World’s format to stay the same for 2015

Published: October 13, 2014

The set-up for the 2015 World Pipe Band Championships will repeat that of 2014, with the Grade 1 qualifying competitions held on Friday and all other qualifiers and finals on Saturday.

According to the organization, the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association conducted a review of the 2014 format and concluded that it should remain the same, requiring all Grade 1 bands on Friday to compete in both a Medley and March, Strathspey & Reel event, with bands split into two qualifying section, and six finalists from each section moving on to compete in the 12-band Grade 1 Final of Saturday.

The 2015 World’s will be held on August 14th and 15th at Glasgow Green in Glasgow.

The August 2014 contest was the first time that the competition held events on the Friday. The previous year the World’s was held in a Saturday-Sunday format.

Competing on a Sunday was unpopular with bands travelling from abroad as it forced working pipers and drummers to add an additional day of vacation time to their World’s trip. The Sunday schedule also went against the religious beliefs of some pipers and drummers.

Inveraray & District competing in the main arena on the Saturday of the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships.

The Saturday at the 2014 World Championships saw the Grade 1 Final complete by 3pm, leaving a considerable break between it and the closing ceremonies, providing time enough to hold the Grade 2 Final in the main arena before a mostly empty grandstand.

The use of the Friday caused some disruption to the massive Piping Live! Glasgow International Festival of Piping, with a noticeable decline in momentum during the week due to Grade 1 pipers and drummers using the Thursday to focus on the Friday qualifier.

Some attending the 2014 World’s remarked that the contest should simply revert back to a one-day competition in which all Grade 1 bands compete in both the MSR and Medley, saying that the qualifier and final format is unnecessary.

pipes|drums created a popular video from last year’s competition, 2014 World Pipe Band Championships Sights & Sounds, which works to capture the essence of the two-day event.

Rudolph wins everything at Ackroyd Challenge


Gareth Rudolph

Johannesburg – October 11, 2014 – There were four events at the P-M George Ackroyd Challenge Solo Piping Contest held at The View in Johannesburg, and Gareth Rudolph won the lot. Craig Paxman was the overall winner in the George Ackroyd Amateur competitions. The event is named for the late Scotland-born piper who immigrated to South Africa and helped to establish piping and drumming in that country. The amateur event was added this year.

The late Pipe-Major George Ackroyd

Piobaireachd (eight competed)
1st Gareth Rudolph
2nd Brandon Holz
3rd Chris Couperthwaite
3rd Alex Jeanrenaud
Judges: Tommy Knobel, Struan Young

March (14 competed)
1st Gareth Rudolph
2nd Alex Jeanrenaud
3rd Michael Langley
4th Nick Taitz
Judge: Rob du Toit

Strathspey & Reel (14 competed)
1st Gareth Rudolph
2nd Nick Taitz
3rd Alex Jeanrenaud
4th Chris Couperthwaite
Judge: Roger Davies

P-M Allan Watters Jig Challenge: Gareth Rudolph



Hilder wins overall at 32nd annual Nicol-Brown Amateur Invitational

Published: October 12, 2014

Liam Hilder

Albany, New York – October 11, 2014 – Liam Hilder of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, was the overall winner of the Nicol-Brown Amateur Invitational Solo Piping Competition held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It was the 32nd annual Nicol Brown event, which pits 10 of North America’s most successful amateur solo pipers from the previous competition year. Hilder was awarded funds to get to the Scottish Piping Society of London’s competitions in November 2015 and a McCallum Bagpipes McC2 pipe chanter with a custom-designed sole. Andrew Hayes and Michael Rogers judged all three events.

The nonprofit pipes|drums Magazine donated monetary funds to the event, and pipes|drums advertisers Lee & Sons Bagpipes and also contributed prizes.

Competitors and judges at the 2014 Nicol-Brown Amateur Invitational

Piobaireachd (Robert Nicol-Robert Brown Chalice)
1st James Dyson, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, “MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart”
2nd Kevin McLean, Maple Ridge, British Columbia, “The Red Speckled Bull”
3rd Sean Regan, Woodstock, Virginia, “Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon”
4th Liam Hilder, “Hector MacLean’s Warning”
5th Tyler Harris, Wheatley, Ontario, “Too Long in this Condition”

MSR (William Ross Challenge Targe)
1st Liam Hilder, “Abercairney Highlanders,” “Delvinside,” “The Sheepwife”
2nd Jack Williamson, Topeka, Kansas, “Brigadier General Ronald Cheape of Tiroran,” “John Roy Stewart,” “Ca’ the Ewes”
3rd Tyler Harris, “The Taking of Beaumont Hamel,” “The Islay Ball,” “Bessie McIntyre”
4th Kevin McLean, “John MacDonald of Glencoe,” “Ewe wi’ the Crookit Horn,” “Loch Carron”
5th Andrew Hahn, Valley Center, California, “The Clan MacColl,” “Piper’s Bonnet,” “John Morrison, Assynt House”

