, with fingers crossed that the judges were okay with it.”
It rained, but nowhere near as hard as it did for SFU in the afternoon. Speaking of the morning’s rain, Terry Lee said.
“You have to keep thinking, ‘It’s not raining’; it’s not affecting me or my pipes; it’s not happening.’ You concentrate on your fingering and what you’re doing.”
The band was the first of the elite Grade 1 bands to play in both morning and afternoon.
“There’s a bit of a competitive advantage in not being first,” Jack Lee said. “If you’re up first, you really have to wow the judges so they remember later – after hearing 11 other bands – how well you did.”
Adds Reid Maxwell: “We had a great run, really good, a great start to the day. It’s fun even when the wind is blowing.”
Sunday morning was the first world-finals round of play for a newcomer to the band, piper Jamie Kubasiewicz of Winnipeg.
“It’s pretty nerve-wracking, but I’ve been working hard all year,” he said. “You work hard and you know your stuff. Still, I was nervous. It’s the biggest stage I’ve ever played on, with the cameras and the crowds. Members of the band told me, “Just enjoy it’, and I think I did.”
The band was one of 23 Grade 1 bands in the competition, which drew 225 bands from 17 countries, featured more than 8,000 pipers and drummers, and attracted an estimate 30,000 spectators over two days.
The finals on Sunday ended a week in which:
• Jack Lee won the Masters Invitational Solo Piping contest in Glasgow. With the win, Lee earns an invitation to the Glenfiddich Championship in Scotland in October. Lee, who has won numerous major prizes as a solo player, was the first North American piper to win the Glenfiddich Solo Piping Championship 10 years ago (2003).
• SFU Drum Major Jason Paguio won his fourth world title. He collected on Saturday his third adult world title, to go with those he won here in 2007 and 2010, and the world juvenile crown he scooped in 2007 (he also won U.S. titles in 2009 and 2010).
• Piper Andrew Bonar took the trophy as best overall piper from a field of more than 50 pipers at the Perth Highland Games.
• Meanwhile, the SFU band’s veteran Scottish member, piper Robert Mathieson, showcased his paintings of famous pipers and drummers to a standing-room-only crowd during an art exhibition kicking off Piping Live, celebrating its 10th anniversary.