The six-time World Champion Simon Fraser University Pipe Band is putting its talent to charitable work at the Simon Fraser University Theatre in Burnaby, British Columbia, with all proceeds going to the BC Cancer Foundation.
The band was moved to action after the diagnosis of one of its greatest members – and one of the world’s best solo pipers – Andrew Bonar was diagnosed with a brain tumour in November 2014, undergoing radical emergency surgery.
A member of SFU since 1981, “Boney” is continuing treatment at the BC Cancer Agency. Following his surgery he contributed an important piece to pipes|drums.
Andrew Bonar competing with SFU at the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships.
The band will be joined by the Heather Jolley Highland Dancers, which include Andrew Bonar’sdaughter, Kate, who will also perform at a ceilidh following the show.
The band is also hoping to stream the concert live, encouraging all those watching to make a donation to the cause.
“If you are able, please consider making a donation directly to the BC Cancer Foundation in honour of Andrew and the impact he has on the worldwide piping community,” said SFU Pipe-Sergeant Jack Lee. “Together, we can make a difference for brain cancer patients now and in the future.”
The pipe band world in recent years has stepped up for charitable causes, including the drive by Fiona Morris and the Grade 1 Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia Pipe Band of Scotland to raise funds for bone cancer research.
We caught up with the legendary piper Jack Lee when he visited Toronto for one of his many workshops, this time at the annual More Ceol Mor weekend session where he and Willie McCallum took 30 or so fortunate pupils through some of their piobaireachd knowledge.
The workshop concluded with a brief recital by McCallum and Lee. We published video of McCallum, and now it’s pipes|drums’ readers’ turn to see Lee as he performs a few piobaireachds and discusses what he’s up to these days.
We will return with further video from watch of these virtuosos, and, for now, we hope you enjoy this from one of the greatest pipers in history.
The Grade 2 band scene in North America continues its ups and downs with the latest down coming with the demise of the St. Andrew’s Society of Winnipeg collapsing after being on hiatus during the 2014 season.
The organization maintains its Grade 3 band, but has revealed that it is no longer affiliated with the local St. Andrew’s Society.
“This year with the loss of some key players we found we just did not have enough members to be competitive in the grade,” said Pipe-Major Wes Sheppard. “With regret, we are standing down for the time being.”
He said that the Grade 3 band is “still very active and growing and will be competing this year.” The group is planning to travel to Maxville, Ontario, to compete at the North American Pipe Band Championships.
Later in 2014, six new Grade 2 bands were added to the western North American scene, with the rise of the Rocky Mountain Pipe Band, North Stratton Pipe Band and Viscount Park Pipe Band, each from Alberta, and, in the United States, the Bushmills Irish Pipers of San Francisco, the Queen City Pipe Band of Denver, and the Wasatch & District Pipe Band of Bountiful, Utah.
Brian Lamond with the trophy for the Freestyle event.
Edinburgh – February 7, 2015 – Brian Lamond of Inverkeithing, Scotland, emerged the overall winner of the annual Pipe-Majors’ Wheel of Fortune solo piping contest at the Danderhall Miners Club in southern Edinburgh and put on by the Grade 2 City of Edinburgh Pipe Band.
Lamond was first in the Freestyle event, which required contestants to spin a wheel to determine some of what they had to play. Lamond had to include a tune by G.S. McLennan, a hornpipe, Irish jigs, Irish reels, a polka, and two of his own compositions, “The Illywhacker” and “The Sleepfighter.” He was also first in the Joke event, where pipers had to tell a funny story or joke, which was judged by the audience.
Lamond, age 46 and the former pipe-major of the Grade 1 Dysart & Dundonald Pipe Band, competes infrequently, but was the winner of the first Wheel of Fortune competition in 2006.
First in the MSR event was Niall Stewart of Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland, while Alasdair Henderson of Dunoon, Scotland, was overall runner-up and Callum Beaumont of Bo’ness, Scotland, was third.
Angus J. MacColl, Angus Nicholson and Lee Moore also competed. Back-to-back winner Douglas Murray withdrew due to illness.
