Survey: 100 year evolution of pipe bands

Bowhill Colliery Pipe Band pictured in 1947, the year of the very first World Pipe Band Championships. The contest was held in Murrayfield in Edinburgh.

To support Michael Grey’s 100 Years of Pipe Bands project, here provides an edited version of his recent survey launch. We encourage all those interested to complete the survey. will be the first to publish the outcome and summary.

By Michael Grey

In listening to a recording of the 1947 World Champion, Bowhill Colliery Pipe Band, I got to thinking about the many, often dynamic, changes that have come to pipe band music over the last 100 years. From music to pitch and overall sound the transformation of the art form over a relatively short period has been remarkable. You can hear Bowhill Colliery here.

Bowhill’s march, strathspey and reel is interesting – if not the easiest listening – in part, because parts of tunes have not been repeated to fit the three minute and 30 second recording limit of the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) 78rpm record. This is from a Beltona production recorded during the band’s winning year. Their tunes: Highland Wedding, Athole Cummers and Mrs MacPherson of Inveran.

I imagine I could sit in some isolated garret and gamely whip up a fair view of the musical transformation of pipe bands over the course of a century. The problem, I think, is that this would show my biases (and probably be really cold and uncomfortable).

So. A survey. It’s likely the best way to get to the heart of the matter. With your help we’ll get to the heart of the question: how have pipe bands evolved over the last 100 years?”

Brief survey is here.

Also pictured above is a 100 year timeline, one, admittedly, showing my bias. While I initially thought this century-long timeline would be more focused on music than events, my thinking shifted after reflecting that my opinion might come across as leading – or misleading.

Noted here are less musical and more technical changes. The chart above might help remind you of the musical – as well as the technical – evolutionary tracks of pipe bands.”

A summary of the survey input will be published here.