WHEN it comes to marching to the same beat, Ipswich Thistle Pipe Band is the best - just ask the judges at the Australian Pipe Band Championships.
The band sent 24 pipers and drummers to Sydney for the competition, with a goal to finish in the top five in their division, said band secretary Katrina Mead.
"The last time we entered the Australian titles was in 2010, so this is a whole new experience for most of us," Ms Mead said.
The win comes at the start of a busy month, with band members also performing on stage in Brisbane with Andre Rieu for two nights.
Pipe major Rod Smith said: "The Andre Rieu shows are the second time we have played with him.
"We were asked back in 2007 if we could provide some pipers for his show, we went and had a great time, and we have been asked to go again this year as well," Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith said Ipswich would provide close to half the band for the two shows, with a total of 40 pipers and drummers on stage.
"The biggest challenge is there are no opportunities for rehearsal, we turn up on the day and play that night," he said.
Fortunately, the requested songs were "bagpipe standards", Mr Smith said, making it easier to combine pipe bands at short notice.
Rehearsals for the Australian Championships had band members gathering three times a week for six months.
"We were in the Grade Four competition in Sydney, so it was hard work to get a group of 20 players ready," Mr Smith said.
He said the band also played in competitions around Queensland.
"We went to Sydney confident of a top-10 finish, we had our consistency right, we peaked at the right time, ready for the titles," he said.
The competition involved three set performances, a march, a strathspey and a reel. Mr Smith said the band could pick the tunes.
"We prepared a medley of six songs, and the judges liked what they saw and heard," he said.
Band members are now helping organise the 2018 Australian championships, to be held on the Gold Coast.
"The Australian Championships are every two years, so we have a lot of work, both administratively and as performers, but we are keen to be involved," Mr Smith said.