6/8 Marches (Donald MacLeod Memorial)
1st Tyler Bridge, “The Bonawe Highlanders,” “Dundee City Police Pipe Band”
2nd James Dyson, “The Dornoch Highland Gathering,” “All the Blue Bonnets are Over the Border”
3rd Kaitlin Kimove, Stoney Creek, Ontario, “MacLeod of Mull,” “John Gordon of Drummuie”
4th Liam Hilder, “Fairview Cottage,” “The Trees of North Uist”
5th Kevin McLean, “The Braemar Gathering,” “Mrs. Lily Christie”

Also competing was Maeghan Bielski, Middleboro, Massachusetts.

Shotts calls the kids for new juvenile solo competition


At 103 years old, one might think the legendary Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band doesn’t have much time for youth, but the exact opposite is reality, as the band is planning the first annual Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Juvenile Solo Piping & Drumming Championships on Saturday, November 29th, at Calderhead High School in Shotts.

The band has partnered with the local North Lanarkshire Council, and staff and students from Calderhead High School are pitching in to help with the event.

Competitions across all aspects of piping and drumming are planned, with 10 different event categories, from beginner practice chanter and sticks and pads, to piobaireachd, to “freestyle” events, with all contests judged by established and accredited adjudicators.

According to the band, they were motivated to organize the event to “give back to the North Lanarkshire community, as well as a way of investing in juvenile piping and drumming talent in Scotland.” Many members of the current Grade 1 Shotts band teach are professional teachers and active in piping and drumming instruction.

Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia competing at the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships.

The band has had a long-standing relation with the North Lanarkshire school system, started under long-time Pipe-Major Robert Mathieson.

The band said that the juvenile competition is “another in a list of changes brought about by the new leadership of Pipe-Major Ryan Canning.” Canning took over the role in August 2012.

“I’m really excited about the launch of the Shotts &Dykehead Caledonia Juvenile Solo Piping and Drumming Championships,” Canning said. “This is such a worthwhile project, and is something which I hope the band will continue to deliver on an annual basis. As a pipe band organization we were keen to do our part to promote worthwhile opportunities to support the development of youth piping and drumming.”

Entries are open until November 15th via the band’s website.

Drumming and piping judged at charity “solo” event in Livingston

Published: October 9, 2014

Livi_Innvitational_poster_2014When RSPBA adjudicator Jim Baxter decided to organize a new drumming competition in Livingstone, Scotland, in aid of the local Enable Club charity he decided it wouldn’t be a predictable event.

The LIVI INNvitational Charity Solo Drumming Competition on November 8th will feature some of the world’s greatest pipe band snare drummers, who will deliver a traditional MSR and a “Freestyle” selection, and their piper(s) also will be adjudicated by accredited judges and the crowd of more than 120 who will pack the Livingston Inn hotel.

All 120 tickets were sold out within only a few days of it being announced.

  • Gordon Brown, Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia
  • Stephen Creighton, St. Laurence O’Toole
  • Callum Firth, Torphichen & Bathgate
  • Willie Glenholmes, Cullybackey
  • Jake Jørgensen, ScottishPower
  • Jim Kilpatrick, Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia
  • Andrew Lawson, Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia
  • Mikey McKenna, St Laurence O’Toole
  • Aaron McLean, Field Marshal Montgomery
  • Chris McNicholl, Inveraray & District
  • Steven McWhirter, Inveraray & District
  • Eric Ward, Greater Glasgow Police Scotland

The MSR drumming judges will be Arthur Cook, Gordon Craig, Mick O’Neill and Paul Turner, and Jim Campbell and Robert Mathieson will assess the piping. All of the judges are RSPBA accredited for pipe bands, but neither of the piping judges are on Scotland list of solo adjudicators approved by the Joint Committee for Judging. The judges are contributing their services for free.

The MSR will be followed by a Freestyle event, where competitors have eight minutes to entertain. The Freestyle will be judged by the audience using voting cards.

“It’s a bit of an innovative touch for a solo drumming contest, which has attracted interest from people buying tickets and also suppliers,” Baxter said. “The room will be a capacity, as it will be tables and not just rows of seats as is normally the case at indoor competitions.”

All proceeds from the event are going to Enable, a charity for those with learning difficulties and other special needs. Baxter said that the cause is dear to his heart because of a friend whose son goes to the local Enable Club, and Baxter has performed with his own son at several of the club’s events.

Jim Baxter said that, while the RSPBA is not directly involved, he cleared the event with the association even before he began organizing it in January of this year.