For the piping events, Gordon Campbell, Barry Donaldson and Ian Duncan judged.
Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, Ireland – February 7, 2015 – Margaret Dunn won the Bratach Depaor, a banner in honour of Stephen Power, co-founder of the Irish Piobaireachd Society, which was started in 1997 and hold the annual solo piping competition. This year’s event was held almost in the shadow of the Kilworth Hills, where G.S. McLennan was inspired his the famous march while on training there with the Gordon Highlanders. The event is sponsored by R.G. Hardie & Co. and receives financial support from the Cork Arts Council. Colin MacLellan was guest adjudicator and after the competition led a well-attended piobaireachd master class.
Piobaireachd Former Winners
1st Margaret Dunn, Gartcosh, Scotland
2nd Connor Sinclair
3rd Andy Wilson
4th Ben Greaves
5th John Revells
Judge: Colin MacLellan
1st Connor Sinclair, Crieff, Scotland
2nd Ryan Cupples
3rd James Stone
4th John McElmurry
5th Sean Maloney
Judges: Alastair Dunn, John Revells
1st Ryan Cupples
2nd Dion Boyle
3rd John McElmurry
4th Rachel Maloney
5th Sean Maloney
Judges: Margaret Dunn, Colin MacLellan
1st Ryan Cupples
2nd Dion Boyle
3rd James Stone
Judges: Alastair Dunn, John Revells
1st Alastair Dunn, Gartcosh, Scotland
2nd Margaret Dunn
3rd Andy Wilson
4th Connor Sinclair
5th Ben Greaves
Judge: Colin MacLellan
The Grade 2 MacKenzie Caledonian of Dundee, Scotland, will officially release A Big Step Forward, a studio CD and the band’s first commercial recording, at their February 27th concert at the Gardyne Theatre in Dundee.
The band also said that the nearly 400-seat venue is sold out for the show, which will also feature the Tayside Young Fiddlers.
The “MacCals” have been planning the concert along with a ramped-up 2015 since the spring of 2014, before the band enjoyed its most successful competition season ever, featuring in the prize lists at three of the five major championships, including a second at the European and fifth at the World’s. The band ended up fifth in the aggregate Grade 2 Champion of Champions table.
In a statement, MacKenzie Caledonian promised the concert to feature concert arrangements, solo performances and “weel kent street tunes.”
The band’s CD, A Big Step Forward, was recorded in the fall and early-winter of 2014, and is one of few studio albums to come out from a band in the top grades. MacKenzie Caledonian also runs a highly successful Novice Juvenile band – nicknamed the “MiniMacs” – teaching pipers and drummers from scratch, feeding into the Grade 2 band.
MacKenzie Caledonian with 2014 season hardware at the Pitlochry Highland Games, September 2014.
According to a statement from the band, MacKenzie Caledonian’s goal is to achieve Grade 1 status by 2018, its centenary year, and expects to “progress to become one of Scotland’s top 10 bands in the coming year.”
Founded in 1918 at the end of World War I by James MacKenzie and originally named the MacKenzie Pipe Band, in 1958 it merged with the Caledonian Pipe Band, also of Dundee, to form MacKenzie Caledonian.
The Dundee-based City of Discovery Pipe Band was recently announced as a new Grade 3A band, emerging from the 6th/8th Boys Brigade Pipe Band.
Willie McCallum, prize for prize, could be the greatest competition solo piper in history, and when his path crossed with that of pipes|drums at the annual More Ceol Mor Workshop in Toronto on January 31, 2015, we captured his brief piobaireachd recital.
We also sat down for a few minutes to see what he’s up to these days, how life is a full-time professional piper, and what makes his instrument tick.
Thanks to Willie McCallum and the More Ceol Mor Workshop for permissions to capture and reproduce this performance.
Stay tuned to pipes|drums for more video from this recital.
Highland pipers John Mulhearn and Calum MacCrimmon are known for their creative exploration of piobaireachd, the classical music of the Highland pipe, which has been both praised and criticized for being steadfastly traditional at the cost of musical evolution.
