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Milennium predictions

Published: November 30, 1999

[Originally published as an Editorial]

Since this issue of the Piper & Drummer is the last of this century, it’s fitting that we should try to put things into some kind of perspective.

The 20th century, without doubt, was the greatest ever for piping and drumming. Never has so much been achieved for the bagpipe and pipe band drums by so many over the last hundred years.

And we owe almost all of it to technology. Technology has brought pipers and drummers together. Technology has made it possible for piping to thrive world wide. Technology has allowed there to be a world standard of excellence for our instruments. Technology has allowed the Piper & Drummer to be feasible.

Looking back to the 19th century we can see just how far we’ve come. When the great piper D.C. Mather immigrated to Montana at the turn of the century he found himself smack dab in a piping wasteland with hardly a decent piper to found for a thousand miles. A hundred years later even Montana boasts pipers capable of playing a good Loch Carron.” If he were here today

North American Pipe Band Associations Summit Spurs Effort to Work Together

Published: October 31, 1999

A Salt Lake City, Utah, meeting of North American pipe band associations on October 15-17 has resulted in several initiatives for representatives to take to their respective constituencies.

At the meeting there was an agreement in principle on reciprocity between organizations for competition rights and adjudicators, as well as a resolution to ask attending associations to participate in an Alliance of North American Pipe Band Associations” (ANAPBA).

A formalized North American approach to control over band and solo grading was agreed upon

MacLellan Elected CPA President

Published:

Perth, Scotland – October 24, 1999 – Colin MacLellan was elected President of the Competing Pipers Association (CPA) here today at the organization’s annual general meeting at the Salutation Hotel.

MacLellan won the election in a close vote against Brian Donaldson of the Scots Guards, and Logan Tannock, of Tillicoultry (near Stirling).

In a somewhat surprising move, Donaldson was elected Vice President, beating Iain Speirs of Edinburgh in another close vote. Louise Hay and Jenny Hazzard were elected Secretary and Treasurer, respectively.

Six committee members were also elected: Jimmy McGregor, Brian Mulhearn, Arthur Gillies, Anne Spalding, Duncan Watson, and James Murray.

After the election, a positive discussion ensued on holding major recitals and teaching classes, and there was a proposal to use video as a means of establishing grading of CPA members.

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New Ross Bag Zipped Closure Saves Time and Headaches

Published:

There is little doubt, at least with the majority of pipers outside of the UK, that the Ross Canister Bag from Ross Bagpipe Reeds Ltd. is a dramatic breakthrough in moisture control for the Highland bagpipe. The Ross bag system is a brilliantly conceived mechanism for keeping wetness off reeds, thus improving steadiness.

The biggest drawback of the original Ross Canister bag is the clamp closure at the rear. The bar clamp mechanism is a nightmare to put on quickly, and, once attached, can come loose and blow in mid-performance, as happened to a piper with the Grade 1 St. Lawrence O’Toole band at the World’s this year – literally blowing their chances of getting into the final round.

Geoff Ross of Australia has come up with a solution: a high-tech zipper closure that makes access to the canister device and secure closure quick, simple, and failsafe.

The industrial zip binds the bag shut with an airtight, solid seal. Adjustments to the hoses, drying crystals, and canister can be completed in seconds. Anyone who has tried to secure the previous clamp device immediately before a contest has experienced fumbling hands and an inevitable degree of doubt as to whether the clamp will hold through the performance. Now, the clumsiest monkey could work with the new Ross zipper bag.

In addition to the new bag, Ross has also addressed a few problems with the hoses. First, the attachment to the chanter stock now makes a 90 degree turn, allowing the tube to be free of troublesome kinks, which can disrupt airflow. Second, the tube material itself is thicker and more rigid than the previous material, again alleviating the chance of the hoses folding over.

Of course the new bag and hoses come at premium – about $75 more than the original version. To any serious piper, this one-time charge is a bargain when compared with the accumulated hours of aggravation and risk that the comparatively poorly engineered clamp mechanism brings.

Geoff Ross is quickly establishing himself as the Thomas Edison of the Highland bagpipe. These improvements to the ingenious Ross Canister System are welcome, and take an already excellent product to an even higher level.

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Competing Pipers Association AGM October 24

Published:

The annual general meeting of Scotland’s Competing Pipers Association is to be held in Perth on Sunday, October 24, 1999, and high on the agenda is the election of a new president.

After the sudden death of CPA president Colin Drummond in July of this year, the position has remained vacant.

Purportedly throwing their respective hats into the ring are Colin MacLellan, Logan Tannock and Brian Donaldson, all well known pipers in the organization.

