The Fifth Annual Queen Mary Scottish Festival
February 14 & 15, 1998

If you've never been to the Queen Mary for a piping contest, you are missing a very unique and enjoyable event.  Imagine these walkways filled with a combination of sightseers, wedding parties, tour groups, pipers warming up, tuning up, and competing pipers - then add the 'interesting weather' - very windy and heavy rain at times- then you have an idea of the Saturday (Valentines Day) of the QM this year.  

This picture was taken early Saturday, before the crowds showed up, and there were large crowds this year.  Most of the solo piping events take place in small areas 'roped out' of the walkways.  This is an event filled with distractions, but equally distracting for all.  If you can keep your focus here, you have little to worry about in other locations.

Steve Armstrong  (the piping and other things coordinator) seems to be everywhere, and with his helpers (sorry but  I don't know their names)  he does an excellent job of keeping these events moving and under control.  This is a very well run  contest - everything ran very close to the scheduled time.  Results were posted within minutes of events completing, and the bad weather of Saturday did not seem to create any unplanned problems (even the programs had an insert to describe the plan in event of rain).  The crowds, and the weather were an additional challenge (as compared to past years), but from my observation things went well indeed. 

Our family looks toward the QM contest as the start of the competitive bagpiping year, and it is obvious that  each year more of the WUSPBA solo membership feels this way too.  Each year this contest (speaking from the solo piping perspective) gets bigger and better, and this was by far the biggest and best.  More than 80 solo pipers registered, world class (I seem to use that phrase quite often, but it is true - again) judges,  and large solo piping classes.  Results, and judges have already been listed (linked from the NEWS page), so you've seen one reason why so many upper grade amatuer solo pipers show up. Another reason is.. well it is just a fun / interesting / unique place to be.

This picture is from Elizabeth Dunsire's Grade 4 2/4 March playoff, she is playing for Andrew Bonar.  (My kids, my camera - hope you don't mind)  This was as much room as any solo player had for their competition.

I know of  three pipers that made their new grade debut at this contest - each must be pleased with their results. (Megan Harrington in Grade 3, Ann McPherson in Grade 2, and Alison Dunsire in Grade 1)

Saturday evening was the annual invitational solo piping contest judged by Ian McLellan.  Each competitor played for the large crowd for at least 15 minutes.  This event was worth the $5 spectator fee (I don't remember paying in the past for this event - maybe I missed it?).  Contestants were P/M Richard Parkes, Steve Megarity, Andrew Bonar (he won - it was obvious), and Kenny MacLeod.  All four are great pipers, and I'd pay to listen to any of them any time.

Sunday afternoon was the annual mini band medley contest.  This event was well attended by Grade 3 and 4 bands,  but sadly (to me at least) there were no Grade 2 or  Grade1 mini bands competing.  (I don't know why the LA Scots didn't compete against themselves in grade 1).

In Grade 4 there were mini bands from: LA & District, MacIntosh, Misty Isle, RP Blandford & Son.

In Grade 3 there were mini bands from: Mesa Caledonian, RP Blandford & Son, Cameron Highlanders, Nicholson, and (two) from Prince Charles.  (Yes  indeed, WUSPBA has quite a group of Grade 3 bands this year) 

We have been to each of the 5 QM contests, and this was the biggest and best (from the solo piping view).  I know there was also a dance contest, but I don't know about it.  I was a bit disappointed that WUSPBA's grade 2 bands did not enter in the mini band contest, but that is just my selfish - I wanna hear 'em - view.

To sum it up - a wet and wild day Saturday, nice weather Sunday.  A very well run and well attended solo piping contest, with lots to see and do throughout the days.

Two thumbs up.

Bob Dunsire 2/17/98

Copyright 1998 Bob Dunsire