SFU and Triumph Street split at BC Indoor

Published: April 5, 2015

Dowco Triumph Street competing in the Grade 1 MSR at the BCPA Annual Gathering.

Surrey, British Columbia – April 3-4, 2015 – The British Columbia Pipers Society’s Annual Gathering at the Clayton Heights Secondary School, and Dowco Triumph Street and Simon Fraser University each took a first in the Grade 1 band competitions. Jamie Troy won the MacCrimmon Cairn Piobaireachd event in the Professional grade, and Alastair Lee won the MSR and the Jig events, and took the aggregate prize. There was some controversy following the prize-giving when the Grade 1 band MSR result was not announced.

1st Simon Fraser University (1,1,1,1)
2nd Dowco Triumph Street (2,2,2,2)

1st Dowco Triumph Street (1,2,2,1) (EnsPref)
2nd Simon Fraser University (2,1,1,2)

Grade 2 (one played)
1st Robert Malcolm Memorial 2

Grade 3 (three competed)
1st Greighlan Crossing
2nd Columbia Regional
3rd Robert Malcolm Memorial 3

Grade 4 (three competed)
1st Keith Highlanders
2nd Northwest Junior
3rd White Spot

Grade 5 (two competed)
1st Robert Malcolm Memorial 5
2nd Fraser Valley Pipe Band

Judges for all band events: Colin MacLellan, Ian K. MacDonald (piping); Blair Brown (drumming); Rene Cusson (ensemble)

Video: Toronto Police sweeps Toronto Indoor

Published: April 4, 2015

The scene at the 2015 Toronto Indoor Games, Moss Park Armoury, Toronto

Toronto – April 4, 2015 – The Toronto Police Grade 1 band enjoyed three first prizes in their events at the Toronto Indoor Games, winning the Grade 1&2 band contest and both of the Grade 1&2 Quartet events. The games marked the first time that the Ottawa Police Service Pipe Band competed as a Grade 1 band, and the debut of Paris Port Dover as a Grade 2 band. Matt MacIsaac returned to solo competition to enjoy a good day in the Professional grade, but it was Andrew Carlisle who was overall best, with two firsts and a second.

Grade 1&2
(four competed)
1st Toronto Police (1,1,2,1)
2nd Peel Regional Police (3,2,1,3)
3rd Ottawa Police Service (2,3,3,2)
4th Paris Port Dover (Gr2) (4,4,4,4)
Judges: Andrew Berthoff, Bob Worrall (piping); Dan Bist (drumming); John Elliott (ensemble)

Grade 3 (three competed)
1st Rob Roy (1,2,3,1) (EP)
2nd Toronto Police (1,1,2,2)
3rd Hamilton Police (3,3,1,3)
Judges: Gail Brown, Lynda Mackay (piping); Dan Bist (drumming); John Elliott (ensemble)

Grade 4 (five competed)
1st Guelph (1,1,4,3)
2nd Paris Port Dover (3,3,3,1)
3rd Chatham-Kent Police Services (4,4,1,2)
4th Arnprior MacNab (2,2,5,5)
5th Air Force City (5,5,2,4)
Judges: Brian Williamson, Peter Sinclair (piping); Dan Bist (drumming); Ken Eller (ensemble)

Grade 5 (three competed)
1st Barrie (1,1,1,2)
2nd Ryan Russell Memorial (2,2,3,1)
3rd Scarborough (3,3,2,3)
Judges: Gail Brown, Peter Sinclair (piping); Dan Bist (drumming); Ken Eller (ensemble)

Young James Kirkwood in the Grade 2 solo drumming.

Grade 1&2
(seven competed)
1st Toronto Police (Gr1)
2nd Ottawa Police – Dicker (Gr1)
3rd Ottawa Police – Anderson (Gr1)
4th Ottawa Police – Ridley (Gr1)
5th Peel Polce – A.Cairns (Gr1)
6th Peel Police – Alegretti (Gr1)
Judges: Ken Eller, John Elliott

MSR (nine competed)
1st Toronto Police (Gr1)
2nd Ottawa Police Services – Boyd (Gr1)
3rd Ottawa Police Services – Dicker (Gr1)
4th Paris Port Dover – (Gr2)
5th Ottawa Police Services – Bush (Gr1)
6th Peel Regional Police – Allegretti (Gr1)
Judges: Andrew Berthoff; Bob Worrall

Dylan Whittemore plays for a drummer at the 2015 Toronto Indoor.

Grade 3&4
Air & 6/8 March

1st Toronto Police – Urkovsky (Gr3)
2nd Guelph – Bridge (Gr4)
3rd Ryan Russell Memorial (Gr4)
4th Guelph – Dennis (Gr4)
5th Barrie – Kielgelmann (Gr4)
6th Scarborough – MacDougall (Gr4)
Judges: Ken Eller, Lynda Mackay

Solo Piping
(12 competed)
1st Andrew Carlisle
2nd Sean McKeown
3rd Ed Bush
4th Nick Hudson
5th Jacob Dicker
6th Elizabeth SheridanJudge: Bill Livingstone

MSR (12 competed)
1st Matt MacIsaac
2nd Andrew Carlisle
3rd Andrea Boyd
4th Sean McKeown
5th Alan Clark
6th Tyler Harris
Judge: Gail Brown

Freestyle (12 competed)
1st Andrew Carlisle
2nd Matt MacIsaac
3rd Sean McKeown
4th Josh MacFarlane
5th Tyler Harris
6th Jacob Dicker
Judge: John Elliott

Solo Drumming

MSR (four competed)
1st Iain Bell
2nd Chris Bell
3rd Joe Kiah
4th Neil Birkett
Judge: Dan Bist

Hornpipe & Jig (three competed)
1st Chris Bell
2nd Iain Bell
3rd Neil Birkett
Judge: Dan Bist

RSPBA loses Northern Ireland executive to Spring Gatherin’

Published: March 31, 2015

David Scott

David Scott, the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association’s Northern Ireland Branch Executive Secretary since 2005, resigned from the association on the evening of March 31st, according to sources “due to mounting pressure from the branch executive” over the controversial Spring Gatherin’ event and the RSPBA’s reported concerns about the event holding pipe band competitions not sanctioned by the association.

