MacKenzie and Wilson win everything in New Zealand

Published: October 30, 2014

Alasdair MacKenzie

Christchurch – October 25-26, 2014 – Alasdair MacKenzie and Greg Wilson enjoyed stellar results at the annual Silver Chanter solo piping competitions, organized by the Highland Piping Society of Canterbury. Unlike the piobaireachd contest held in Skye in August, the New Zealand Silver Chanter is a March, Strathspey & Reel. MacKenzie won the Silver Chanter on the Saturday and followed with a win of the Clasp for former winners of the Silver Chanter on the Sunday. He was one of only a few to achieve the feat. Greg Wilson won all of the A-Grade solo piping events.

Silver Chanter MSR
1st Alasdair MacKenzie
2nd Angus Hawke
3rd Willie Rowe
4th Mike Redmond
Judge: Iain Blakely, Euan MacCrimmon, Brian Switalla

Former Winners Clasp MSR
1st Alasdair MacKenzie
2nd Jamie Hawke
3rd Greg Wilson
Judge: Nigel Foster, Euan MacCrimmon, Phil Mair

1st Greg Wilson
2nd Stuart Easton
3rd Liam Kernaghan
4th Marion Horsburgh

1st Greg Wilson
2nd Stuart Easton
3rd Liam Kernaghan
4th Jamie Hawke

Strathspey & Reel
1st Greg Wilson
2nd Liam Kernaghan
3rd Stuart Easton
4th Jamie Hawke

Hornpipe & Jig
1st Greg Wilson
2nd Stuart Easton
3rd Liam Kernaghan
4th Jamie Hawke

Iain Blakely, Nigel Foster, Philip Mair and Brian Switalla judged the A-Grade events.

London goes “modern” with Bratach in 2015


SPSL-logoA day before the Scottish Piping Society of London’s annual competitions on November 1st, the organization has announced the 2015 Bratach Gorm piobaireachd – the contest’s signature event – will shift to a list of tunes composed in the last 100 years, considered “modern” by ceol mor standards.

“The background to this decision dates back to the London Competition 2012, after which a conversation took place with a couple of senior adjudicators,” organizer Roddy Livingstone said. “It was commented that the ‘Bratach Gorm’ was an event of a consistently high standard usually attracting between 15 and 20 of the world’s premier solo competitors. However, as the event allowed competitors to submit seven tunes of their own choice, there was a tendency for pipers to submit pieces with which they were very familiar and which adjudicators and audiences had heard from the contestants a number of times before.”

Next year the elite pipers who qualify for the Bratach Gorm by having won one of the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at Inverness or Oban and other top contests, will have to submit four from the list of modern tunes:

  • “A Lament for Angus Campbell” by Archibald Campbell
  • “Am Bratach Gorm” by Captain John A. MacLellan
  • “A Son’s Salute to His Parents” by Donald MacLeod
  • “Ceol Na Mara” (The Music of the Sea) by John M. MacKenzie
  • “Farewell to the Queen’s Ferry” by John A. MacLellan
  • “Lament for John MacDonald, Inverness” by Donald MacLeod
  • “Lament for the Earl of Seafield” by Willie MacLean
  • “Lament for the Iolaire” by Donald MacLeod
  • “Salute to James Campbell” by Archie Kenneth
  • “The Raising of the Standard at Glenfinnan” by Hugh MacCallum

In addition to the printed collections in which the tunes might have already been published, they will be made available from the SPSL and Piobaireachd Society.

The Bratach Gorm means “blue banner” in Gaelic.

“The Scottish Piping Society of London has always tried to encourage piping to the highest standards whilst also maintaining the identity of ‘London’ as being slightly different from Oban or Inverness,” Livingstone added. “In order to move forward with this environment we looked to ways in which we could encourage and promote the playing less well known tunes, providing a ‘stretch’ for these top competitors.”

He said that the list of tunes was determined in consultation with a number of people who included senior judges, Premier-Grade solo pipers, and the Piobaireachd Society, and that they reflect compositions that “have enjoyed a reasonable degree of exposure over the last 20 or so years, with other tunes which we believed to be of merit that have not enjoyed the same level of popularity.”

In 2008 the Piobaireachd Society set a selection of tunes composed in the 20th century for the major competitions, and the move was seen by many as a breakthrough for the typically tradition-bound organization.

Livingstone said that the format for the Bratach Gorm competition has not yet been determined for 2016 and beyond.