The two have combined to organize the Big Music Society, “to create new performance opportunities and contexts for pibroch and engage a wider audience in our undeniably powerful heritage, while encouraging new developments and collaborations.”
For the last 100 years the music has been promoted and largely controlled by the Piobaireachd Society, with competition being the primary performance platform, with standardized settings of tunes published and prescribed for major solo contests. In the last 10 years especially the Piobaireachd Society has worked to broaden its horizons and is even working with the Big Music Society, fully supportive of the new group’s efforts.
The first performance produced by the Big Music Society is on March 6th at the National Piping Centre with piobaireachd competition legend Murray Henderson and the well know performance piper Duncan Grant presenting interpretations of tunes with the Big Music String Ensemble, a group led by bassist James Lindsay. Grant’s background as “Cain,” an electronic music producer, according to the organizers, “gives him a very different perspective and we can expect some real sonic exploration.”
“The Big Music Society is not a ‘society’ in the traditional organizational sense,” Mulhearn said. “It’s a bit of a play on words whilst also implying that the society is anything that we get involved in. The genesis of the name and idea was a few years ago at Celtic Connections where I brought an ensemble together to re-imagine pibroch for a more diverse audience.”
Mulhearn added that the original concept evolved into the partnership with MacCrimmon. “Our hope is that this first show will be a springboard for further innovative programming and promotion. We have several further plans up our sleeves that I can’t really go into yet but suffice to say we’re seeing this first show as just the beginning, over time who knows in what direction it will go. Our parameters are wide open.”
Coexisting with the Piobaireachd Society in the UK might have been difficult some years ago, but current President Jack Taylor has helped to coax the once-stodgy society from protectionist to progressive.
“Our objectives and impulses are different from the Piobaireachd Society,” Mulhearn continued. “It’s important to say that we aren’t looking at this as a reaction against the Piobaireachd Society and the pibroch orthodoxy, more just a natural progression. Remaining independent means that we have complete creative control and that is crucial for us to allow things to evolve naturally.”
The multi-instrumentalist Calum MacCrimmon, a Canadian who has lived in Scotland for several years, is the hereditary piper to Clan MacLeod, and a direct descendent of the MacCrimmon piping dynasty. Not one for the competition side of the Highland pipe, he has developed several musical projects, most prominently his Celtic band, Breabach.
Regarding the Big Music Society, MacCrimmon said, “Another one of our commitments will be to identify the musicians and bands who have already explored exciting and fresh arrangements of ceol mor, such as the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, the 78th Fraser Highlanders, Allan MacDonald, Fraser Fifield, Martyn Bennet and many more. We hope that this approach will be something intriguing to the competitors and the enthusiasts but it may also help to bring in more of the piping/drumming community who claim to ‘not understand’ or ‘not like’ pibroch. Even more ambitious than that, we want to bring in new followers from outside of the piping and folk scene all together. It may be a long time before we see any of these results but it is certainly an exciting prospect.”
The organization has released a teaser video with Murray Henderson, previewing part of the March 6th event:
It predates the, the Scottish Piping Society of London (1932), Scottish Pipers Association (1920), and even the Piobaireachd Society (1904), and now the Pittsburgh Bagpipe Society, first known organized piping society in the United States (1898) is getting a new lease on life by pipers in the Pennsylvania city known more for steel, beer and football than piping, piobaireachd and pipe bands.
Taking the cue from the highly successful resurrection of the Eagle Pipers Society in Edinburgh, the Pittsburgh Bagpipe Society is organized by top-flight local solo pipers local professional pipers Andrew Carlisle, Nick Hudson and Palmer Shonk.
“The Pittsburgh Piping Society reignites the long-snuffed torch of the original society,” Hudson said in a statement. “Though the 19th century iteration was noted for its teaching of Scottish immigrant children, the newly formed society aims to be more social than pedagogic. In short . . . hoping to unite a long talented but somewhat fractured local piping community.”
