B.C. pipe band's drum corps ranked best in the world

·3 min read
The SFU Pipe Band during its world championship performance in Glasgow, Scotland on Aug. 13, 2022. (Submitted by SFU Pipe Band - image credit)
The SFU Pipe Band during its world championship performance in Glasgow, Scotland on Aug. 13, 2022. (Submitted by SFU Pipe Band - image credit)

The drum corps of Simon Fraser University's (SFU) Grade 1 pipe band has been named the best in the world, and the band ranked sixth overall after a remarkable showing at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, last week.

"Winning the best drum corps prize is no small feat," drummer Reid Maxwell told On the Coast guest Host Belle Puri on Tuesday.

"It was a really humbling, tremendously humbling experience for me."

Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band of Northern Ireland took home the big prize for best pipe band this year.

The SFU Pipe Band has won the World Championships six times.

They've performed at world-renowned concert halls such as Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, and the Lincoln Center.

Submitted by SFU Pipe Band
Submitted by SFU Pipe Band

Maxwell, originally from Scotland, has been with the band for nearly 30 years and has won the drum corps title six times, five of which have been with SFU. However, he is the only one who was there the last time the whole band won in 2009.

The championships' commentators took note of his skill during the performance on Saturday, saying, "the poise and the confidence and the delivery of the reels and what Reid delivered at the back end to support this performance was first rate."

"I had one of those sorts of euphoric moments, shall we say, on Saturday when everything is going so well," Maxwell said. "It's that kind of unbelievable feeling."

The band was forced to practise individually through the early months of the pandemic — not an easy feat for a 46-person crew.

"Lots of Zoom," Maxwell laughed.

Submitted by SFU Pipe Band
Submitted by SFU Pipe Band

However, once restrictions eased, the drummers were able to easily gather again because they could remain masked while playing. The pipers did not have that luxury.

Four weeks after the drummers started practising together, the pipers were able to do the same and ultimately prepare to win it all.

"I think just being incredibly organized and very well rehearsed, which I think we really were, made a massive difference to how we were able to pull off at the end of the day," Maxwell said.

"It's still a little surreal to be winning again. I'm not exactly a spring chicken anymore myself. It's just unbelievable."

Submitted by SFU Pipe Band
Submitted by SFU Pipe Band

Robert MacNeil, the president of the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band Society, says Maxwell is an "exemplary leader" and credits him with mentoring the drum corps to the point they've won this title.

"There are so many young women and men in the corps who have worked so hard and now have realized a life-fulfilling goal. It's moments like these that are so heartwarming to witness firsthand."

Drummer falls ill, backup called in

The win didn't come without a bit of drama; the band's bass drummer fell ill with COVID-19 and was forced into isolation days before the competition.

Ali North, a backup drummer who had been practising with the band in case something happened, was called into action.

"I sort of look back at it now and think about how easy we were able to make that happen," Maxwell said.

"Amazing on her part. She probably didn't have enough time to think about things, and that's why she did so amazing."