2014 World Pipe Band Championships Sights & Sounds

Published: October 7, 2014

pipes|drums revisits the World Pipe Band Championships, the biggest event of the pipe band year, with our annual highlights montage video of images, comments, interviews and scenes with pipers, drummers, bands, and enthusiasts.

More than 200 bands competed at the 2014 World’s over two days at Glasgow Green, Glasgow, where the Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe Band of Belfast won its fourth consecutive Grade 1 title, and tenth overall.

This year’s highlights video runs 10 minutes and features the performance of Gaelic singer Rachel Walker and the Great Glasgow Police Scotland Pipe Band from the band’s August 13th “Ceolry” concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. So, sit back, look for people you might recognize, and enjoy the sights and sounds from the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships.


Faye Henderson wins overall at Capt. John Memorial

Published: October 5, 2014

Faye Henderson

Edinburgh – October 4, 2014 – Faye Henderson was the overall A-Grade Champion at the annual Captain John A. MacLellan MBE Memorial Solo Piping Competition held at Redford Barracks outside of Scotland’s capital city. Duncan Beattie got the overall in the C-Grade, and, had an overall prize been awarded in the B-Grade events, Sandy Cameron would have received it. Organized by the military, the contest pays homage to the prodigious contributions of John A. MacLellan to piping.

1st Faye Henderson, Edinburgh
2nd Gordon McCready, Renfrew, Scotland
3rd Peter McCallister, Dunblane, Scotland
4th Jenny Hazzard, Edinburgh
5th Darach Urquhart, Glasgow
Judges: Ronnie McShannon, Andrew Wright

1st Cameron Drummond, Edinburgh
2nd Sarah Muir, Glasgow
3rd Kevin McNulty, Glasgow
4th Peter Hunt, Irvine, Scotland
5th Craig Sutherland, Crieff, Scotland
Judges: Ian Duncan, Tom Speirs

1st Sandy Cameron, Roybridge, Scotland
2nd Sarah Muir
3rd David Shedden, Glasgow
4th Edward Gaul, Dundee
5th Kristopher Coyle, Northern Ireland

1st Steven Gray, Lockerbie, Scotland
2nd Bradley Parker, Northern Ireland
3rd Scott Barrie, Ayr, Scotland
4th Kristopher Coyle
5th Sandy Cameron

1st Duncan Beattie, Ayr, Scotland
2nd Scott Barrie
3rd Rebecca Tierney, Strathaven, Scotland
4th Brian Mulhearn, Troon, Scotland
5th Andrew Bova, Glasgow

1st Glenn Ross
2nd Edward Gaul
3rd Fraser Allison
4th Jonathan Simpson
5th Jonathan Lamberton

Open Hornpipe & Jig
1st Craig Sutherland
2nd Cameron Drummond
3rd Steven Gray
4th Sarah Muir
5th Andrew Bova
Judges: Ian Duncan, Ronnie McShannon, Tom Speirs, Andrew Wright


Conway takes over New Zealand Police in January

Published: October 4, 2014

Emmett Conway as a guest piper with the New Zealand Police.

The 10-times World Champion Field Marshal Montgomery are providing another Grade 1 band with a leader, with long-time FMM piper Emmett Conway taking over the Pipe-Major role of the Grade 1 New Zealand Police.

The 22-year-old Conway replaces Iain Robertson, who willingly stepped down after eight seasons at the helm of the New Zealand Police. Robertson will stay with the band long-term, and also maintain the leadership role until Conway immigrates to New Zealand from Northern Ireland in January 2015.

Conway has played as a guest piper with New Zealand Police for the last two southern hemisphere outdoor seasons, so he is familiar with the band and the country. He joined Field Marshal Montgomery at the age of 16.

“When Iain offered me the position I had no hesitation in accepting,” Conway said. “Having been a guest player for the past two years I know the quality and calibre of players there are to push the band forward. The Pipe Band scene in New Zealand is strong and I will be looking forward to tapping into that talent to build a stronger pipe corps and band.”

Conway is the second FMM piper to seize a pipe-major role with a Grade 1 band, following Ryan Canning’s move to the pipe-majorship of Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia in 2012.

“After an extensive period of rebuilding and changes in the band I am very proud of the advancements the organization has made,” Robertson commented. “There are too many highlights to mention but bringing the band back to a point where we can once again resume competing at an international level was always the main goal and we have achieved that. I feel the time is right to hand over leadership to someone who will be able to take the band to the next level on the world stage.”

New Zealand Police competing at the 2014 World Championships.

“I’m leaving behind many friends, however opportunities like this do not present themselves that often,” Conway continued. “I would like to thank Pipe-Major Richard Parkes for giving me the opportunity to play among such a talented group of players. I have learned so much under Richard’s musical leadership and I will always be extremely grateful for that. It has been a privilege and an honour to have played with Field Marshal Montgomery.”