Hudson said that the PBS will hold regular meetings in an informal atmosphere to “give pipers another stage outside of the competition platform whereupon they may simply turn up and have a tune.” Like the Eagle Pipers, each meeting will feature a piobaireachd, “giving the non-pipers and enthusiasts in attendance an opportunity to encounter our big music.”
The first meeting of the new PBS is at 8 pm in Pittsburgh on Friday, January 30th, and those interested can contact the organization by email for details of the location.
Carlisle will play the piobaireachd, and “a bunch of local players” are also scheduled to play.
Hudson said the organization’s logo is “a fusion of elements from Pittsburgh’s crest and Scotland’s national animal, because [the USA’s] national animal was already taken by a prominent piping society.”
The Eagle Pipers Society was restarted in 2009 after a hiatus of more than 20 years, and since its resurrection has held popular monthly meetings at the Scots Guards Club in the Haymarket area of Edinburgh.
Since Carnegie-Mellon University started its piping degree program in the 1990s, Pittsburgh has enjoyed a piping renaissance. The Scottish émigré and steel baron Andrew Carnegie was a strong supporter of the Scottish arts, and employed several pipers as part of his estate.
The William Livingstone Senior Memorial Invitational Solo Piping Competition a few years back shortened its name to “The Livingstone” and made its format a recital-dinner with only a handful of contestants entertaining the audience and judges.
The event didn’t happen in 2014 after two years with the new format, but it is back on May 9, 2015, “returning to its roots,” according to organizers: a Piobaireachd in the afternoon and a MSRHPJ in the evening, abandoning assigned tunes, fancy catering, and the “recital” format.
In 2012 the competition was held at the swish Hamilton Club with only six contestants. In 2013, the event held the same format, but returned to familiar Officer’s Mess of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders of Canada headquarters at James Street Armories in Hamilton, Ontario.
The event also returns to familiar cash prizes for first, second, and third winners in each event and a spiff for the overall winner, with travel stipends available for those coming from afar.
The competition was started in 1979, and is organized by the Niagara-Hamilton Branch of the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario. Bill Livingstone Jr. had played a part in the redevelopment of the contest in 2012 and ’13, but is no longer involved. Livingstone refused to comment on the competition’s return to the old format.
The annual Glasgow Uist & Barra Association Invitational Piping Competition will again mark the first significant event of the Scottish solo piping calendar, and the 2015 contest on March 7th at the College of Piping will feature almost all of the UK-based top prize-winners at the major solo events of 2014.
Chris Armstrong, Callum Beaumont, Glenn Brown, Bill Geddes, Alisdair Henderson, Faye Henderson, Finlay Johnston, Angus MacColl, Roddy MacLeod, Willie McCallum, Peter McCalister, Gordon McCready, Douglas Murray, Iain Speirs, Craig Sutherland and Gordon Walker will vie for the prizes in Piobaireachd, MSR and Hornpipe & Jig events, but with a limit of 14 in each section Faye Henderson and McCalister will compete only in the Piobaireachd and Alisdair Henderson and Sutherland only in the light music.
The event moved to an invitational format in 2002, and moved away from an Open event in the mid-1990s to be available only to those graded A or Premier by the Competing Pipers Association.
“There are no plans to return to an entry-based event at the moment,” said organizer John-Angus Smith, “and there are no plans for [the competition] to be put forward as a qualifier for the Glenfiddich.”
Smith said that they hope to organize a live stream of the event.
When it comes to policies, guidelines and rules for judging and solo piping competitions in general, Scotland perhaps paradoxically lags most of the rest the piping world with no grading system, no judging accreditation process, and a tradition of pipers with questionable backgrounds often assessing competitions, rarely having to account for their decisions.
The newly formed Solo Piping Judges Association, announced only in December 2014, appears to be trying to right at least some of that laxness with the introduction of more stringent policies and guidelines for judges, mainly designed to combat conflict of interest, perceived or real.
Judges on the SPJA’s approved list, “Should not accept an assignment when it is known in advance that pupils or relatives will be competing. If judging a pupil or a relative occurs, interest must be declared to fellow judges. Judging should then take place as normal.”