MacLellan, is originally from Edinburgh but lived in Canada for 23 years before returning to Scotland in August of this year, Tannock is from Tillicoultry near Stirling, and Donaldson has been a career Scots Guardsman.

The CPA was started in 1977 as an organization designed to look after the needs of pipers competing in UK competitions. Since then the association has gained worldwide membership, particularly from North American pipers.

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Colin MacLellan Takes Over Lothian & Borders Police

Published:

October 16, 1999 – Colin R. MacLellan will receive two piping appointments on October 18: he will become Pipe Major of the struggling Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band and a full time piping instructor at the Piping Centre in Glasgow.

MacLellan taking on the leadership of the storied Lothian & Borders Police (formerly Edinburgh City Police) comes at a time when the band is struggling for survival in Grade 1 on the RSPBA circuit. The band is thought to be on the verge of relegation to Grade 2 for the 2000 season. MacLellan replaces Willie McBride as Pipe Major.

As reported by the Piper & Drummer earlier this month, the Lothian & Borders Police will also have a new lead drummer, with the return of former World Solo Champion Arthur Cook, who left the Polkemmet Pipe Band, a group also said to be ready for downgrading.

One insider commented, The new combination of Colin MacLellan and Arthur Cooke leading the band will surely make the RSPBA think twice about downgrading Lothian & Borders Police.”

It is believed that professional solo piper Jenny Hazzard

Wicked Tinkers Entertain, But Too Often Struggle to Find Groove

Published:

The Los Angeles, California-based Celtic group Wicked Tinkers comprises Aaron Shaw on Scottish Highland and small pipes, and John MacAdams and Warren Casey playing a variety of drums. Shaw has gained some notoriety as a piper for his work on the soundtracks of Hollywood television and big screen movies, as well as with recording acts like Bonnie Raitt and Forest for the Trees.

The group’s latest effort is It’s Not About Pretty

World’s Recording Again Reveals All

Published:

The annual release of the recordings from the World Pipe Band Championships refocuses attention on the year’s biggest band contest, allowing post-season analysis to carry through the winter and into the next competition season.

For all the ballyhoo about the judging at the 1999 event, it’s important to say at the outset that, overall, the adjudicators performed their primary function just fine: they got the winner right. Going by what can be heard on the CD, Simon Fraser University is a good distance away from the rest of the pack when it comes to tone, unison and ensemble. It’s difficult to understand how any piping judge could have had them anything but first, but, amazingly, one of them managed it. SFU leaves little to quibble with and delivers two consistently solid performances.

The only other band close to SFU in terms of piping tone and unison across both performances is Field Marshal Montgomery, which finished third on the day. FMM’s MSR, in particular, is a case study in technical precision.

There’s plenty of good playing on the recording, with touches of brilliance along the way. ScottishPower demonstrates their ability to present tunes with the finesse of a top solo piper; McNaughton’s Vale of Atholl again stick their collective neck out with a musically adventurous medley; and Shotts & Dykehead comes in strong with their usual crowd-pleasing selection. David Urquhart Travel’s opener, Boxing With Cyclops

Alameda County Sheriff’s Department Band Folds

Published:

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department Pipe Band of California has been disbanded due to a loss of players after the band took second at the Grade 2 event at the 1999 World Pipe Band Championships on August 14.

Without a local base you can’t play jobs to raise money

First North America Pipe Band Association Summit Scheduled

Published:

The first ever North American Pipe Band Association Summit will take place at Salt Lake City, Utah, October 15-17, with representatives invited from the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario, British Columbia Pipers Society, Alberta Pipe Band Association, Atlantic Canada Pipe Band Association, Prairie Pipe Band Association, Saskatchewan Pipe Band Association, Eastern United States Pipe Band Association, Midwest Pipe Band Association, Southern United States Pipe Band Association, and the host Western United States Pipe Band Association.

The summit is designed to be primarily a discussion and brainstorming session over the three days, with representatives sharing ideas, experiences, challenges and visions for the future.

Possible topics include: Improving the quality of piping

The Rogues Create a Celtic Joyride

Published:

Only a decade ago, most North American Celtic groups were just loose imitations of bands like Battlefield, Tannahill Weavers, and Osian. Today, the United States, in particular, appears to be not just riding the wave of interest in Celtic music, but creating its own tidal force.

The Rogues – the Houston, Texas, quartet of two pipers and two percussionists – have just released Off Kilter

World Solo Drumming Championships Cancelled?

Published: September 30, 1999

The annual World Solo Drumming Championships are allegedly in jeopardy due to a sponsorship dispute.