Robertson said that as a result of no longer running the band he is looking forward to spending some more time with his family.

Robertson will lead the New Zealand Police likely for the last time at Palmerston North Square Day in December. Angus Crowe remains the band’s leading-drummer.

The New Zealand Police competed at the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships last August, but did not qualify for the Grade 1 Final, finishing last in both events in their group.

Ewan Henderson elected Glasgow Skye pipe-major

Published: October 3, 2014

Ewan Henderson as a member of the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band, with the 2006 European Championship trophy.

After a search that started in the middle of the summer competition season, the Grade 2 Glasgow Skye Association Pipe Band of Scotland has elected Ewan Henderson as its new pipe-major. Henderson replaces Kenny MacLeod, who announced his plan in July to leave the post following the 2014 World Championships.

Henderson was elected ion a band vote on the night of October 2nd, and comes to Glasgow Skye from the Grade 1 Greater Glasgow Police Scotland Pipe Band, to which he returned in 2013. He previously was with the band (then named the Strathclyde Police) from 1998 until 2010, and served as pipe-sergeant under then Pipe-Major Donald MacKay.

Henderson is originally from Yorkshire, England, and was pipe-major of the Grade 2 Williamwood Pipe Band of Glasgow from 2010 to 2013.

“The band members are delighted with the appointment and everyone is keen to see the progress that is made under the new leadership,” said Glasgow Skye Treasurer Dougie Orr. “This is an exciting time for the Skye and it is hoped that under his leadership, the Band can now move forward on a positive footing.”

Orr added that those interested in joining the band are welcome to contact him via the group’s website.

Glasgow Skye is one of the world’s more established pipe bands, competing mostly in Grade 2, but rising to Grade 1 status several times in its history.

Alberta scene reaching new heights with three new Grade 2 bands

Published: October 1, 2014

While other regions in Canada are struggling to maintain numbers, the pipe band scene in Alberta in particular is enjoying a surge of success.

Starting with the Rocky Mountain Pipe Band of Calgary, former pipe-major Sean Somers has returned to the post after serving as pipe-sergeant in 2014 when the band received a first-place from every judge it played for in Grade 3. The band will move back to Grade 2 status, with former Grade 1 Alberta Caledonia pipe-major Andrew Smith taking the pipe-sergeant spot. Somers was the band’s pipe-major for several years, beginning in 2008.

According to Somers the band’s roster includes more than 30 players, including new Leading-Drummer Trevor McKay, who brings experience as a member of the Grade 2 Glengarry Pipe Band of Ontario and the Grade 1 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) Pipe Band, and a brief stint with Rocky Mountain in 2012 and ’13.

Rocky Mountain plans to compete in Grade 2 at all regional contests, and has indicated that it will work to get to the 2015 North American Championships at Maxville, Ontario.

Meanwhile, in Edmonton, the North Stratton Pipe Band has been founded, and will apply to the Alberta Society of Pipers & Drummers to compete in Grade 2, with Hugh Armstrong . . .

Continue reading

Hall takes snare title at South African Drumming Championships

Published: September 28, 2014

Steve St. Clair-Hall in the middle with his pipers Damien Pitman and Gavin Abell, also of African Skye.

Johannesburg – September 27, 2014 – The South African Solo Drumming Championships were held at St, Benedict’s College, Bedfordview in Johannesburg with a record number of entries. There is no existing grading system in South Africa, so the snare drum entries were divided into three categories following an open heat where competitors were assigned to one of A, B or C groups, ensuring that all competitors were allowed the opportunity to compete fairly for a prize. African Skye Leading-Drummer Steve St. Clair-Hall and senior drum tutor of the National Youth Pipe Band of South Africa, took the top spot and was named South African Open Champion, while Chad Naude and Lauren Strimer were awarded Bass Drum and Tenor Drum Champions, respectively.

Open Snare
Category A
1st Steve St. Clair-Hall (African Skye Gr2)
2nd Theo van Wyk (Benoni MacTalla)
3rd David Murray (African Skye Gr2)
4th Clinton Miles (1 Medical Battalion)
5th Anthony Evans (Transvaal Scottish)
6th Dewar van Dyk (1 Medical Battalion)
Judge: Gareth McLuckie

Category B
1st James Penberthy (1 Medical Battalion)
2nd Duncan Tee (Sandton Scottish)
3rd Trevor Wilson (1 Medical Battalion)
4th Jeremy Coutts (Richmond Avenue)
5th Caylee O’Leary (Richmond Avenue)
6th Callum Leesam (Transvaal Scottish)
Judge: Kevi Levin

Category C
1st Dylan Jones (Benoni MacTalla)
2nd Nicholas Schmidt (Transvaal Scottish)
3rd Andrew Rose (Transvaal Scottish)
4th Ross Campbell (St. Benedict’s)
5th Dennis Tewson (Sandton Scottish)
6th Brian Mola (KES)
Judge: Gareth McLuckie

Continue reading

“The Battle of Waterloo” – the final piece in the 2014 Set Tunes Series

Published: September 27, 2014

Angus MacKay

The 2014 Set Tunes Series by William Donaldson concludes with “The Battle of Waterloo,” a composition rarely played by pipers unless prescribed for the major competitions.