According to a statement, “The main change here is that judging should take place as normal after conflict of interest has been declared. It also recognises that it is not always possible to avoid conflict of interest, and that judges are confident that a fair judgement is made in such situations.”
When asked what penalties would ensue if a judge knowingly flaunted the conflict guidelines, SPJA Secretary Jack Taylor said, “The ultimate sanction would be removal from the list, but every effort would be made for a more positive resolution than that.”
The organization also issued new definitions for its two essential categories of adjudicators. A “Senior Judge” is defined as, “Most likely to have competed successfully at the highest level with continuity over an extended period of years, able to demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the music, and with experience of judging. Eligible to judge any level of competition, but to judge with experienced judges at major competitions in the first year of acceptance.
An “Approved Judge,” according to the SPJA’s statement, will be “Those knowledgeable and experienced and having had notable success in competition, amateur or professional, but not necessarily at the highest level. Eligible to judge at any level . . .
The 2015 edition of the annual Celtic Connections kicked off on January 15, but for the first time in many years the festival is without two major events that put the focus on the Highland pipes.
The usual Piping Concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and the Gordon Duncan Memorial Piping Recital are both absent from this year’s lineup. The concert in the past has featured the likes of Field Marshal Montgomery, the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band and, last year, the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland, and was seen as a much-needed dose of pipe banding in the bleak Scottish midwinter.
According to sources, the Gordon Duncan Memorial will likely return in 2016, but no reason was given for its absence in 2015.
There are other events that feature the Highland pipes, perhaps most notably homage to the late Pipe-Major Donald MacLeod MBE on January 17th at the Mitchell Theatre. “Crossing the Minch – The Music of Pipe Major Donald MacLeod MBE” will go on with the aforementioned National Youth Pipe Band and pipers Calum MacCrimmon, John Wilson, John Mulhearn, James Duncan Mackenzie and Rona Lightfoot all contributing.
Highland piper Finlay MacDonald and the ScottishPower Pipe Band helped kick off the 20th anniversary Celtic Connection festival in 2014.
Renowned Highland piper and composer Allan MacDonald will showcase “The Bruce 700,” his composition commissioned by Stirling Council to mark 700 years since the Battle of Bannockburn on January 28th at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with 50 other musicians on pipes, strings, brass, vocals and percussion.
More Highland piping at the 17-day festival:
“Nae Regrets,” a deconstruction of the late Martyn Bennett’s GRIT – January 15
Breabach, January 22
Finlay MacDonald & Chris Stout, January 24
“Wired to the World,” Mike McGoldrick and the Treacherous Orchestra, January 24
Ross Ainslie and Jarlath Henderson, January 25
“New Voices,” Ross Ainslie, January 25
Barluath, January 30
Celtic Connections runs from January 15th to February 1st at venues across Glasgow, including the National Piping Centre.
Whether Highland games, music collections, or film making, piping and drumming projects are increasingly looking to crowdfunding platforms to support their expensive initiatives, hoping that pipers and drummers will be inspired enough to donate relatively small amounts to see the venture continue or come to light.
The pleas don’t often work, but the January 9th live stream of the Winter Storm piping and drumming competitions and concert was an exception, with the request actually meeting its US$5,000 goal, allowing the organizers to cover the expense of the operation.
It was the third year that the Midwest Highland Arts Fund broadcast the events, which were previously pay-per-view. The 2015 stream was free to all who wished to watch, but with a strong recommendation to contribute a fair amount, the more money committed, the more t-shirts, track downloads and merchandise people would receive.
Those giving US$150 – the top level – got a package of goodies that included a “game-worn” necktie by one of the weekend instructors.
The prize-giving ceremony at the 2015 Winter Storm events.
According to MHAF President Cliff Davis, peak viewership was just over 500 for the competitions or the evening concert, which he said was more than double of 2014.
The organization partnered with Dojo University on the project and expenses included equipment rental and bringing in a fibre optic connection to ensure ample bandwidth.
David added that the venues should have better access to a 100MB fibre connection, and that the MHAF is “excited about technological possibilities that will bring in the future.”