Scott has joined the organizational team of The Spring Gatherin’, and said in a statement, “Though it saddens me to resign my post with the RSPBANI, I felt it was time for me to make a move to new and exciting ventures in piping and drumming. I very much look forward to The Spring Gatherin’ this April, as well as developing our plans for it in the years to come.”

He was already on the board of directors of Dalriada Events, the company behind The Spring Gatherin’ and sister company of the successful Belfast Tattoo.

An insider who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “David has been 100% forthright about his involvement in The Spring Gatherin’ with the [RSPBANI] Executive, but mumblings of ‘conflict of interest’ and ‘you should consider where your loyalties lie’ have forced him to make this move.”

The Spring Gatherin’ earlier decided to cancel its competitions in favour of unjudged performances, claiming that participating bands had been threatened with suspension by RSPBA officials if they took part.

David Scott is a drummer with the non-competing Drumlough Pipe Band of Rathfriland, Northern Ireland, and is well regarded and liked among Ulster pipers and drummers.

Colin Wasson, director of The Spring Gatherin’, said, “We are delighted that David has made the move to devote even more of his time and energies to The Spring Gatherin’. David has a wealth of knowledge and experience in promoting pipe band events and initiatives and he has played a key role in getting The Spring Gatherin’ off the ground.”

A combination of performances and workshops, the Spring Gatherin’ is scheduled for April 24-26 at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast. The event is in part modelled on the successful Winter Storm event held annually in January in Kansas City, Missouri.

Elite solo pipers already getting set for 2016


Boreraig_Cairn_smallThe Piobaireachd Society has prescribed its list of tunes for the major competitions in 2016 for the world’s best solo pipers, and they return to a familiar submit four, play one approach, which will follow a mainly “own choice” 2015.

Most of the tunes are familiar fare for accomplished pipers, with notable exception of two “modern” tunes set for the Senior competitions. “The Phantom Piper of Corrieyairack” by John A. MacLellan and “A Son’s Salute to His Parents” by Donald MacLeod are for the first time set among ancient compositions.

In the Silver Medal, several tunes will be required to have their crunluath a mach variation played.

Senior (submit four, play one)
“The Bells of Perth” – Piobaireachd Society Book (PS) 2, Kilberry Book of Ceol Mor (K)
“The Earl of Ross’s March” – PS 10
“Lament for Hugh” – PS 13
“The MacDonalds’ Salute” – (corrected version) PS 11
“MacLeod of MacLeod’s Lament” – PS 15, K
“The Phantom Piper of Corrieyairack” – PS 20th Century Book
“A Son’s Salute to His Parents” – Donald MacLeod Book
“Scarce of Fishing” – PS 3, K

Gold Medal (submit four, play one)
“The Battle of Waternish” – PS 2, K
“The Gathering of Clan Chattan” – PS 2, K
“I got a Kiss of the King’s Hand” – PS 7, K
“Isabel Mackay” – PS 6, K
“Lament for MacSwan of Roaig” – PS 1, K
“Mary’s Praise” – PS 5, K
“My King Has Landed in Moidart” – PS 5, K
“The Stewarts’ White Banner” – PS 7

Silver Medal (submit four, play one)
“Lament for the Castle of Dunyveg” – PS 1
“Castle Menzies” – PS 8
“A Flame of Wrath for Patrick Caogach” – PS 5, K
“Hector MacLean’s Warning” (crunluath a mach required) PS 2
“I Am Proud to Play a Pipe” – PS 6, K
“The MacDonalds Are Simple” – (crunluath a mach required) PS 9
“The Piper’s Warning to His Master” – PS 12, K
“The Rout of the MacPhees” (crunluath a mach required) PS 4

The organization gave the usual cautions to comompetitors who want to deviate from the usual settings. Pipers wishing to delve in to alternative settings from almost every source known should check out William Donaldson’s Set Tunes Series, in which most of the tunes above are closely analyzed.

“There is always much deliberation goes into the selection of the set tune lists,” Piobaireachd Society President Jack Taylor told pipes|drums. “The process started some 18 months ago. Small groups of Music Committee members come up with draft lists, these are discussed by the full committee, then refined as necessary.

“I think the 2016 lists are a good mix, and a good test at the Senior, Gold and Silver levels. Of particular significance is the inclusion of ‘The Phantom Piper of Corrieyairack’ by John MacLellan and ‘A Son’s Salute to His Parents’ by Donald MacLeod. These are now coming into the standard repertoire, and the music committee felt that they stand very favourably against the other classic older tunes in the list such as ‘Scarce of Fishing’ and ‘The Earl of Ross’s March.’ Colin MacLellan has kindly provided a definitive score of ‘The Phantom Piper’ and a recording of his father playing it, and these are posted on the Piobaireachd Society’s website.

“The gold medal players will surely enjoy getting familiar with the tunes on their list such as ‘Waternish,’ ‘MacSwan,’ ‘Mary’s Praise,’ ‘My King Has Landed’ and the like. They should make for an excellent competition.

“The standard in the Silver Medal is ever higher, and the shorter, attractive, but less usual tunes there should be a suitable challenge. We don’t hear the likes of ‘Dunyveg,’ ‘I’m Proud to Play a Pipe’ and ‘The Piper’s Warning’ often, so they will be a treat for the audience, the judges, and hopefully the players.”