Once again we thank Dr. Donaldson for his contribution to piping, by compiling and analyzing the various historical settings for piobaireachds played today. His series now number nearly 150 compositions, all freely available to pipes|drums readers, amounting to probably the greatest single comprehensive source of piobaireachd ever compiled.

Just click on the image below to go to the Set Tunes Series.

Click to go to Set Tunes Series.


ScottishPower makes Jake Jørgensen leading-drummer

Published: September 25, 2014

ScottishPower_logoThe Grade 1 ScottishPower Pipe Band of Glasgow has appointed Jake Jørgensen as its Leading-Drummer, succeeding Barry Wilson, who retired after the 2014 season.

Jørgensen comes to ScottishPower with a wealth of experience, including most recently as a member of Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia. He was Leading-Drummer of the Grade 1 Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band for several years until the band folded in 2012.

“I look forward with great enthusiasm to working with [Pipe-Major] Chris Armstrong and the rest of this great band,” Jørgensen said in a statement to pipes|drums. “I am confident that together we will be able to produce some exciting, enjoyable and highly competitive music.”

He went on to say that he is interested to hear from drummers who might be interested in joining ScottishPower.

Armstrong commented, “We are now looking very much forward to getting stuck in and preparing the band for the future. It’s exciting times ahead. I’d like to extend a welcome to Jake from myself and the band and thank everyone again who also took the time to apply.”

ScottishPower marches to the line at the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships.

The band put the position out to applicants, and it is thought that as many as six drummers were seriously considered, reportedly including several well known names.

ScottishPower in the last few years entered the elite of Grade 1 bands, finishing second at the World Championships in 2012. The band has since remained at the forefront of World’s contenders, with strong finishes in piping, but often back enough in drumming to spoil chances of winning a major championship.

Jørgensen is originally from Denmark, but has lived in Edinburgh for many years.

Here is a Jake Jørgensen playing with then Pipe-Major Neil Hall, when they were members of the Lothian & Borders Police Pipe Band in 2012.


Craig Stewart returns to Toronto Police as Leading-Drummer

Published: September 24, 2014

Toronto_Police_logoIt took the Grade 1 Toronto Police only a few weeks to settle on the appointment of Craig Stewart as the band’s leading-dr4ummer. Stewart takes over from Mark Passmore, who left the band following the 2014 Ontario season.

Stewart comes to Toronto Police after several years as a long-distance member of the Grade 1 Los Angeles Scots, a band that has also seen changes in its drum section, following the dismissal of Leading-Drummer Glenn Kvidahl.

Craig Stewart has as much Grade 1 band experience as perhaps any snare drummer on the planet. Currently in his early-fifties, Stewart first played in the premier grade in his early-teens with the 400 Squadron Pipe Band when it was in Grade1. He has also served with the Peel Regional Police, where he was leading-drummer for several years, and an earlier stint with the Toronto Police.

Craig Stewart

“I’m excited to be back with the band and looking forward to the challenges ahead,” Stewart said. “Although I can’t confirm the final numbers yet I can tell you that some of last year’s corps are staying with the band and there are some guys coming in who have played for me before. [Pipe-Major] Ian MacDonald and I are on the same page and our expectations for the band are high. We are anxious to get started making some great music.”

The Toronto Police have had several changes in its drum section over the last decade, producing mixed results. The band did not qualify for the Grade 1 Final at the World Pipe Band Championships, but had a moderately successful year on its home ground in Ontario, with a pipe section that often finished first against two or three other competitors.

Piping and drumming community bands together for a friend in need

Published: September 22, 2014

Bill “Gillette” Sawyer

The southern Ontario – and possibly even the world – piping and drumming community is banding together to assist piper Bill “Gillette” Sawyer, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor earlier in the year.

Sawyer was a long-time piper with the Grade 1 Clan MacFarlane Pipe Band under Pipe-Major Ken Eller in the 1970s and ’80s. Before his illness was discovered, he participated in the Clan MacFarlane Reunited historical pipe band interview that pipes|drums published in four parts.

