Pipe band champs come to Nelson

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There will be plenty of colour and sound when the Royal New Zealand Pipe Band Championships are held at Trafalgar Park this Friday and Saturday.

It is the third time the annual championships have been held in Nelson since the competition started in 1926.  Local band, The Celtic Pipe Band Inc, from Stoke are this year’s organisers.  President Bryce Gilchrist, says the committee of eight have worked consistently for two years to organise the large event.

“We recently received sponsorship funding from the Nelson Events Marketing and Development Programme, which is funded by the Nelson City Council. It is anticipated that this event will bring approximately two million dollars into Nelson’s economy over the weekend”.

There will be 45 Pipe Bands and 1300 players competing in the championships  from all over the world.  The bands from New Zealand come from as far north as Whangarei and as far south as Invercargill and there will also be three bands competing from Australia.

Not only is President, Bryce, involved in the organisation of the championships, he will also compete on the day with the Nelson Celtic Pipe Band.  Being involved in the Nationals is a family affair with his wife Helen, Secretary and Drum Corporal and Custodian of the band and Liaison Officer of the organising committee and their four children playing in the band alongside them.

“Banding is very much a part of our lives, it is something we do as a family.  We are up late at night and the house is overrun with pipe band equipment but it is something we all have in common and it is one of the strong points of our band,” says Helen.

The Nelson Celtic Pipe Band includes 27 members and they are currently ranked top band in New Zealand in the grade three competition. Helen says it is a tough grade to play in but it would be the band’s dream to win in front of a home crowd.

A band is made up of pipers, snare and tenor drummers, a bass drummer and a drum major.   There are 16 judges, 15 officials and guest judge, Mayor of Tasman, Richard Kempthorne, who will judge the display.  The bands are judged on their musicality, precision, ensemble, marching and dress.   There are two major elements to a competition, the Set and the Medley and combined it provides the overall result of the championship.

Bands are all graded one to four, with one being the top grade.  There are six pipe bands from the top of the south and three competing in the championship.  The Celtic Pipe Band and the City of Nelson Highland Pipe Band will compete in Grade three, so there will be healthy competition between these two local bands.  The Celtic Pipe Band Development Band will also compete in their first ever full competition, at the National Championships.

In addition to the performances at Trafalgar Park, Nelson will be treated to a spectacular march through the streets of Nelson on Saturday.   All 45 bands will compete in this march which will start at 9am on Saturday, from Millers Acre, turning into Trafalgar Street and ending outside Subway in Bridge Street.   The Mayor of Nelson, Rachel Reese, will officiate, taking the salute from the Drum Major as the band marches past.  At around 11.30am, the Grade four bands will all march back to Trafalgar Park together as a massed band.  Bands may also support their drum major in a staff flourishing contest, which will be held on Saturday afternoon, with the high spinning lethal staff, always a great crowd pleaser.

At the end of the contest all bands line up ready for a massed band performance with a final closing ceremony and contest presentations.