DUNEDIN – “We’ve come a long way in a short period of time.”
That’s how Iain Donaldson described his reaction to the news that his Dunedin Pipe Band was promoted to the Grade 1 category on Dec. 1 by the Eastern U.S. Pipe Band Association. Dunedin now joins the ranks of the world’s top 22 bands and is the only member of these exclusive ranks that resides in the United States.
The new designation was somewhat expected, considering Dunedin captured in August this year’s Grade 2 title in Glasgow, Scotland.
“But there are no guarantees,” said Donaldson, the band’s major, “because most pipe-band societies re-grade by committee and there is always debate.”
One could have been that Dunedin was only a Grade 2 designee for two years.
Still, Donaldson figured the group’s accomplishments likely made it hard to resist.
“This past season for us was pretty incredible, that’s for sure,” said Donaldson, who not only led Dunedin to titles in every 2018 competition it entered but a clean sweep of all championship categories on the Glasgow Green.
However, despite the upgrade, 2019 won’t see the band go a long way – as far as geography goes. Donaldson said that due to the burden of costs his band won’t be attending the world championships, again held in Glasgow.
“It’s not part of our three-year plan,” said Donaldson, who said next year’s big trips will be to Canada in both June and August, the latter being for the North American Championships.
Furthermore, he wants his group to be in perfect form for its Grade 1 debut across the sea, which he said will be in 2020.
“Not only do we have to balance everything (regarding finances), we want to get up to speed,” he said.
That’s not to say the band will be shy with its travel ambitions, as Donaldson said a trip to New Zealand is being targeted for the future.
Back on the home turf, getting up to speed begins in earnest in January when the first of three grueling four-day rehearsals start for the band’s 48 members. They consist of long weekends in January, February and March where those from out of town come to Dunedin and bunk up with other band members. Every detail is covered and the musical numbers are memorized.
“The music selections have been made and the scores have been written, so we’re on track for our rehearsals,” Donaldson said.
The band held its first performance with the recent holiday parade through downtown Dunedin and will next perform locally during April’s Highland Games.
In March, it will be marching in Fort Lauderdale’s version of the same.
It will be mostly business as usual, but the business-like Donaldson does admit the new status is exciting.
“We’re very excited, and relieved, because this was one of our goals,” he said. “It’s hard to believe it has already happened.”