On October 4th supporters are gathering in Niagara Fall, Ontario, at 4 pm for a $25/person fundraiser at the Niagara Falls Legion. Twisted Pillar and McPherson’s Rant, two local bands, will perform at the BBQ and beverages event, with all proceeds going towards Sawyer’s expenses for palliative care. As a self-employed trucker, Sawyer does not have employment insurance or extended health insurance.

The fundraising efforts, which include a Facebook group page and donations via PayPal, are being coordinated by Eller and Peter MacKenzie, who also played with “Gillette” in Clan MacFarlane.

“A few friends unable to make the event have sent heartfelt letters filled with memories and best wishes, which Bill has cherished,” said Sawyer’s sister Sue Gagnon. “He is so appreciative of the outpouring of generosity and would like to thank everyone for their kindness and best wishes.”

“On the Bus with Bill Sawyer” refers to the many years that Sawyer drove the bus for the Niagara Regional Police Pipe Band, and recognizes the nearly 40 years of contribution he made to the pipe band community.

“It recognized the years Bill Sawyer reached out to so many players involved, with selfless intentions of making them better players and better people,” Eller said. “Former associates have come forward and, to the person, have told stories of how Bill encouraged them along the way, and in many cases, if it had not been for his kind and generous support, they would not be active today. I am amazed at the lives he has touched. For me personally, his friendship was never more appreciated than when my father, past treasurer of the Clan, was in his final years. It was Bill who regularly visited and shared my dad’s remaining days so well. Now it is our turn to step to the plate for Bill and for all of us that have shared Bill’s great friendship over the years, we are thankful to assist in his time of need.”

The Clan MacFarlane band had a tradition of earned nicknames for its members. Bill Sawyer earned “Gillette” because he liked to keep his hair razor-short.

Those who would like to make a donation via PayPal can do so using Eller’s email address:, and any amount is appreciated.

pipes|drums Magazine has made a donation to the cause.

“The Red Hand in the MacDonald’s Arms” – the next in the 2014 Set Tunes Series

Published: September 21, 2014

Charles Simeon Thomason

Our exclusive feature by Dr. William Donaldson on the 2014 piobaireachds assigned to the major gatherings continues with “The Red Hand in the MacDonalds’ Arms.”

The Set Tunes Series now numbers nearly 150 piobaireachds, each meticulously analyzed by Donaldson, a former pupil of Robert Nicol and one of the world’s foremost academic researchers on pipe music. His book, The Highland Pipe & Scottish Society, is a semenal deconstruction of the historial events and class circumstances that contributed to the current state of ceol mor.

Just click on the manuscript image below to go to the series, and we hope that you enjoy this important contribution to Highland piping.


Liddell on top at Springbank

Published: September 20, 2014


Stuart Liddell with the overall trophy for the 2014 Springbank Invitational. [Photo: Derek Maxwell]

Campbeltown, Scotland – September 20, 2014 – The Kintyre Piping Society held the annual Springbank Invitational Piping Competition at the Seafield Hotel, and Stuart Liddell of Inveraray, Scotland, emerged the overall winner, with a first in the Piobaireachd, which broke a tie with Angus MacColl of Benderloch, Scotland, who won the MSR, and neither had a prize in the other event that counted toward the aggregate. The event is sponsored by Springbank Distillery.

1st Stuart Liddell, “Lament for the Laird of Annapool”
2nd Roddy MacLeod, Glasgow, “Isabel MacKay”
3rd Iain Speirs, Edinburgh, “Donald Gruamach’s March”
4th Callum Beaumont, Bo’ness, Scotland, “Lament for Ronald MacDonald of Morar”

1st Angus MacColl, Benderloch, Scotland, “Craigendarroch,” “The Argyllshire Gathering,” “Shepherd’s Crook,” “John Roy Stewart,” “Mrs. MacPherson of Inveran,” “Alick C. MacGregor”
2nd Willie McCallum, Bearsden, Scotland,
3rd Roddy MacLeod,
4th Callum Beaumont,

Hornpipe & Jig
1st Angus MacColl, “Kyle Howie’s,” “Skye”
2nd Gordon Walker, Galston, Scotland,
3rd Stuart Liddell
4th Willie McCallum

Springbank 2014 competitors L-R: Roddy MacLeod, Willie McCallum, Angus MacColl, Callum Beaumont, Gordon Walker, Stuart Liddell, Niall Stewart and Iain Speirs. [Photo: Derek Maxwell]

Also competing but not in the prizes, was Niall Stewart of Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland.

Iain MacFadyen, Iain Morrison and John Wilson judged all of the events.

