College of Piping bands ready to compete at worlds in Glasgow, Scotland

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Drummer Sam Ramsay, left, foreground, and the College of Piping’s director of education, James MacHattie, plus a some of drummers, right, will form part of the college's Grade 3 and Grade 4 pipe band contingent attending the World Pipe Band Championships later this month in Scotland.

SUMMERSIDE — Marches are perfected, drums and pipes are ready.

The College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts, for the first time, is sending two bands to the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland.

A year has been spent fundraising the $130,000 needed to cover the cost of the trip.

“We have met our fundraising goals, so that is great. That never really ends,” said the college’s director of education, James MacHattie. “That is the operating budget for the three bands plus the trip to Scotland.”

A total of 77 — chaperones, support staff and band members — will be leaving on Aug. 8 for Scotland and returning to the Island on Aug. 19. The World Pipe Band Championships take place on Aug. 15 and 16

“Right now the focus can simply be on performance and getting that to be as consistent as we can,” said MacHattie.

The last time the College of Piping competed at the worlds was in 2012, when they placed fifth in the Grade 3B level.

The Grade 3 and Grade 4 bands will be divided into three bands when they arrive in Scotland due to their sheer size.

“Our Grade 4 band is competing in Grade 4B in a field of 58 bands,” said MacHattie. “They all run at the same time.”

The top six bands in each heat will compete in the final. It all happens in one day.

MacHattie said the 45 to 50 pipers and drummers, ranging in age from 13 to the oldest who is in her 60s, are ready to compete.

“You never know with a panel of four judges,” he added. “It comes down to what they want to hear. Whether we get a great result or not, I am confident that in our grade we will put out one of the very best performances of the day.”

MacHattie, before joining the College, twice won first place in the top grade of the world competition and has been giving his students advice on how to handle the pressure of competition.

“If they are consistent then they are better prepared to manage getting nervous,” said MacHattie.

Getting nervous isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“If you channel that adrenaline into positive feelings, because you are so well prepared, it turns into excitement.”

Not one to make predictions, all the piper would say about the college’s chances at the worlds is that this would be their best showing to date.

“All we can control is what we do,” said MacHattie. “Their instructions when they go out onto the field is don’t do anything special or beyond your abilities, just go out and do what we have been working towards all year. That’s the key.”

The College of Piping’s Grade 4 and Grade 3 bands are currently the 2014 Maritime Pipe Band Champions.

Most members of the Grade 4 band that have never been on a plane before, let alone travelled to Scotland and competed in such a high-pressure event.

“My hope is that they get all their nervousness out when flying and then the easy part is just playing in the contest,” said MacHattie.

With the Grade 3 band, all but a few have competed in Scotland.

“We have had two years of growth and development since then and we have improved drastically,” he added. “If we get results, that’s outstanding and very exciting. The goal is to have a performance that we would be happy with in practice.”

But the competition begins before the worlds.

A day after stepping off the plane, both bands will compete in North Berwick on Aug. 10 and the following day in Perth.

There will also be performances on Aug. 11 at Piping Live 2014 and the Grade 3A band will perform the following day at National Piping Centre in Glasgow.

MacHattie’s only worry now is ensuring everyone, including instruments, arrive in Scotland safely and in one piece.

“Bagpipes can be taken apart and they will all go as carry on. There is no concern of those being lost. The drums have to be checked.”

To date, the college has never lost an instrument or had one damaged en route to the World Pipe Band Championships.

Organizations: College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts, National Piping Centre

Geographic location: Scotland, Glasgow, Iceland North Berwick Perth

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