Local Pipe Bands Win With Amazing Grace
It’s a fair bet that each pipe band preparing to compete Saturday at the Anne Arundel Scottish Highland Games had hoped—possibly even believed—it was truly ready.
By “ready,” I mean that each band had methodically selected three to five tunes up to a year before. Each had played the same three to five tunes over and over again, for hours at a time, week in and week out, until fingers could remember the notes even when the mind forgot them. They had incurred the ire of abandoned spouses. They had willingly submitted to the searing criticism of petulant pipe majors.
All this, for a contest measured in moments. A solid year of focused effort, sacrifice and commitment—all of it riding on one all-too-brief performance in the fading Southern Maryland sunshine. Win, place, show—or crash and burn.
Fortunately, for three Delaware-area bagpipe bands, it was a day of happy endings. The Ulster Scottish Pipe Band of Devon placed first in grade 3; the Philadelphia Emerald Society Pipe Band racked up a first in grade 4; and the Cameron Highlanders Pipe Band of Lafayette Hill notched a second in grade 4. (Pipe bands are lumped into grades so that they’re more or less evenly matched with the bands against which they might compete. Grade 5 is entry-level; grades 4 and grade 3 are more advanced; and grades 2 and 1 are reserved for the scarily good pipe bands. Not surprisingly, there are lots and lots of grade 5 bands in the United States, but there are only a few grade 1 bands.)
For those whose interests do not include the trials of bagpipe band competition (what’s wrong with you, anyway?), there were lots of other activities to keep you occupied in a Celtic sort of way, including sheep dog trials, Highland athletics, haggis eating (thanks, I’ll pass), shortbread nibbling (I’m there), music, Scottish dancing and more.