SUMMERSIDE – The College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada reaches a milestone this year and is celebrating it in a big way at the end of June.
“2014, we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the College of Piping with enhanced events this year,” said college executive director, Karen Hatcher. “The Summerside Highland Gathering is returning and we’re tagging it ‘Homecoming Summerside Gathering,’ reaching out to as many alumni as we possibly can so we can have a reunion pipe band of some sort and possibly a mass Highland fling with alumni.
‘Highland Storm’ is on stage again this summer.”
In August, two college pipe bands will be competing for world titles in Glasgow, Scotland.
“The college now supports three competitive pipe bands,” Hatcher said. “Our Grade 4 pipe band under the direction of pipe major Kylie MacHattie and our Grade 3 pipe band, under the direction of pipe major James MacHattie, are taking these two bands to Scotland.”
James said the bands will be competing with the best the world has to offer.
“The main contest is called the World Pipe Band Championships and that’s on Saturday, Aug. 16, in a big park in the middle of Glasgow called Glasgow Green,” he said. “There are well over 200 pipe bands usually competing in different grade levels. We expect between 30 to 40 bands in our own grades.”
The pipers will be doing more than just competing in the world championships.
“To warm up, and get the jitters out, we’re going to play two contests the weekend before,” MacHattie said. “One is in a place called North Berwick and then in Perth which is in the gateway to the Highlands. The week building up to the world championships is a festival called Piping Live 2014. That’s a series of concerts, little competitions, big competitions, all over Glasgow. We’ll be participating in that.”
He said the bulk of the bands are from Scotland, Canada and Ireland and they come from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Hong Kong and Mexico.
James said he usually shies away from making predictions but did say the college bands have the capability of being the best band in their grades.
“All we can do is to go out and play our best and then it’s out of our hands. It’s in the hands of the four judges,” he said.
The bands leave on Aug. 7, arrive in Glasgow on Aug. 8 and start competing on Aug. 9.
“We have to go through a qualifier at the worlds,” Kylie said. “So, it’s not guaranteed that we’ll make the finals. Each band must go through a qualifier in the morning. It’s an exhausting process when you play at 9 a.m., wait four hours for the results of the qualifier and then have to play again.”
Drumming instructor Chris Coleman is spearheading the fundraising efforts for the trip. The fundraiser began last September.
“Upcoming, we have a concert in New London that’s happening on May 3,” said Coleman. “We also have quilt raffles going on, we have meat sale fundraisers at the Butcher Shop. The band will be holding a yard sale, June 7 here, at the college. We run the concession stands at our Highland Gathering which is June 28, 29.”
Coleman said the bands raffled off a trip for two to Scotland and the winner will be travelling with the bands. There is also a 50/50 weekly draw.
Hatcher said it will cost approximately $100,000 to take the bands to Glasgow for the world championships.
“College resources do not financially support the pipe bands,” she said. “They have their own initiatives, their own accountability and they have to raise it themselves. If the mark isn’t hit, then it comes out of pocket individually and not out of the coffers of the college. This is the first time in the history of the college that the bands have been completely financially sustainable.”
Hatcher said the last time such a financial goal was set, the bands not only met their goal but exceeded it and donated $10,000 back to the college.
She said the support the college receives from the community both financially and through volunteerism is overwhelming and a big thank you is planned.
“Before we get on the bus and the plane to go to Scotland, here, at the college in the theatre, we’ll do a free pipe band concert to say thank you to the community for the support. That is Friday, Aug. 1.”