Premier, the drum manufacturer and makers of the very successful HTS 700 pipe band snare, has reportedly pulled out of the underwriting arrangement after the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA) asked for £10,000 in return for the title sponsorship.

Premier has sponsored the event since the 1980s.

The RSPBA divulged its financial problems at its annual general meeting in March of this year, and subsequently slashed prize monies at its contests over the course of the summer.

The move to demand more money from Premier is seen by some as an aggressive attempt to help restore its coffers.

One drummer, who requested his name not be used, said, A lot of us think that the RSPBA are a bit greedy. With all the other money problems they have been having

MacDonald Wins Police Memorial Contest

Published:

Ottawa, Ontario – September 25, 1999 – Iain MacDonald of Toronto, Ontario, won both the light music and the piobaireachd events at the third annual Memorial Piping Competition here today.

The event is held each year in conjunction with Canada’s national police memorial weekend, which pays tribute to police officers slain or wounded in the line of duty in a ceremony on Parliament Hill.

Andrew Hayes of Ottawa was second in each event, while Matt MacIsaac of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Robert Crabtree of Toronto were third in the piobaireachd and light music, respectively.

Also competing were Michael Grey, Toronto, and Andy Rogers, Fredricton, New Brunswick.

Four invited competitors, John Cairns, Andrew Berthoff, Bill Livingstone, and Fraser Clarke were unable to attend due to prior commitments or illness.

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Are UK Pipers Late Adopters?

Published:

Synthetic bags. Plastic drones reeds. Pipe bag dehumidifiers.

Each of these innovations for the Highland bagpipe has been embraced first outside of the UK rather than in the home of piping.

Despite the fact that the Ross Canister Bag system was invented by Australian Geoff Ross, the product was on the market and available for the four years the Victoria Police Pipe Band used it as their secret weapon en route to winning the 1998 World Pipe Band Championship.

Similarly, the first semi-synthetic drone reeds debuted in the mid-1980s when the same Geoff Ross introduced his product. In 1993, RT Shepherd & Son of Scotland came out with the all-plastic drone reed.

Shortly thereafter, Mark Wygent of Pennsylvania improved on the concept with his Synthe-Drone product, inspiring numerous reedmakers to allegedly emulate the unpatented design.

The revolutionary Canmore Gore-Tex pipe bag came out around 1987, and the company recruited many prominent Scottish pipers to endorse the product. But despite the likes of Vale of Atholl, Alasdair Gillies and Andrew Wright playing their product, the vast majority of Canmore bag sales appear to be in the North American market.

While these products are now almost ubiquitous in North America, New Zealand and Australia, UK pipers using them are in the minority.

Looking around the Northern Meeting at Inverness this year, one couldn’t help but notice the many sheepskin bags combined with what sounded very much like cane drone reeds being played by Scottish pipers.

The North American competitors, nearly to a person, went with the synthetic bag and drone reeds combination, with the telltale Ross Canister bag silver clamp giving away their preference.

In speaking with several Scottish pipers, many insist that the tried-and-trusted sheepskin bag / cane drone reed blend is still the way to go.

The great Highland bagpipe did not change for 150 years

Pipe band world moves into migratory season

Published:

The echoes of the final march past have only just ended, and the pipe band world (at least in the Northern hemisphere) has commenced its yearly off-season of members leaving and joining bands.

Arthur Cooke, lead drummer of the Grade 1 Polkemmet Pipe Band of Whitburn, Scotland, has decided to return to the Lothian & Borders Police, a band he played with previously. Cooke is a former winner of the World Solo Drumming Championship.

Both Polkemmet and Lothian & Borders Police are thought to be on the brink of being relegated to Grade 2 by the RSPBA, and Cooke’s move may simultaneously save the police band and sink Polkemmet.

As reported earlier, Michael Grey resigned as Pipe Major of the Peel Regional Police Pipe Band in early September. John Elliott, Pipe major of the band before Grey took over, has resumed command.

According to Elliott, “We have lost two side drummers, who have already been replaced by three side drummers, and we lost one piper who was going to leave the band anyway. The rest of the band members have no intention of leaving and are as determined as myself to keep the band moving forward. We have also picked up five new pipers so far with the potential of more joining.”

The highly successful Dumbarton & District Pipe Band is allegedly on the brink of collapse, as its Pipe Major, Mark Bennett, has decided to resurrect the Torphichen & Bathgate Pipe Band. Torphichen was one of the oldest bands in the world until it ceased operating several years ago.

The majority of the Dumbarton pipe section is apparently coming along with Bennett to Torphichen. Torphichen is expected to compete in Grade 2 in 2000.