As the fourth-largest city in Scotland, Dundee has historically been under-represented by prominent pipe bands, with the Grade 2 MacKenzie Caledonian the biggest success story to-date. But now the recently-formed “City of Discovery Pipe Band” intends to be a “global force,” with strong numbers to take a run in Grade 3A in the UK.
The band, named after Dundee’s tagline since the 1980s, has evolved from the 6th/8th Boys Brigade Pipe Band, which has a long history and recent success in the RSPBA. With the association upgrading the 6th/8th Boys Brigade band to Grade 3A after rapid success and the band being in Grade 4B two years ago, the need for continuing competitive excellence at that level was not entirely compatible with a youth-based band.
So the Boys Brigade band will remain, but as a Novice Juvenile group, while City of Discovery will continue as a new band, able to attract non-Boys Brigade personnel.
“We feel that as a Boys Brigade band we cannot go much further without damaging the band in terms of new learners making the step up to the competing band, the standard is simply too high for learners to break into the band, ” said City of Discovery Band Secretary Stewart Findlay, who added that the average age of band members is about 16 years.
The City of Discovery Pipe Band was formed officially in November 2014, but only recently started to practice in the Lochee area of Dundee, with 19 pipers and 17 drummers, including new players from Aberdeen, Pitlochry and Callander.
A recent City of Discovery Pipe Band practice.
The Pipe-Major is Ross McGregor and the Leading-Drummer is Grant Edwards. Both carry over from the same roles in the 6th/8th Boys Brigade. McGregor has also played with the Vale of Atholl, Pitlochry & Blair Atholl, and MacKenzie Caledonian bands, while Edwards also played with Inveraray & District for the last three seasons, and was previously with Vale of Atholl and the now-defunct Tayside Police.
When asked if City of Discovery will be able to coexist successfully with MacKenzie Caledonian, as each strives for more success, Findlay said, “I very much believe that Dundee could sustain two significant bands, as bands of that stature tend to recruit from all over Scotland rather than just in their local area. MacKenzie has a drum corps that travels through from Bathgate each week.”
After being promoted to Grade 3B, the 6th/8th Boys Brigade won the grade at the European Championships and was second at the Scottish Championships, resulting in the upgrade, thus prompting the decision to start the new band.
“The short-term ambition of the band is to stabilize financially and establish ourselves as one of the premier bands on the east coast of Scotland,” Findlay continued. “The band is actively looking for local business and members of the local community to become partners with the band and help us achieve our ambitions of becoming a global force in the pipe band world.”
The Boys Brigade is an interdenominational Christian organization for youths aged five to 18. Started in the UK in 1883, the group has traditionally supported pipe bands throughout Scotland with hundreds of excellent pipers and drummers resulting from the program.
Kansas City – January 9, 2015 – The 2015 Midwest Highland Arts Fund Winter Storm solo competitions were held at the Marriott Hotel County Club Plaza with a record entry for the event. Jim Bell won the Gold Medal Pioaireachd, and Alex Gandy took the top piping light music prize. Blair Brown, Owen Russell, and Kahlil Cappuccino won the first prizes in the professional snare, tenor and bass drumming competitions, respectively. The major winners will perform at a concert after the workshops held on January 10th.
Gold Medal (sponsored by R.G. Hardie & Co.)
1st James Bell, Batesville, Arkansas, “Glengarry’s March”
2nd Jori Chisholm, Seattle
3rd Andrew Carlisle, Pittsburgh
Judges: Brian Donaldson, Colin MacLellan
Silver Medal (sponsored by McCallum Bagpipes)
1st Andrew Donlon, Germantown, Maryland
2nd Josh McFarlane, Brighton, Ontario
3rd Joseph Stewart, Seattle
4th Eilidh MacDonald, Regina, Saskatchewan
5th Stephen MacNeil, Brethren, Michigan
Judges: Chris Apps, Jack Taylor
Light Music Professional MSR (sponsored by Henderson’s Pipe & Drum Supply)
1st Alex Gandy, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
2nd Andrew Carlisle
3rd Alastair Lee, Coquitlam, British Columbia
Judges: Roddy MacLeod, Donald McBride
Amateur (sponsored by Lee & Sons Bagpipes) Grade 1
1st Jack Williamson, Topeka, Kansas
2nd James Dyson, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
3rd Sean Regan, Woodstock, Virginia
Judge: Terry Lee
1st Griffin Hall, Overland Park, Kansas
2nd Jack O’Connell, Croton on Hudson, New York
3rd Andrew Robertson, Frankford, Ontario
Judge: Chris Apps
1st Eric Qualls, Kansas City
2nd Lauren VanDerWal, Springfield, Illinois
3rd Jaron Park, Springfield, Illinois
Judge: Keith Paton
Erwan Ropars, a major figure in Breton piping, died on January 8, 2015, after an illness. He was in his sixty-sixth year.
