It was a National championship to remember for the ILT City of Invercargill Highland Pipe Band organisation for more reasons than one.
They took all five of their bands up to Napier (Grade 1, Grade 4A, Grade 4B, Juvenile A and a Juvenile B) last weekend, and arrived back in the Deep South with two Nationals titles (Juvenile A and Grade 4A), a Runner-up (Grade 4B) and a 3rd equal for their Grade 1 band.
Scotsman Ali MacKenzie, Pipe Major of the Grade 1 band and Piping tutor for the Grade 4 and Juvenile teams explained further, “It was a funny season as it was with Covid early on in and then reappearing right around the time of some of our minor contests locally, the one in March in particular when we went into Level 2 meant our last hit out on the board had to be cancelled.
That being said we were lucky to have had a season at all when we see our friends overseas who have had nothing now for 12 months or so.”
Around 50 bands competed at the National Championships from all around the country. The championships are split into various grades – Grade 1, 2, 3, 4A and 4B and also a Juvenile event.
Also said it was a fantastic effort by everyone, in terms of our committees, fundraising etc, which meant all five bands could make the trip north.
Strong support from local trusts namely the ILT and Community Trust of Southland have also been huge in helping the bands put their best foot forward in recent years.
“We are at our most strongest when we are altogether, each band is just as important as one another, which is why we have such a strong culture – whether you are just starting your pipe band journey in Grade 4B or competing at the very top level in Grade 1, each grade is just as important as the rest for the structure, and I think having that mindset and the teamwork involved by everyone is allowing us to have continued success on a National level, not just in one grade now but multiple grades. Each player is on their own musical journey and each win is treated as a win for all the organisation.”
Ali said Grade 1 is an elite grade – there are only 21 bands in the world, and after last year’s Grade 2 title on home soil, the Invercargill No.1 band gained promotion at the 2020 Nationals last March.
ILT City of Invercargill make up one of the five in New Zealand along with Canterbury Caledonian, Manawatu Scottish, Auckland and District and New Zealand Police Pipe Bands.
There is also a Juvenile event in which 12 Juvenile bands competed for the top title at this year’s championship.
Such is the quality of the teaching programme going on in the Deep South, Invercargill managed to field two Juvenile teams (an A and a B team).
The Juvenile A team for the 2nd successive year took out the top prize, fending off St Andrews College, Christchurch, an ex-world champion school band and also the Lewis Turrell Memorial Trust Pipe Band based in Hamilton, another high performing Juvenile outfit.
Ali was “blown away” with the level of the Invercargill Juvenile performance on a cold Saturday morning describing it as “absolute world class”.
The organisation reached a 10 year goal in 2020 with their first National Juvenile title and were delighted to be able to go back to back with their 2nd Nationals win last weekend.