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Terry and Jack Lee receive Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal at national ceremony

Published:

Jack and Terry Lee, the famous piping brothers from British Columbia, Canada, were each awarded Canada’s Meritorious Service Medal in a ceremony in Ottawa on September 10.

The awards are thought to be the first of their kind given to Canadian pipers.

Canada’s Governor General, Roméo LeBlanc, presided at an investiture of the Meritorious Service Decorations at La Citadelle in Québec, acknowledging the Lees for their exceptional deeds or accomplishments performed over relatively short periods of time.”

The awards to the Lees were two of the 21 Meritorious Service Medals given in the civil division.

Art the ceremony

78th Frasers bring “Flame” concert home

Published:

Toronto’s 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band will take the stage at Hamilton Place in Hamilton, Ontario, on October 2-3, 1999, with a performance of the band’s Flame of Wrath” production.

Sponsored by the Hamilton Wentworth Police Pipe Band

Robert Wallace takes directorship of College of Piping

Published:

Glasgow, Scotland – September 10, 1999 – Robert Wallace, winner of this year’s Clasp at Inverness, has agreed to become Director of the College of Piping in Glasgow, thus ensuring the future of the venerable organization.

Wallace will also assume the editorship of the Piping Times, the publication founded in 1947 by the late Seumas MacNeill.

Since MacNeill’s death in 1994, the college and the magazine have been run by Dugald MacNeill. The college has survived despite the substantial success of the Piping Centre, supported by considerable government and corporate funding.

There will be a transitional period for Wallace to establish himself in the role, with MacNeill assisting with the process.

Wallace’s digest publication, The Piper Press, will cease production, with subscribers being moved to the Piping Times if they desire.

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Cairns Wins Rare Double

Published:

Inverness, Scotland – September 8-9, 1999 – John Cairns of Ontario completed one of the rarest of piping feats by winning the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal for piobaireachd at the Northern Meeting in Inverness, thus becoming only the twelfth piper in 250 years to obtain “The Double” – winning both Gold Medals in the same year.

The last time it was done was in 1970, when Andrew Wright of Paisley turned the trick.

“I’m still in shock,” Cairns admitted the day after. “Winning at Oban was great, but this is something else.”

Robert Wallace of Glasgow won his first Clasp, the competition reserved for previous winners of the Gold Medal at Oban or Inverness. Wallace played “The Battle of Waterloo” to capture the prize.

Bruce Gandy of Summerside, PEI, won both of the A Grade light music events, the first time the trick has been turned since Jack Lee in 1979.

James Murray won his first Former Winners’ Silver Star March, Strathspey & Reel, besting perennial favourite and nine-time winner Alasdair Gillies of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Jenny Hazzard of Woodbridge, Ontario, and now living in Glasgow, won the Silver Medal, with Andrew Hayes of Ottawa, Ontario, second.

Gold Medal: John Cairns (“My King Has Landed in Moidart”), 2nd Alasdair Gillies, USA, 3rd Iain Speirs, Edinburgh, 4th PM Michael Gray, The Highlanders, 5th Douglas Murray, Glenrothes, Scotland.

Clasp: Robert Wallace, 2nd Niall Matheson, 3rd Stuart Shedden, 4th Willie McCallum.

Silver Medal: Jenny Hazzard, 2nd Andrew Hayes, 3rd Liam Brown, 4th Innes Smith, 5th James McHattie

Grade A March: Bruce Gandy, 2nd Douglas Murray, 3rd Iain Speirs, 4th Andrew Matheson.

Grade A SR: Bruce Gandy, 2nd John Patrick, 3rd Andrew Matheson, 4th Peter Hunt.

Hornpipe & Jig: Angus MacColl, 2nd Roddy MacLeod, 3rd Robert Crabtree, 4th Stuart Liddell

Grade B March: James MacHattie, 2nd Allan MacColl, 3rd Michael Rogers, 4th Jenny Hazzard

Grade B SR: Chris Armstrong, 2nd James MacPhee, 3rd Allan MacColl, 4th Jenny Hazzard.

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MacLellan, Tannock to run for CPA leadership?

Published:

We have learned that Colin MacLellan of Glasgow and Logan Tannock of Tillicoultry are each reportedly interested in vying for the presidency of the Competing Pipers Association.

With the sad and sudden loss of Colin Drummond, the CPA leadership position became available.

MacLellan, who in August moved back to Scotland after over 20 years living in Canada, currently lives in Glasgow, with his wife, Jenny Hazzard, a native of Toronto, Canada. MacLellan has won the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting, in addition to the Silver Chanter (twice), and virtually every major piobaireachd prize.