MacDonald bows out as Toronto Police P-M; McKeown in


Ian K. MacDonald has voluntarily given way to Sean McKeown as Pipe-Major of the Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe Band after returning to the band recently following a mild-heart attack last fall.

MacDonald said that he arrived at the decision after being impressed with where his band had been taken by McKeown, so he suggested the move to McKeown, partly so that he could get his own playing into shape.

Ian K. MacDonald

“The band is going very well with Sean at the helm, and being this late in the winter and after canvassing Sean about taking over for the season he took some time and let me know that he is up to the challenge and looking forward to leading the band this season,” MacDonald said. “The band nucleus has been the same group for years for the pipe corps.”

He said that he will stay with the band as a piper in the ranks.

It’s the most recent big change for the Toronto Police, also following the appointment of Craig Stewart as Leading-Drummer in September following the departure of Mark Passmore, who led the band’s corps for a season.

Sean McKeown

“Craig Stewart’s ensemble touch makes this change a refreshing push in the right direction which I know the band and myself will definitely enjoy,” MacDonald continued. “Sean brings a lot of experience and energy and was always someone I had hoped would take over the band someday when we were ready and I am elated that he wants to give this a go.”

It is the first pipe-majorship for McKeown, who has a lengthy experience in Grade 1 with Toronto Police and the 78th Fraser Highlanders. Like MacDonald, McKeown is an accomplished solo competition piper.

“I’ve known and played under Ian for years . . . and I helped run practices more recently when he couldn’t attend,” McKeown said. “Ian and i spoke and do speak frequently about what we believe is best for the band. I think all of this has made the transition a bit more natural for me and for the band.

“Craig Stewart is also very good to work with. He’s put a lot of work in with his crew to get them up to the standard since taking over late last fall. He previously led the Toronto Police drum corps in 2004 at a time when I thought the band had some of its best ensemble. He’s a class-act and has the band’s best interests in mind.

“As for this upcoming season, we’ve made a few tweaks to our sound and style of playing, and we have a brand new medley that Craig has written some really good stuff for. Everyone has really been working hard in the off season to put forth some solid performances this year.

“The band will be travelling to the World’s,  and the plan is that Ian will return in the fall to take back the band.”

Ian MacDonald had led the band since 2007, and before then was in charge between 1998 and 2004.

MacDonald said that since his medical condition arose he has been on a fitness regimen that he said has him in “better shape than I have been in years.”

Rudolph pockets 100 Guineas

Published: March 30, 2015

Johannesburg, South Africa – March 29, 2015 – The 100 Guineas Solo Piping Competition was held at the View in Parktown, the 57th annual event, which is considered the premier solo piping contest of the Scottish Piping Society of the Witwatersrand. The competition is in memory of Lachlan Milloy Miller, with the main prize then of 100 Guineas. Past winners have included George Ackroyd, James Young and Norman Dodds.

Gareth Rudolph was the overall winner of the Senior section, while Malcolm Chadwick picked up the same award in the Junior section.

Gareth Rudolph (right) accepts the 100 Guineas Senior trophy from the president of the Scottish Piping Society of the Witwatersrand, Grant Laidlaw.

Indoor Winnipeg Festival draws from far and wide


RMPB LogoWinnipeg – March 28, 2015 – The Winnipeg Scottish Festival saw changes to the date, venue and format, with more than 100 soloists competing in the morning, and 11 bands performing in the afternoon. Pipers and drummers traveled from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Minnesota and Nebraska to compete the event. Bands performed on stage in concert format to a full house at the CanadInns Banquet and Conference Centre. Grade 2 band events were split between Rocky Mountain of Calgary and City of Regina, with the newly logoed Rocky Mountain taking overall drumming. The Winnipeg Police won both Grade 3 events.

Grade 2
1st Rocky Mountain
2nd City of Regina

1st City of Regina
2nd Rocky Mountain
Overall drumming: Rocky Mountain

Rocky Mountain competing in the Winnipeg Scottish Festival Grade 2 contest.

Grade 3
1st Winnipeg Police
2nd St. Andrew’s of Winnipeg
3rd Macalester College

1st Winnipeg Police
2nd St. Andrew’s of Winnipeg
3rd Macalester College
Overall drumming: Winnipeg Police

Grade 4
Quick March Medley
1st Lord Selkirk RFM
2nd Conservatory of Performing Arts
3rd Regina Police

1st Lord Selkirk RFM
2nd Regina Police
3rd Prairie Thistle
Overall drumming: Regina Police

Grade 5
Quick March Medley
1st Macalester College
2nd Prairie Thistle
Drumming: Macalster College
Judges for all band events: Ken Eller, Adrian Melvin (piping); Jim Sim (Drumming); Bob Worrall (Ensemble)

Cancer research gains nearly $35k from SFU band event

Published: March 29, 2015

Almost $35,000 were raised for the BC Cancer Foundation at the Pipe Up for Cancer and Balding For Boney event put on by the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band where a whole lot of art was played and a whole lot of hair was lost, all in honour of band-member Andrew Bonar.

SFU Pipe-Sergeant Jack Lee and former Pipe-Major Terry Lee take it all off for the BC Cancer Foundation. [Photo: Skye Richendrfer]

After a 90-minute concert at the SFU Theatre in Burnaby, British Columbia, virtually the entire band went under the electric clippers to have their heads shorn by bandmates while additional contributions came in from around the world from viewers of the livestream broadcast of the event.

Andrew Bonar with emcee Skye Richendrfr. [Photo: Skye Richendrfer]

Bonar received a ceremonial big cheque for $32,500 made out to the BC Cancer Foundation, and was surprised when presented with a portrait of him painted by former band-member Robert Mathieson. At the concert, Bonar’s daughter, Kate, performed along with the Heather Jolley Highland Dancers, to Pipe-Sergeant Jack Lee’s accompaniment. Bonar made an emotional speech, thanking all, paying particular thanks to his wife, Jeanette.

