Pipe Band third in the world

30 November 2023

St Andrew's College Pipe Band in Scotland celebrating placing third in the world in 2023.

Facing fierce competition, the St Andrew’s College Pipe Band played exceptionally well at the Pipe Band World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, to finish third in the Juvenile Grade (Under 18). It was a remarkable achievement to finish in the top three out of 45 Juvenile bands competing at the World Championships, against the ‘best of the best’.

St Andrew’s was the sole New Zealand representative in the Juvenile section and was one of only five bands out of the 45 to qualify for the top Juvenile grade, against four seriously competitive Scottish bands.

After an outstanding performance of their March, Strathspey and Reel, the band knew they had given their absolute best, and the third placing was an exciting reward, says Pipe Band Director, Richard Hawke.

“The band played incredibly well on the day. It is made up of a very talented group in both the pipe and drum sections, albeit on the younger side compared to our Scottish competitors. With the cancellation of our trip in 2020, this meant it was first time competing in Scotland at the World Championships for all our students. It was an adventure into the unknown, and I thought everyone performed under the pressure of the occasion extremely well. After a great performance it was fantastic to end up a very close third behind George Watson’s College who finished second, and the clear winners, Dollars Academy.”

The Pipe Band students, along with Richard Hawke, and the band’s tutors and instructors, had dedicated over two years in preparation for the championships. The event itself was a real spectacle, with over 35,000 spectators over the two days of competition to witness 5000 competitors in 190 bands, from 15 countries performing.

Student pipers performing in Scotland.“For all of us, life has presented its challenges over the past three years with many events being restricted or cancelled due to COVID-19. As a band, we have adapted and continued our strong Pipe Band teaching programme at the College. An event like the World Championships provided the tutors with strong motivation to keep developing our individual students to the best of their ability. The team really had no idea of the scale of the event they were about to be part of. To perform as they did and to be so well rewarded is a true testament to this amazing group,” says Richard.

Rector, Christine Leighton, who was with the Pipe Band at the World Championships, says the third placing was a ‘truly phenomenal’ effort. “The competition was fierce, and the band played superbly, giving a top-level performance. When they finished their piece, you could see they were thrilled with their performance and there were grins all round. Not only this, but the band were also an absolute pleasure to be around for the whole trip. They were inclusive, helpful, disciplined, and focused, having fun, and grateful for the great trip that was organised for them. A huge thank you to Pipe Band Director, Richard Hawke, and the band’s tutors and instructors whose skill and dedication contributed to St Andrew’s being superbly represented on the world stage.”

Overall, it was an exciting two weeks in Scotland for the Pipe Band and their supporters, who combined sightseeing with the business end of the competition. During the first week, the group visited Stirling Castle, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The band also visited the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral, where Rector, Christine Leighton, shared the rich history of St Andrew’s College and the significance of the School Song.

A special highlight was the band’s performance at the Cathedral Ruins where they entertained a large crowd with a bracket of tunes as the sun shone down on the spectacular surroundings.

In their warm-up for the World Championships, the band competed in the North Berwick competition, where they secured victory in the Juvenile drumming and an impressive second place overall. At the Perth Highland Games, the drum corps clinched another victory, and the band achieved second place in the Juvenile event.

The St Andrew’s Pipe Band staff and the 40 or so parents who went on the trip also had a superb time. A core group of staff worked incredibly hard looking after the students’ meals, washing, organising, and providing support.

This wasn’t the only success for the St Andrew’s touring party at the World Championships. Several band staff competed in Grade 1 as part of the Canterbury Caledonian Band. In this highly competitive grade of the top 19 bands, the Caledonian Band came a highly creditable 10th place. The ‘Cale’ band included Pipe Band Director, Richard Hawke; Pipe Band Manager, Graeme Bryce; drumming tutors, Jamie McEwan and Tiffany Gilchrist, and casual drumming tutor, Brady Swann, plus many other Old Collegians including Jamie Hawke (OC 2006) as the Pipe Major.

“While we didn’t come home as World Champions, we take great pride in knowing we are among the best in the world. The lasting memories of the different places we visited, the friendships formed, and the cutting edge of pipe band competitions will be with us all for a very long time.”

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