Logan Tannock, a successful professional piper for over 20 years and a winner of many prizes, has been involved with the CPA for several years, and is currently Vice President of the organization.

The CPA boasts a membership of over 300, and was formed in 1977, mainly as a union to address problems of ever increasing numbers at the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting competitions. It was the CPA that initiated and still sponsors the Silver Medal competitions at those two events.

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Michael Grey steps down as Peel Regional Police Pipe Major

Published:

Toronto, Ontario – September 1, 1999 – Michael Grey has resigned as Pipe Major of the Grade 1 Peel Regional Police Pipe Band of Brampton, Ontario. Grey had accepted the invitation to take over the band in late 1994.

It was an extremely difficult decision for me

Northern Meeting seen as World Solo Championships for pipers

Published: August 31, 1999

The pipe band world has the official World Pipe Band Championships, and the closest thing solo piping scene has to a true world championship is the Northern Meeting at Inverness. This year’s contest will again be held at the sumptuous Eden Court Theatre in Inverness.

The Highland Society of London Gold Medal and the Silver Medal – both piobaireachd events – will be held on Wednesday, September 8th, while the Clasp (reserved for winners of the Gold Medal at Inverness) and Silver Star March, Strathspey & Reel take place on Thursday the 9th.

For each of the piobaireachd contests, the Piobaireachd Society sets a list of tunes from which competitors must submit four and play one. Players do not know which tune they have to play until the player immediately preceding them takes the stage.

The Former Winners MSR is generally considered the most exciting piping competition in the world. The nerve-racking event has been won an unprecedented nine times by Alasdair Gillies, who now lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but who is originally from Ullapool and served for many years with the Queen’s Own Highlanders.

Gillies has a good chance again to take this year’s Silver Star, although Willie McCallum of Bearsden, Scotland, threw down a significant challenge at Oban’s Argyllshire Gathering on August 26 by winning that event’s Former Winners MSR.

As with every Northern Meeting, additional excitement surrounds the Gold Medal, in which the winner of the Gold Medal at Oban vies for The Double” by winning also at Inverness. John Cairns of London

Who, what or where is Lochanside?

Published:

A poll of pipers on what their favourite tune is would probably uncover John McLellan DCM, Dunoon’s Lochanside” near the top of most lists. McLellan’s three-parted 3/4 march

ScottishPower pulls off upset at Cowal Championships

Published:

Dunoon, Scotland – August 28, 1999 – Pipe Major Roddy MacLeod’s ScottishPower Pipe Band pulled off the year’s biggest upset by winning the RSPBA’s Cowal Championship here today. Also a surprise, Strathclyde Police finished second, actually tying ScottishPower for first. The Power won on ensemble preference.

In third was Shotts & Dykehead, the band that finished second at the World Championships two weeks ago, but was favoured by most to take Cowal and the World’s.

Rounding out the Grade 1 list were Field Marshal Montgomery in fourth, McNaughton’s Vale of Atholl fifth, and Boghall & Bathgate sixth, on ensemble preference over David Urquhart Travel.

Grade 2 was won by Northern Ireland’s Ballycoan, with Bucksburn & District second.

ScottishPower managed to win despite an eighth placing in drumming. The band’s other three placings were firsts, including of course the decisive first in ensemble from judge Wilson Young.

With Young being a drummer, it perhaps begs the question of how a band can be first in ensemble and still be eighth in drumming – or vice versa.

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What do you think? We always want to hear from our readers, so please use our comment system to provide your thoughts!

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New Ezeedrone bass reed adds length to sound

Published:

The highly successful Ezeedrone reeds from Glasgow piper Ronnie McShannon have just been 33% revamped with the development and introduction of a newly designed bass reed.

The previous model of bass reed was often criticized for not blending well with the tenor reeds. McShannon has attempted to solve the problem by creating a bass with a substantially longer body – one the approximate length of a traditional cane bass.

Length of tongue, materials, and basic structure of the new bass reed appear to remain the same. Some elements of workmanship have evidently improved, though, with the tuning screw at the end of the reed working more efficiently, and the reed as a whole being more responsive.

The result of the lengthening of the bass is improved tone and stability, with the bass now blending better with the Ezeedrone tenors. Pipers who once had to resort to playing a different bass reed will likely now find it easier to play the reeds as a set.

The new Ezeedrone bass has just now started to be made available from dealers around the world, and can also be purchased directly from the manufacturer in Glasgow.

Approximate price of the new bass reed is £25.

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