“The Bratach” is the first qualifying competition for the Glenfiddich Piping Championship, aside from the winner of the Glenfiddich itself, who, in 2014, was Stuart Liddell.



(Updated) Glenfiddich Greats: images of pipers at the Blair Castle competition

Published: October 26, 2014

pipes|drums is indebted to photographer Derek Maxwell and the organizers of the 2014 Glenfiddich Solo Piping Championships for sharing the following sensational photos of the contestants at the event, held at Blair Castle, Blair Atholl, Scotland, on October 25th.

Here they are by order of last name. Just click on each to see the full-sized photo. (We did not receive a picture of Angus MacColl, and will add it if we do.)

Bruce Gandy [photo: Derek Maxwell]

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2014 Glenfiddich Champion: Stuart Liddell

Published: October 25, 2014

Stuart Liddell with the Glenfiddich Championship overall trophy. [Photo Derek Maxwell]

Blair Atholl, Scotland – October 25, 2014 – Stuart Liddell won the 2014 Glenfiddich Solo Piping Championship at a stowed-out Great Hall of Blair Castle and as many as 1,800 viewers of the event broadcast live on the Internet. It was the second time that Liddell has won the event.

Liddell gained the overall prize with a third in the Piobaireachd and a second in the twice-through MSR. Roddy MacLeod won the Piobaireachd for the ninth time in his career, a record for the competition, while Niall Stewart took the MSR.

1st Roddy MacLeod, Glasgow, “Isabel MacKay”
2nd Bruce Gandy, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia Canada, “The Big Spree”
3rd Stuart Liddell, Inveraray, Scotland, “Lament for Colin Roy MacKenzie”
4th Willie McCallum, Bearsden, Scotland, “The Rout of the Lowland Captain”
5th Angus MacColl, Benderloch, Scotland, “The Bells of Perth”
Judges: Colin MacLellan, William Wotherspoon, Andrew Wright

1st Niall Stewart, Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland, “Mrs. Duncan MacFadyen,” “Hector MacLean,” “Kildonan”
2nd Stuart Liddell “Mrs. John MacColl,” “Catlodge,” “John Morrison, Assynt House”
3rd Willie McCallum, “Inveran,” “Ewe wi’ the Crookit Horn,” “The Man from Glengarry”
4th Bruce Gandy, “The Crags of Stirling,” “The Islay Ball,” “Brown-Haired Maid”
5th Douglas Murray, Cupar, Scotland, “MacLean of Pennycross,” “Highland Harry,” “Johnny MacDonald’s”
Judges: Malcolm McRae, Ronnie McShannon, John Wilson

Also competing, but not in the prizes: Jack Lee, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada; Gordon McCready, Renfrew, Scotland; and Iain Speirs, Edinburgh.

Contestants at the 2014 Glenfiddich (back row L to R): Angus MacColl, Gordon McCready, Willie McCallum, Niall Stewart, Bruce Gandy, Roddy MacLeod, Dougie Murray, Stuart Liddell. Front Row (L to R): Jack Lee, Iain Speirs [Photo: Derek Maxwell]

A self-admittedly “gobsmacked” Jackie Roberts was awarded the Balvenie Medal for services to piping, largely for organizing the annual Piping Society of London competition over the last 10 years. The recipient of the Balvenie Medal is decided based on peer nominations.


MSR winner Niall Stewart, overall champion Stuart Liddell and Piobaireachd winner Roddy MacLeod with their trophies. [Photo Derek Maxwell]

The competition was broadcast live on the Internet and packaged into a show. The worldwide audience numbered between approximately 1,100 and 1,800 throughout the eight-hour broadcast, that captured introductions by emcee Bob Worrall and recorded and live interviews with pipers and program host Fergus Muirhead.

As part of the free Internet broadcast, viewers were encouraged to contribute to the Pipe-Major Donald MacLeod Memorial Solo Piping Competition. pipes|drums Magazine donated £100 to the cause.

The event is sponsored by William Grant & Sons Distillers, purveyors of the contest’s namesake single malt Scotch whisky in its numerous expressions. The company has supported the event and many others for nearly 50 years.


Ten of world’s best pipers ready for Glenfiddich on Saturday

Published: October 23, 2014

The 41st annual Glenfiddich Invitational Solo Piping Championship is poised for staging all day on Saturday, October 25th, at Blair Atholl, Scotland, where 10 of the world’s most successful competing pipers will go at it hammer-and-tongs in a no-holds-barred solo piping smackdown.