Former SFU piper Skye Richendrfer emceed the concert and hair-razing post-concert event. A sold-out ticketed ceilidh followed the entire affair and went into the night. Richendrfer played with Bonar in Abbotsford Legion, his first band in the late-1970s.

“It was so wonderful to see friends and supporters of SFU and Andrew Bonar specifically, coming together to celebrate this way,” Richendrfer said. “What a meaningful and thoughtful response and such genuine outpouring of support for Andrew and his family. One for the ages!”

Andrew Bonar has been a member of SFU since the early-1980s, and is one of the world’s most accomplished solo pipers, with his many awards including the Silver Medal at the Northern Meeting in 2010. He was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer last year and has been undergoing treatment since shortly after the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships, at which he competed with SFU.

Bonar wrote a moving account of his ordeal for pipes|drums in November of last year.

The band previewed some material that it plans to perform at its Pre-World’s Concert in August in Glasgow.

Nonprofit pipes|drums Magazine made a contribution of $250 to the cause.


Video: “War or Peace” – Jack Lee’s rendition of obscure tune

Published: March 28, 2015

We caught up with Jack Lee of Surrey, British Columbia, back in cold January in downtown Toronto in recital after the More Ceol Mor workshop. The virtuoso solo piper delivered a rendition of the obscure and rarely-heard piobaireachd, “War or Peace.”

For more about the tune, be sure to check the pipes|drums Set Tunes Series by William Donaldson, where you can follow the scores and see the various settings and history of the composition.

The tune makes use of embellishments that are today unconventional, including what is known as a crunluath movement with a “redundant low-A.” This has been the subject of some controversy with piobaireachd aficionados over the years.

Johnston and Lynas move to front of Centre

Published: March 26, 2015

Clare Lynas

The National Piping Centre has made a few important appointments to their full-time teaching staff, with Finlay Johnston and Clare Lynas taking roles vacated by Chris Armstrong and Glenn Brown, who each resigned early in 2015 after several years with the Glasgow-based organization.

Johnston joins the Centre’s staff on April 28th, and is well known as a solo piper, his biggest prizes to date the A-Grade Strathspey & Reel and the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering in 2011 and 2012, respectively. His Grade 1 band experience includes stints with Inveraray & District, ScottishPower and Spirit of Scotland. He brings with him past teaching experience at the College of Piping in Glasgow and reedmaking expertise, working with Pipedreams, the makers of Ezeedrone reeds.

Finlay Johnston

Clare Lynas has worked as an Administrative Assistant at the National Piping Centre, and has a BA in Scottish Music-Piping from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and a first class honours degree in music from Napier University. She’s been a member of Grade 1 ScottishPower and Grade 2 Drambuie-Kirkliston, and also plays clarinet, whistles and smallpipes, and a background in piobaireachd as a student of Tom Speirs.

“We are disappointed to lose staff of the calibre of Chris and Glenn, but people move on and inevitably look to develop their own opportunities in life,” National Piping Centre Director Roddy MacLeod said. “We obviously wish them every success and thank them for the significant contribution they have made to the growing success of the centre.”

Armstrong and Brown, both Gold Medallists, left to pursue other opportunities, primarily in piping. Armstrong’s X-Treme line of products has been well received, and both pipers are in high demand as teachers, recitalists and competitors at invitational events worldwide.

MacLeod added that the Piping Centre has also added several part-time staff, including Gold Medallist Wilson Brown, who recently retired from the Strathclyde Police force. Rising stars on the Scottish solo piping scene Andrew Bova, Jonathan Graham, Hayley MacInnes, Callum Moffat, Edward Seaman and David Shedden have also worked as part-time instructors.

He also said the National Piping Centre has worked with Lothian Kilt Rentals in Dunedin, Florida, at the new “Dunedin Tide” workshop and competitions, with Brown, Bruce Gandy, Finlay MacDonald, Colin MacLellan, Robert Mathieson and MacLeod handling the teaching with more than 80 students enrolled.

SFU concerts sells out; pushing $25k in donations

Published: March 23, 2015

The Simon Fraser University Theatre is sold out for the March 28th SFU “Pipe Up for Cancer” concert in aid of the BC Cancer Foundation, and the band is so far close to raising $25,000 for the cause in support of band member Andrew Bonar.

What’s more, 20 people – including former Pipe-Major Terry Lee, Pipe-Sergeant Jack Lee and Leading-Drummer Reid Maxwell – will shave their heads in a special “Balding for Boney” spectacle immediately following the show.

“The support that people have shown for Andrew Bonar through our Pipe Up for Cancer event has really been amazing,” said Jack Lee, who is also the band’s president. “Andrew Bonar is a much loved and admired throughout the piping word. He is a great friend, piper and person and a long-time member of the SFU Pipe Band. Thanks to everyone who has participated and shown their support we have been able to raise over $20,000 for the BC Cancer Foundation, the cancer organization selected by Andrew.”

Andrew Bonar, 2007.

Bonar and his family will be at the concert on Saturday night, and his daughter, Kate, an accomplished Highland dancer will perform at the show with the Heather Jolley Highland Dancers. The band revealed that Skye Richendrfer, a former piper with the band in its early days, will emcee the event. Richendrfer heads up the successful Celtic Arts Foundation in Washington state, and also played with Bonar in the Abbotsford Legion Pipe Band in the late-1970s.

The concert and balding will be live-streamed on the Internet starting at 6 pm PST on March 28th at The livestream is free, but unless you are complete penny-pinching putz you will make a donation to the BC Cancer Foundation while you enjoy one of the world’s greatest pipe bands entertain you for the better part of two hours.