Sherriff Memorial invitees getting ready for November 15th

Published: September 17, 2014

George Sherriff

The 10 contestants who have earned a spot in the 19th annual George Sherriff Memorial Amateur Invitational Solo Piping Competition on Saturday, November 15th at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, in Hamilton, Ontario, have been settled, featuring top amateur pipers from across North America:

  • Tyler Bridge, Ontario
  • James Dyson, Nova Scotia
  • Andrew Hahn, California
  • Tyler Harris, Ontario
  • Liam Hilder, British Columbia
  • Andrew Hutton, Ontario
  • Kaitlin Kimove, Ontario
  • Kevin McLean, British Columbia
  • Sean Regan, Virginia
  • Jack Williamson, Kansas

“The Sherriff” is seen as one of the best events in the world for amateur pipers, often a swan song for competitors moving to the Professional class. Competitors are decided based on recommendations and results from the various associations across the continent, with an informal per-capita weighting based on the total number of competing pipers in their respective regions.

There are three events that comprise the Sherriff, beginning with 6/8 Marches at 10 am; Piobaireachd at 1 pm; and MSR at 7:30 pm.

2014 George Sherriff Memorial Amateur Invitational Piping Competition contestants.

Led by renowned piper, teacher, composer, and host Bob Worrall, the event is organized by a team of volunteers and the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario. Judges for all events at this year’s Sherriff Memorial are Andrew Berthoff, Toronto; Patricia Henderson, Kirriemuir, Scotland; and Iain MacDonald, Regina, Saskatchewan.

The competition is named in honour of the late George Sherriff, who committed much of his life to teaching piping in the Hamilton area.

63% of pipes|drums readers say Yes to Scottish independence

Published: September 16, 2014

scottish_vote_smallpipes|drums Magazine’s online readers’ poll, reflecting exactly the question and choices posed to qualified residents of Scotland on Thursday, September 18th, indicate that nearly two-thirds of the world’s pipers and drummers are in favour of Scottish sovereignty.

After two days of voting, to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” 63% had answered Yes, while 37% answered No.

The Scottish referendum has drawn the attention of the world and the world’s media. The extraordinary decision has been described as a once in a lifetime opportunity for a country and, in Scotland’s case, the first time in more than 300 years that such a referendum has been permitted.

Locations of voters reflect that of pipes|drums’ readership, with more than half of participants being from countries in Great Britain. Analytics with the polling software delineate only sovereign nations, with no ability to break out the four countries that comprise the UK.

Location of survey participants:

  • United Kingdom – 54%
  • Canada – 23%
  • United States – 16%
  • Australia – 1%
  • New Zealand – 1%
  • Ireland – 1%
  • Rest of world – 4%

With survey respondents from the UK, those in the Yes camp are at 68%, while the No side is at 32%.

Canadians are narrowly against Scotland being an independent country, with 51% saying No, and 49% Yes. US participants are on the Yes side, with 60% saying Yes and 40% responding No.

Multiple votes from a single IP address were deleted.

“As with all of our polls, it’s a snapshot of how our readers think overall,” said pipes|drums editor Andrew Berthoff. “It’s a decent gauge of the temperament of the world’s pipers and drummers, and obviously is not an indication of how the actual vote will go on Thursday. The eyes of the world are on Scotland, and that of course includes our readers.”

The poll will remain open until Wednesday night and readers who have not yet participated are encouraged to cast their opinion.

Scientific surveys of the eligible voters of Scotland indicate that the referendum is neck-and-neck.

Sutherland goes to Pitlochry; wins

Published: September 15, 2014

Craig Sutherland

Pitlochry, Scotland – September 13, 2014 – Weather was hot and sunny at the annual Pitlochry Highland Games, a traditional season-ender for the outdoor Scottish solo circuit. Craig Sutherland had the best overall day against a strong turnout, which included the return of the long-absent Logan Tannock and Brian Lamond to the boards and the prizes. Pitlochry traditionally does not hold a piobaireachd event.

1st Logan Tannock, Sauchie, Scotland
2nd Craig Sutherland, Crieff, Scotland
3rd Allan Russell, Kelty, Scotland
4th Brian Lamond, Inverkeithing, Scotland
5th Graham Mulholland
6th Donald MacPhee, Alexandria, Scotland
Judges: Duncan MacDiarmid, Tom Speirs

1st Graham Mulholland
2nd Craig Sutherland
3rd Dan Nevans
4th Allan Russell
5th Andrew Bova, Glasgow
6th Adam Michie
Judges: Jimmy Banks, Gordon Clark

6/8 March
1st Craig Sutherland
2nd Andrew Bova
3rd Allan Russell
4th Logan Tannock
5th Brian Lamond
6th James MacPhee, Inverness, Scotland
Judges: Jimmy Banks, Gordon Clark

The Vale hopes to up mid-section game with Taylor

Published: September 13, 2014

ValeofAtholl_logo_2013The Grade 1 Vale of Atholl Pipe Band of Pitlochry, Scotland, hopes to raise the standard of its ensemble and drumming with the appointment of Matthew Taylor as the new leader of its mid-section.