Born on July 30, 1950, he originally played with Bagad Kerfeunteun from Cotes d’Armour, Brittany, but he was best known as a 30-year member of Bagad Kemper, 25 of them as penn soner, or pipe-major.
Bagad Kemper made a mark as one of Brittany’s worldwide piping exports, winning the Breton Championships a record 22 times – twice as many as the number-two on the list, Brest St. Mark. Ropars was penn soner of the band for nine of them (1975, ’76, ’77, ’78, ’82, ’84, ’85, ’88, ’91).
Under Ropars, Kemper was renowned for a powerful sound from its pipe section, which played strong chanter reeds made by Ropers with blackwood Naill chanters, an unusual combination for pipe bands at the time, accustomed to playing mainly McAllister reeds and Sinclair or plastic WarMac chanters.
Ropars often travelled to Scotland for tuition, and received instruction from, among others, Bob Gibson and Jock Kerr of the now-defunct Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band.
Bagad Kemper playing with the Wallacestone & District Pipe Band of Stirling, Scotland, at the Quimper Festival in 1982. Erwan Ropars is is in the front with his trademark impressive beard.
After leaving Bagad Kemper in 1998 he led Bagad Kerne for several years, and then retired from competition.
On behalf of the piping and drumming world, we extend our condolences to Erwan Ropar’s family and friends at this sad time.
If they doled out money for great scenery, the Canmore Highland Games in Alberta, Canada, would be rolling in cash. But, faced with declining attendance and rising costs, what might be the world’s most scenic piping and drumming competition is resorting to crowdfunding to help it pull together enough money to hold a 2015 event.
The spectacular Canmore Highland Games.
The group has launched a campaign on social media aimed at pipers, drummers and fans of things-Scottish in a plea for donations to salvage the competition.
Among the reasons the organizers suggest people should have to donate are, “If you have any Celtic background,” “If you’ve ever thrilled to the sound of the bagpipes,” and “If you love Scotch.”
Rather than using a familiar crowdsourcing online platform, the group is asking parties to donate by filling out and returning a form, along with a cheque or credit card and, should not enough money be accumulated by February 15th to put on the event, there is a refund assurance.
“If you care about celebrating culture and heritage, helping volunteers stage a long standing festival and benefiting the community at large, please support our cause,” the organizers stated in their social media request.
Though a spectacular setting for a Highland games, rivalled perhaps only by the Luss or Lochearnhead Highland Games in Scotland, Canmore has not proven as popular as it might be with pipers and drummers, according to several competitors. Accommodation in the tourist town can be expensive, and many competitors who attend the games choose to return to the city of Calgary in the evening.
The Canmore Games have also traditionally placed heavy emphasis on the large beer-tent ceilidh in the evening, often hiring Celtic music groups with worldwide appeal.
The early-September Sunday event has been part of a two-day competition weekend, with the Calgary Highland Games held on the Saturday. The high-altitude Rocky Mountain venue frequently sees snow in the morning and temperatures rising to the mid-20s by afternoon.
The Canmore crowdfunding campaign is thought to be a first for a Highland games.
Play easy and boring music well, or play harder and interesting stuff and have more fun? It’s an age-old quandary for lower grade pipers and pipe bands. Almost every judge would say (over and over again), play tunes that your … Co …