Andrew Bonar has been a member of SFU since the early-1980s, and is one of the world’s most accomplished solo pipers, with his many awards including the Silver Medal at the Northern Meeting in 2010. He was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer last year and has been undergoing treatment since shortly after the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships, at which he competed with SFU.

Bonar wrote a moving account of his ordeal for pipes|drums in November of last year.

pipes|drums Magazine has donated $250 to the BC Cancer Foundation in Andrew Bonar’s name.

Reid Maxwell honoured with BC Achievement Award

Published: March 21, 2015

Reid Maxwell

He could be the greatest single contributor to pipe band drumming in North American history, and now Reid Maxwell will be formally recognized for his contributions to the art on April 24th when he receives a British Columbia Community Achievement Award.

The announcement was made by British Columbia Premier Christy Clark and Keith Mitchell, chair of the British Columbia Achievement Foundation. The award “recognizes and celebrates the spirit, imagination, dedication, and outstanding contributions of British Columbians to their communities.”

Reid Maxwell was cited for his “contributions as a teacher, adjudicator and mentor and for making BC and SFU a centre of excellence in pipe band drumming.”

“I am very humbled and flattered to receive this award,” Maxwell said. “So many people in the piping, drumming and pipe band community volunteer countless hours to teach and promote our music, but are not often publicly recognized. I am honoured that I have been. Teaching and mentoring drumming students is what I love to do, so to be recognized by the province for it is a huge honour.”

Maxwell settled in British Columbia in 1992 and since that time has been Leading-Drummer of the Grade 1 Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, winning six World Pipe Band Championships and four World Pipe Band Drum Corps titles. He also won two World Championships as a member of Dysart & Dundonald, and one with the 78th Fraser Highlanders, including a World Pipe Band Drumming title as leading-drummer. Maxwell has taught scores of drummers along the way, helping to build the BC drumming scene to produce consistently excellent snare drummers.

The award will be presented by Clark at Government House in Victoria, British Columbia’s capital.

Honours are nothing new to members of SFU. In 1999, former SFU Pipe-Major Terry Lee and Pipe-Sergeant Jack Lee were presented with Canadian Governor General Meritorious Service Awards for their contributions to piping and pipe bands, and in 2013 Terry and Jack lee received honourary doctorates from Simon Fraser University.

Spring Gatherin’ nixes contests under alleged RSPBA pressure

Published: March 19, 2015

Spring_Gatherin_logoThe Spring Gatherin’ in Belfast on April 24-26 has cancelled its creative pipe band competitions, in which the audience would be part of the judging, reportedly after the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Society threatened participating bands with suspension should they take part in an unsanctioned competition.

Rather than risk bands cancelling from The Spring Gatherin’ altogether, worried that they would not be allowed to compete in sanctioned RSPBA events over the rest of the year, the organizers have decided to go with a non-competition, “showcase” event where bands entered will perform for the audience.

Organizer of The Spring Gatherin’, Colin Wasson, said in a statement to pipes|drums:

“I originally had a phone call alerting me to rumblings being made by RSPBANI [the Northern Ireland Branch of the RSPBA], who were concerned that a competition was taking place that was unlicensed by them and could lead to the bands taking part in Spring Gatherin being suspended from RSPBANI and indeed RSPBA competitions for a period of time.

“This suspension would also apply to individuals who are part of Spring Gatherin set up on a personal basis, as well as being part of RSPBANI.

“I was asked during that call if I would be prepared to meet George Ussher, President of RSPBA, to discuss concerns they had about Spring Gatherin’.

“I was only too happy to agree to meet George as we have nothing to hide or fear from bringing a new and in our opinion, exciting product to the market.

“It should also be noted that I had been asked previously to meet Ray Hall, chairman of the RSPBANI, on three occasions, about these concerns, each time I agreed to meet him but no meeting took place for whatever reason.

“I met George Ussher in the Premier Inn, Lisburn, in the 9th March along with David Scott, who organized the meeting.

“George expressed his concern about this unlicensed competition as RSPBA are the official license providers for all piping competition in the UK.

“I pointed out to him that we would take a different view on whether we needed a license from them, but in order to protect the bands from any sanctions . . .

Continue reading

Resurrected Montreal Games calls for pipe bands

Published: March 18, 2015

Montreal_Games_largeFollowing a few years of uncertain funding, some changes to band-contest format, and then death of long-time organizer Kirk Johnstone, the Montreal Highland Games had to take a year off in 2013.

In 2014, the games came back in a new venue, with huge community support, large crowds and a packed beer tent, but not as many pipe bands as they would have liked.

Organizer Brian MacKenzie said, “We are reaching out to attract more bands to come and compete the Sunday after the Maxville Highland Games, making it a weekend full of activity.”

The games are hoping that bands travelling to Maxville will extend their stay to take in the games. This can be a hard sell for bands with their eyes on the bottom line. Bands travelling to the World¹s can see Montreal games as an unnecessary expense, and bands travelling a distance for Maxville have to budget extra hotels and travel.

The good news is that a successful day at the games can cover some of that, and bands attending Montreal Games typically enjoy the social atmosphere following the intensity of Maxville.

As well as pipe bands, Montreal continues to develop other aspects of the games.

MacKenzie says, “This year we are altering the plan and configuration to accommodate more spectator areas for viewing the events. More attention will be paid to Celtic entertainment, the concept of the Celtic village, and the kiddie’s corner gives this event a real family feel.”

Before going on hiatus, the Montreal games had experimented with inventive pipe band competitions in an invitational format. In an attempt to maximize crowd enjoyment, bands performed a free-form mini-concert on a stage.

The Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario lost sanctioning of the Montreal games some years ago and never regained it. The PPBSO has, however, gained sanctioning with the Highland of Durham Highland Games in Uxbridge, Ontario, in July.

Band entries for Montreal (no word yet of solo events) will be available on the web site.

Agnew-Harrison drumming goes to Glen Neil

Published: March 15, 2015

Glen Neil with the Agnew-Harrison trophy. [Photo: Kyle Heaney]

Hamilton, Ontario – March 14, 2015 – While the rest of Canada’s music industry was gathered down the street for the 2015 JUNO Awards, the piping and drumming community got together for the Agnew-Harrison Memorial Invitational Solo Pipe Band Drumming Competition at James Street Armoury, where Glen Neil took the top prize. The event is organized by the Niagara-Hamilton Branch of the PPBSO.

1st Glen Neil
2nd Zack Miller
3rd Neil Birkett
Judge: Harvey Dawson

Also playing but not in the prizes: Cameron Bolley, Chris Gardner, Joe Kiah and Cameron McKail.

The event is named in honour of Jim Agnew and George Harrison, two pillars of the regional pipe band drumming community.

Gardiner makes short list at Duncan Johnstone, wins

Published: March 14, 2015

Douglas Gardiner competing in shorts at the 2015 Duncan Johnstone Memorial.

Glasgow – March 14, 2015 – Douglas Gardiner of Edinburgh was the overall winner of the annual Duncan Johnstone Memorial Competition for solo pipers graded B and C by the Competing Pipers Association. With two completely different prize lists in the B-Grade events, Gardiner’s win in the Piobaireachd took preference over Connor Sinclair’s first in the MSR. Gardiner forgot to pack his kilt, but was allowed to compete in shorts, which he always wears when travelling to competitions. The event was held at the National Piping Centre.

1st Douglas Gardiner, Edinburgh, “The Desperate Battle”
2nd Sarah Muir, Glasgow, “Rory MacLoude’s Lament”
3rd Graham Mulholland, Perthshire, “Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon”
4th Steven Leask, Ayrshire, “The Earl of Ross’s March”
5th Duncan Beattie, Kilmarnock, “Lament for Captain MacDougall”
Judges: Colin MacLellan, Neill Mulvie

1st Connor Sinclair, Creiff
2nd Matt Wilson, Dollar
3rd Cameron MacDougall
4th Callum Watson, Edinburgh
5th Ross Millar, Edinburgh
Judges: Walter Cowan, Iain MacLellan

C-Grade MSR winner Bruce MacDonald, C-Grade Piobaireachd winner Andrew Wright, and B-Grade MSR winner Connor Sinclair with their trophies from the 2015 Duncan Johnstone Memorial. [Photo: Derek Maxwell]

1st Andrew Wright
2nd John MacDonald
3rd Ben Mulhearn, Troon
4th Jonathan Simpson, Edinburgh
5th John MacAlmurray
Judges: Euan Anderson, Ian Duncan

1st Bruce MacDonald
2nd Ciaran Ross
3rd Fraser Allison
4th John MacDonald
5th Chris Ross
Judges: Alan Forbes, Tom Johnstone

1st Andy Wilson, Northern Ireland
2nd George Stewart, Perthshire
3rd Ross Cowan, Annan
4th David Shedden, Bishopbriggs
5th Ross Millar

Canterbury sweeps NZ Championships


Canterbury_logoNelson, New Zealand – March 13-14, 2015 – Canterbury Caledonian Society won both the Grade 1 Medley and MSR events by nine points overall at the annual New Zealand Pipe Band Championships. With a convincing win in the MSR and narrow victory in the Medley. Four competed in the top grade, with Invercargill unable to field a band. The Royal New Zealand Pipe Bands Association event had as guests two adjudicators from Scotland, Gordon Lawrie and Jim Baxter, who will be judging the Grade 1 final competitions at the World Pipe Band Championships in August.

Grade 1 (four competed)
1st Canterbury Caledonian
2nd Auckland & District
3rd Manawatu Scottish
4th New Zealand Police
Drumming: Canterbury Caledonian

1st Canterbury Caledonian (4,2,1,1)
2nd Manawatu Scottish (2,3,3,2)
3rd Auckland & District (1,1,4,4)
4th New Zealand Police (3,4,2,3)
Judges: Brendon Eade, R. Fergusson (piping); Jim Baxter (ensemble); S. Mitchell (drumming)

1st Canterbury Caledonian (1,1,1,2)
2nd New Zealand Police (4,4,2,1)
3rd Auckland & District (2,3,3,4)
4th Manawatu Scottish (3,2,4,3)
Judges: Gordon Lawrie, Barry Brougham (piping); Alistair Hanning (esemble); R. Levy (drumming)

Canterbury Caledonian competing in the Grade 1 Qualifier at the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships.

Grade 2
1st St Andrew’s College
2nd Northland Caledonian
3rd Temuka
4th City of Dunedin Pipe Band
5th Canterbury Caledonian (Gr2)
6th South Canterbury

1st St Andrew’s College
2nd Northland Caledonian
3rd Canterbury Caledonian (Gr2)
4th City of Dunedin Pipe Band
5th Temuka
6th South Canterbury
Judges: Brendon Eade, R. Fergusson (piping); Jim Baxter (ensemble); S. Mitchell (drumming)

1st St Andrew’s College
2nd Temuka
3rd Northland Caledonian
4th City of Dunedin Pipe Band
5th Canterbury Caledonian (Gr2)
6th South Canterbury
Judges: Gordon Lawrie, Barry Brougham (piping); Alistair Hanning (esemble); R. Levy (drumming)

