Simon Fraser University
SFU Pipe Band in Scotland

The famed Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, four times world champion, got set this week to pursue a fifth title.

They practiced in the cold and damp of a grey Glasgow in preparation for the 2008 World Pipe Band Championships on Saturday (Aug. 16) on Glasgow Green.

"It's been a bit hit-and-miss because of the weather,' reports Pipe Major Terry Lee. "But it's been a very good week. We're happy with how we're preparing and we're ready to go.'

The World Pipe Band Championships are Scotland's largest annual musical and cultural event, with an expected 40,000 visitors, 8,000 pipers and drummers and 200 bands from 16 different countries this year.

The SFU band first won the world Grade 1 title on Glasgow Green in 1995, then repeated in 1996, 1999 and 2001. In 2002, SFU was second behind the Field Marshal Montgomery Band from Northern Ireland. In 2003, SFU placed third. In 2004, it again was second behind Field Marshal Montgomery. SFU placed third in 2005.

Led by the two Lee brothers – Terry and Pipe Sergeant Jack Lee – and lead drummer Reid Maxwell, the band again placed second in 2006 and 2007, narrowly losing out to the Montgomery band on both occasions.

This year's competition has special meaning for Terry Lee. It's the first year his son Alastair, who also leads the organization's junior affiliate Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band, will be performing with him in the Grade 1 final.

But family ties are nothing new in the SFU Pipe Band. Jack Lee's oldest and middle sons Andrew and Colin are both band members, as is his niece Brittany.

Drummer Maxwell's son Grant has also been playing in the band for several years. "There aren't many bands anywhere, no matter what level, that can boast so many father-son connections,' he says.

The band also includes four married couples; a brother who plays the pipes while his sister drums; two brothers who travel all the way from Scotland to play with the band each year; and two brothers who regularly commute from Calgary.

But the commuting title belongs to Steven McWhirter, arguably the finest pipe band drummer in the world, who lives in Northern Ireland but moves to Burnaby every spring and summer to play with Simon Fraser.

"We have people from all over,' says Maxwell. "In the drum corps we have three from Northern Ireland, three from the U.S., three from Scotland.

"Also, we have Stuart Liddell, possibly the world's best piper, who's been travelling from Scotland since 1998 to play with the band.'

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