The Glengarry Highland Games are held each year in the small community of Maxville, Ontario, which is about a one hour drive west of Ottawa, Ontario. This is one of the largest Highland Games in the world, with attendance this year over 25,000 spectators. This year, the City of Dunedin Grade 1 Pipe Band traveled up to the contest to compete at the event, which holds the title of “North American Pipe Band Championships”. The band last traveled up to the prestigious event in 2019 and were fortunate to be the first American pipe band since the 1960’s to win the grade 1 title.
Most of the band, including myself, traveled to Ottawa on the Thursday before the games, arriving in the mid-afternoon. Despite some rainy weather that evening, we still managed to have a productive evening in Ottawa by getting the drums up to pitch for the weekend and finding a long enough break in the weather to practice some introductions for our sets.
The Friday of the weekend was a busy day of preparation. I started with small group work with some of the out-of-town drummers, while others continued to work on drum sound and getting all the drums up to competition-ready pitch. We then had a full-corps afternoon rehearsal, a few hours of down-time, and then a full band rehearsal in the evening to get our final reps in before the big day.
Saturday morning I headed to the park early to accompany one of our tenor drummers in her solo competition performances. The bus was loaded up with drums, harenesses, tents, coolers, lunches, and water and arrived at the park just before 10am to set up camp for the day. Most generously, many members of the community who live near the park offer their yard space for the many pipe bands to warm-up and gather during the day, away from the crowds inside the park.
After the band meeting at 11am, we had a short run-through to give the pipes a blow and a listen to the drums, mainly to ensure everything was in good working order after the travel from Ottawa to the Games and to get everyone focused on the music for the day. The rehearsals and warm-up went well and it was a very smooth day for our preparation. We were very pleased to deliver two excellent performances on the competition field, particularly with our medley event. Unfortunately, in the final moments before the band was scheduled to compete, our pipers had to cut a few players whose bagpipe was just not locking into tune at that point. In grade 1, the expectation for tone is extremely refined. While we delivered two solid runs, this meant our size was a bit smaller, and this hurt our overall impact as a band on the field. We finished 3rd in the contest, and while we wished we had placed higher, we are extremely proud of our performances and all the hard work that went into achieving that standard.