Grade 3
1st Celtic
2nd Wellington Red Hackle
3rd Manawatu Scottish (No.2)
4th City of Hastings
5th City of Nelson
6th Auckland Police
7th City of Invercargill (No.2)
8th City of Wellington
9th City of Sails
10th City of Auckland

Grade 4A
1st Haileybury
2nd Canterbury Caledonian (Gr4)
3rd Scots College
4th Hamilton Caledonian Society
5th Scottish Society of New Zealand
6th City of Tauranga
7th Gold Coast Tweed
8th Knox Grammar School
9th Hokonui Celtic
10th Christchurch Metropolitan
11th Waimatuku Southern Scenic Highland

Grade 4B
1st Manawatu Scottish (No.3)
2nd St Andrews College
3rd City of Rotorua
4th Papakura
5th City of Invercargill (No.3)
6th South Canterbury Development
7th Kapiti Coast
8th Marton & District
9th Bay of Plenty
10th McAlpines North Canterbury
11th City of Sails Development
12th Waitaki District Schools
13th Celtic Development
14th Mackenzie Highland

Belfast borrows from KC for contest-workshop hotel Gatherin’

Published: March 11, 2015

It’s said that imitation is flattery, so the organizers of the decade-old Winter Storm weekend of piping and drumming competitions and workshops in Kansas City, Missouri, will be blushing from providing inspiration to The Spring Gatherin’, a new event April 24-26 in Belfast.

As with Winter Storm’s hotel venue, The Spring Gatherin’ will take over the Ramada Hotel Shaw’s Bridge for the multi-day event “for piping and drumming exhibition, competition and education” that “will provide a new and fresh platform for UK and Republic of Ireland piping and drumming talent to develop and perform, in a relaxed, classy and comfortable setting.”

The competition aspect will be held without the administration of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, a rare occurrence in the UK where the association has become the de facto organizer of contests, occasionally allegedly putting pressure on organizers and RSPBA member bands to toe the sanctioning line.

The Spring Gatherin’ has created events “to provide maximum entertainment value for the audience,” with the crowd having an opportunity to vote for their favourites, the tally added with those of two piping judges and one drumming judge. Combined piping marks will account for 50%, drumming 30% and the audience vote 20%.

Additionally, bands can perform in a formation of their choice of crescent-moon, V-shape, something called “starburst” – almost anything except the prescribed backs-to-the-crowd circle required in RSPBA events.

“The event concept was derived from the idea of Winter Storm in America and why no such event existed here in the United Kingdom and, more importantly, Northern Ireland, which has such a large number of participants in the piping community,” said Colin Wasson, the visionary behind The Spring Gatherin’. Wasson has in the past organized the highly successful Belfast Tattoo.

“We thought there was a niche in the market for something new and fresh, where players could appear in relative comfort, the audience would also be in relative comfort, not the draughty school halls these types of events generally take place it over here. We also wanted to make the event a more relaxed type of event less rigorous and straight laced than current events. The aim of our event is to give the musicians and bands a platform to show their talents in a positive way and in a way to increase the standard of musicianship of your average player by letting them see at close quarters what is possible with work,” Wasson continued.

The organizers of Winter Storm, which takes place in early-January each year, have no problem with having their concept adapted 4,000 miles away.

“It looks like The Spring Gatherin’ 2015 is going to be a fantastic event with a terrific line-up of talent,” said Beth Wilson, the newly-appointed president of the Midwest Highland Arts Fund, the group that puts together Winter Storm. “We in Kansas City can . . .


Continue reading

Rudolph, Holz in the chips at Sandy Mallen solos

Published: March 9, 2015

Brandon Holz receives the trophy for the top Junior solo piper.

Johannesburg – March 7, 2015 – With three first prizes, Gareth Rudolph was the overall Open Champion, while Brandon Holz and Craig Carlson, were the Junior Champion and overall Amateur Winner, respectively, at the Sandy Mallen Memorial Challenge, held at the Regimental Headquarters of the Transvaal Scottish.

Open (eight competed)
1st Gareth Rudolph, “The End of the Great Bridge”
2nd Simon Workman, “Lament for Viscount of Dundee”
3rd Rohan Morgan, “Clan Campbell’s Gathering”

1st Gareth Rudolph
2nd Alex Jeanrenaud
3rd Simon Workman

Strathspey & Reel
1st Gareth Rudolph
2nd Simon Workman
3rd Alex Jeanrenaud

Gareth Rudolph accepts the Open trophy from the President of the Scottish Piping Society of the Witwatersrand, Grant Laidlaw.

1st Brandon Holz
2nd Frans Coetzee
3rd M. Mochrie

1st Brandon Holz
2nd Frans Coetzee
3rd Garrin Walker

Strathspey & Reel
1st Frans Coetzee
2nd Eric Cleaver
3rd Brandon Holz

Uist & Barra attracts rich roster of solo piping elite

Published: March 7, 2015

Faye Henderson

Glasgow – March 7, 2015 – The annual Uist & Barra Association Solo Piping Competition was held at the College of Piping, and featured 16 top-flight contestants. With four fourths, Chris Armstrong was most consistently successful, but Faye Henderson, Gordon Walker and Alasdair Henderson took home the firsts, and Walker was decided as the overall winner. A few pipers competed in only the piobaireachd or only the light music events.

1st Faye Henderson, Kirriemuir, Scotland, “Lament for the Earl of Antrim”
2nd Douglas Murray, Cupar, Scotland, “Lord Lovat’s Lament”
3rd Angus MacColl, Benderloch, Scotland, “The End of the Great Bridge”
4th Chris Armstrong, Airth, Scotland, “Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon”
5th Finlay Johnston, Glasgow, “Farewell to the Laird of Islay”

Also competing in the Piobaireachd, but not in the prizes: Callum Beaumont; Glenn Brown; Bill Geddes; Roddy MacLeod; Peter McCalister; Willie McCallum; Gordon McCready; and Gordon Walker.

