August proved to be a fruitful month for the SFU Pipe Band as they brought home three top international prizes.
After winning fifth place at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, the band continued momentum as two soloists – Craig Sutherland and Pipe Sergeant Jack Lee – were awarded top honours at the Argyllshire Gathering in Oban, Scotland, last month.
“Last year we placed seventh in the world, so this year we were hoping to break into the top six prize list once again,” said the band’s press manager, Kevin McLean, regarding the band’s expectations going into the World Championships. The band trailed only two points behind the fourth and third place teams, increasing anticipation for higher rankings in the upcoming years.
Sutherland was awarded the internationally prestigious Highland Society of London Gold Medal, which makes him the third gold medalist in the SFU Pipe Band. McLean emphasized the significance of the Pipe Band garnering a third gold medal.
“Most bands are incredibly lucky to have one, or perhaps even two [gold medals],” he said.
Pipe Major Alan Bevan and Lee were the two previous winners of the gold medal. By receiving the Former Winners March, Strathspey and Reel Prize at Argyllshire, Lee has won every major solo piping prize on the planet. He has been a prominent member of the Pipe Band for more than 35 years.
Sutherland is a much more recent addition to the team. Originally a Pipe Sergeant for the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band in Scotland as he studied electrical and mechanical engineering at the University of Strathclyde, Sutherland brought his talents to the SFU Pipe Band in 2015.
“Change was needed,” Sutherland commented, “and SFU was the obvious choice, being a well-established family of playing great music and teaching loads of kids . . . plus who could resist the possibility of travelling to British Columbia for a few weeks each year?”
Leading up to the Argyllshire Gathering, Sutherland’s aspirations were modest. “My goal for the next few years was to touch the bottom end of the prize list and cement for myself a regular playing position in the gold medal,” he said. Having completely surpassed his goals for the next few years, Sutherland is now aiming higher as he looks forward to playing for more gold medals in upcoming meetings.
McLean similarly spoke of a strong sense of confidence and optimism for the SFU Pipe Band’s future after these significant international wins, from senior and junior members alike. Peyton Stewart from the junior organization of the band — the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band — also brought home a win as he earned the Under-15 Piobaireachd at the Northern Meeting in Inverness.
“With now three gold medalists in the pipe section, a strong core of young in-town pipers and drummers, a young pipe major, and an enthusiastic and successful junior organization to help bolster our ranks in the coming years, we are very optimistic and excited for our future,” reported McLean.