Taylor, of Blairgowrie, Scotland, comes to the Vale with a wealth of experience in pipe band drumming, beginning at age eight with the snare with the Coupar Angus Burgh Pipe Band, before moving on to Alyth, and then to City of Brechin, still playing as a snare drummer.

Matthew Taylor

Matthew Taylor shifted to tenor in 2010 with the National Youth Pipe   Band, before joining the Grade 2 Torphichen & Bathgate, where he eventually became “lead-tenor” in 2013.

“We in the Vale see this appointment as a sign of intent, and hope that it will encourage new players – pipers or drummers – to consider joining our ranks,” said Vale of Atholl Chairman Gus Clarke.

While Vale of Atholl’s home is Pitclochry, the band practces in the more central Perth, Scotland.

Aside from possibly the size of pipe bands, no element of pipe band has changed as dramatically as bass-sections. In the mid-1990s tenor drumming was close to extinction, only to be resurrected, to the point now that a band’s bass-section frequently determines a band’s place in the rankings.


Toronto Police drumming instability continues with resignation

Published: September 11, 2014

Mark Passmore

The Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe Band finds itself searching again for a leading-drummer following the resignation of Mark Passmore after less than a year in the position.

Passmore said that, “Certain talks recently have left us with a difference in ideology. The split is mutual and amicable.”

He had taken over the role in late-September 2013, following Ken Constable’s three-year run as L-D. Constable had succeeded Doug Stronach in 2011.

The Toronto Police in 2014 kept fairly steady over 2013, but showed overall improvement in piping with the addition of several top-flight players. The band consistently struggled in drumming from judges, including last-place rankings in their group in each qualifier event at the World Championships.

Pipe-Major Ian K. MacDonald said that the band is eager to hear from interested applicants, and added, “On behalf of the band I would like to thank Mark Passmore for his efforts this season and wish him well in his future endeavours.”


Bands take over cancelled contest with grass-roots solution

Published: September 10, 2014

Goshen_logoReduced or outright cancelled piping, drumming and pipe band competitions are a disturbing trend in many parts of the world, as many Highland games struggle to make ends meet, find new ways to attract ticket-buyers, and question the value of pipe band contests.

But when the pipe band competition in Sussex, New Jersey, was nixed only weeks before the scheduled September 14th date, bands took matters into their own hands to re-fill a void left in the calendar, and an important run-up to the eastern United States’ final competition at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

“Several bands got talking and we thought we could pull together our own contest on the open date without any of the trappings of your typical Highland games . . . and importantly keeping our costs as low as possible,” said Thomas Burnham of the Firefighter McPadden Pipes & Drums. “We took the initiative to make a late push to find a location, hire judges, recruit bands and get the contest sanctioned by the EUSPBA.”

They started with three Grade 4 bands who committed to playing both mini-MSRs and Medleys, and then figured out the costs to put on the contest and divided them up equally.

“The Goshen Pipe Band Challenge” will take place on September 14th, in Goshen, New York, and could be the first sanctioned public pipe band competition fully funded by the competing bands themselves.

“In many ways starting small is a blessing so we can work the kinks out and set this up for bigger success in the future,” Burnham continued. “We believe that if we can show this is a viable event, we can draw sponsorships that will support a larger event in the future.”

As piping and drumming at many traditional events, even in Scotland, are increasingly marginalized or eliminated, competitors and associations will have to be more creative and entrepreneurial if their regional scenes are to continue to thrive – or simply continue.

“A disturbing trend, at least in the US, is a drop in the number of bands attending contests,” Burnham said. “One possible reason for this could be Highland games marginalizing piping, drumming and pipe bands at their events by moving them to some distant dusty corner of the field where no one ventures. At the same time, many have also shifted a greater share of financial burden onto the backs of the bands by having them pay an entry fee while also asking each member to pay full admission prices which can quickly top $500 when all is said and done.”

At least for the Goshen Challenge, the entire focus will be on the bands and the pay-for-play event is cost-effective for the competitors. Burnham stressed that “the EUSPBA, the judges and the pipe band community has been extremely positive and supportive, and the Village of Goshen has been very accommodating. Can an event like this change the trend of declining band participation and contests folding? We don’t know but it is worth trying.”

They have even worked a deal with the local Catskill Brewery to provide the winner with beverages that have a tagline, suitably positioned with the participating bands: “Honest, hard-working beer.”


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Don’t be afraid to modify or undercut holes to improve chanter intonation. It may seem extreme, but there would scarcely be a Grade 1 band that hasn’t partaken in a spot of chanter renovation to beneficial effect.
Stewart MacKenzie, P-M, Manawatu Scottish