1st Gordon Walker, Galston, Scotland
2nd Willie McCallum, Bearsden, Scotland
3rd Roddy MacLeod, Glasgow
4th Chris Armstrong
5th Iain Speirs, Edinburgh

Hornpipe & Jig
1st Alasdair Henderson, Dunoon, Scotland
2nd Gordon Walker
4rd Douglas Murray
4th Chris Armstrong
5th Roddy MacLeod

Also competing in the light music, but not in the prizes: Glenn Brown; Bill Geddes; Alasdair Henderson; Angus MacColl; Gordon McCready; Douglas Murray; Iain Speirs; and Craig Sutherland

All events were judged by Iain MacFadyen, Willie Morrison and Stuart Samson.

Do you have competition results? We invite you to send them by email to pipes|drums along with photographs and details of the event. Please use the 1st, 2nd, 3rd format in the article above, include judges and send as a standard text file.

Crieff Highland Games clarifies piping position

Published: March 6, 2015

No more sweeties for pipers at Crieff Highland Games.

The recent decision by the Crieff Highland Games of Crieff, Scotland, to drop its solo piping competitions after more than 130 years of them running, is perhaps of tangible impact to about 40 pipers worldwide who might be eligible and actually consider competing at the event.

That the games directly cited the World Pipe Band Championships as a factor in the decline of piping and interest in Crieff, however, will be of concern to thousands of pipes|drums readers, who might have witnessed similar negative ancillary impact on both solo piping and pipe band competitions in their own regions.

The World’s can be one factor in the demise of events, as pipers and drummers and bands are consumed with preparing for and getting to Glasgow in August. But other factors might also be the relatively arcane and clubby nature of piping and drumming and the overall competition for attention and the public’s money when so many more entertainment options are available. Highland games as we know them are under increased threat and, while pipers and drummers might get in high-dudgeon over declining and cancelled events, they might instead consider what pipers and drummers themselves might do to improve the “product.”

We received the following from Ian Stewart, vice chairman of the Crieff Highland Games, published here in its entirety:

Having read some of the nonsense being spouted online regards the suspension of solo piping at Crieff (not by pipes|drums I might add), we at Crieff Highland Games would appreciate if you could update the article with the following response, in its entirety.

Generally we do not like to get involved in the online ramblings of social media, however some of the recent comments relating to Crieff Highland Gathering’s decision to suspend this year’s solo piping, although not deserving of a reply are worth correcting.

The decision to suspend the solo piping was not taken lightly and not taken by a committee of pen-pushers, but by a board that includes many former pipe band members who understand the importance of not only maintaining traditional Highland games events but also the sound of bagpipes on the day. The fact of the matter is that since the World Pipe Band Championship changed to a two-day event Crieff Highland Games has struggled for numbers, both competitors and spectators.

Crieff Highland Games takes place on the Sunday after the 3rd Saturday in August meaning every few years the two events clash on the same weekend. Prior to the World’s becoming a two-day event this was not a problem and Crieff Highland Games enjoyed decent numbers of solo piping competitors, averaging around 12 youths and mid to high-twenties for adults. The drop in numbers started from 2013 onwards, resulting in the youths’ competition for the last two years being cancelled due to insufficient numbers and the average number of adults for the MSR and the pibroch combined only being around 14.

Crieff Highland Games have tried in the past to solve the date problem and indeed two years ago changed the date of their pipe band competition to the following week. This however was not liked by band members or the general public. This proved a financial disaster and although worth trying once was certainly not worth trying twice.

The “shameful” decision to “abandon” piping at Crieff is also not true, the decision was taken to suspend the solo piping for this year and this will be reviewed next year when the World’s does not clash, a point made to the Competing Pipers Association but not highlighted in online comments. In fact such is the abandonment of piping at Crieff, Crieff Highland Games actually sponsored the Junior Perthshire Highland Games Solo Piping Leagues in 2014, something we are looking to do again this year.

Crieff Highland Games have also recently sponsored two young local pipers to the tune of £400 to assist them with the purchase of their first set of bagpipes. Also, the expenses that are being saved from the suspension of this year’s event are being reinvested in attracting local pipe bands to this year’s games, with one of the pipe bands having an area for taster sessions to encourage young and old to take up the pipes.

Rather than abandoning piping at Crieff, we at Crieff Highland Games feel that we are one of the more proactive highland games when it comes to encouraging piping. We trust this response gives a fairer reflection of the position at Crieff and we look forward to seeing you all on Sunday 16th August.

– Ian Stewart, vice chairman of the Crieff Highland Games.

What do you think? We encourage you to comment using your own name (or anonymously, if you must) using the pipes|drums system or via your Facebook account.

July 6, 1988Piper Alpha oil rig disaster, North Sea.
  • Haves and have-nots
    Thu, 25 Jun 2015
    There are those pipe bands that have and those that have not. And increasingly there are competitions and Highland games that have and have not. The size and success of bands and competitions are linked. June 23rd was one of … Con …
Read more »
UPCOMING EVENTS July 10, 2015Jim Thomson School of PipingNorthern Arizona University Flagstaff, Arizona

July 10, 2015The Antigonish Highland GamesAntigonish, NS

July 11, 2015Fort Edmonton Highland GamesFort Edmonton Park, Edmonton, AB

July 11, 2015Presque Isle Solo Piping ContestEast Pier Pavilion, Presque Isle State Park 4.5 miles past 25 Peninsula Dr. Erie PA 16505

July 11, 2015Kamloops Highland GamesAlbert McGowan Park, Kamloops, BC

Remember to enjoy what you are doing; it’s only a hobby, after all.
Ross Walker, P-M, Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia