Brisbane Bagpiper - Nick Tomkins - recently travelled to the land of the long white cloud, to Wellington and Palmerston North NZ to compete with the Grade 1 Manawatu Scottish Pipe Band (known as "the 'Tu") at the Square Day competition.
Nick can be seen in the front rank on the left next to Pipe Major Stewart MacKenzie. Square Day begins the competition season for the 'Tu which Nick is a part of, culminating in another trip to Glasgow Green to fight it out with the Worlds Best Bands!
As you can see from the picture above, Gr 1 bands tend to have larger numbers than the average bands. However, each and every player must be on the top of their game to create a harmonious sound, whilst playing tunes of a very high technical difficulty.
For local competitions in NZ Gr 1 bands submit 1 MSR (March, Strathspey, Reel) and 1 Medley of tunes to compete with against other Gr 1 bands. For the National Championships in March 2 MSR's will be required with 1 Medley, with the marshall choosing which set they wish to hear only once the band is at the line. At the World Championships 2 MSR's and 2 Medleys are required, again both chosen on the line. This creates an extra layer of pressure as you don't know what you are going to play until the point when you are playing it.
A recording of the Medley is below. As you can hear, the tunes build multiple crescendo points, adding harmony and detailed drumming effects, culminating in a crisp finale. The medley consist of an introdcution hornpipe (Peter R Flexman APM), some uplifting jigs (James McLellan's Favorite, The Famous Baravan), a haunting slow air (Lament for Freeman's Whistle), some snappy strathspeys (Lachine Rapids, Fiona MacDonald) and some forward moving reels to drive it home (Broadford Bay, Urban Hero).
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