Or, more accurately, in dignified Piobaireachd and MSR events in the world’s most elegant piping venue: the antler- and arms-festooned Great Hall of Blair Castle, ancestral home of the Duke of Atholl.

The whole thing will be streamed live beginning at 10 am GMT at no charge by the National Piping Centre, but with a suggested contribution to the Pipe-Major Donald MacLeod MBE Memorial Piping Competition, which will be held April 10, 2015, in the Caladh Inn Hotel, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Scotland.


Glenfiddich 2014 competitors (L-R): Bruce Gandy, Jack Lee, Stuart Liddell, Angus MacColl, Willie McCallum, Gordon McCready, Roddy MacLeod, Douglas Murray, Iain Speirs and Niall Stewart.

Competitors at this year’s Glenfiddich:

  • Bruce Gandy, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia Canada – winner of the Senior Piobaireachd at the Argyllshire Gathering
  • Jack Lee, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada – third in the Clasp at the Northern Meeting
  • Stuart Liddell, Inveraray, Scotland – winner of the Silver Star MSR at the Argyllshire Gathering; winner of the Masters at Piping Live!
  • Angus MacColl, Benderloch, Scotland – third in the Senior Piobaireachd at the Argyllshire Gathering
  • Willie McCallum, Bearsden, Scotland – second in the Silver Star MSR at the Argyllshire Gathering; second in the Silver Star MSR at the Northern Meeting
  • Gordon McCready, Renfrew, Scotland – third in the Silver Star MSR at the Argyllshire Gathering
  • Roddy MacLeod, Glasgow – winner of the Bratach Gorm at London
  • Douglas Murray, Cupar, Scotland – winner of the Gold Medals at the Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting
  • Iain Speirs, Edinburgh – 2013 Glenfiddich Champion, winner of the Clasp at Inverness; overall champion at London
  • Niall Stewart, Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland – winner of the Silver Star MSR at the Northern Meeting

Speirs will defend his title for the third straight time, while McCallum has his sights set on his ninth overall Glenfiddich Championship to break his own record. McCready is making his first appearance at the event.

Each competitor must submit six piobaireachds and play the one picked by the judges, and six marches, strathspeys and reels and play one of reach twice over.

Judges for the Piobaireachd are Colin MacLellan, William Wotherspoon and Andrew Wright. For the MSR are Malcolm McRae, Ronnie McShannon and John Wilson.

Bob Worrall will take the role of fear an tighe, or master of ceremonies.

The event is sponsored by William Grant & Sons Distillers, purveyors of the contest’s namesake single malt Scotch whisky in its numerous expressions. The company has supported the event and many others for nearly 50 years.

The weekend is populated with several receptions and ceilidhs, each serving only soft drinks.

At 25 Beaumont has piping world at his feet

Published: October 22, 2014

Callum Beaumont competing with ScottishPower at the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships.

With the Silver Chanter, both Gold Medals and the Northern Meeting Clasp in his bulging trophy-case, Callum Beaumont has accomplished more at age 25 than all but an infinitesimal number of pipers will in a lifetime and, at the rate he’s going, he might well shatter all records before he hangs up his brogues.

And now the Bo’ness, Scotland-resident Beaumont is heading out on his own, with the launch of “Callum Beaumont Piping,” offering comprehensive private tuition, group workshops and piping recitals worldwide.

In order to do sustain his personal business and brand, Beaumont has broken away from his instructor role with the National Piping Centre. And he has also taken a part-time job with the acclaimed Dollar Academy in Dollar, Scotland, as a piping teacher in that institution’s extensive and successful program that annually boasts one of the top Juvenile bands in the world.

“It has been something that I have been considering for the last year or two,” Beaumont said. “I was very fortunate to land a part time piping instructor position at Dollar Academy around a month ago so felt like this was the best time for me to go for it. I also feel this gives me the opportunity to work on other interests and explore other ideas that I have for my piping.”

His last day with the National Piping Centre was October 17th.

“I really enjoyed my time at the Piping Centre over the last 6 years and gained great experience and met many good friends within.”

His experience in top pipe bands is extensive as well, and includes stints with Simon Fraser University, Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia, Inveraray & District and, last year, ScottishPower.

Beaumont said that he is also working on a solo recording that he plans to have ready some time in 2015.

Torphichen puts Brown in charge after Shedden resigns

Published: October 21, 2014

Torphichen & Bathgate Pipe-Major William Brown (L) and Leading-Drummer Callum Firth.

After five years on the job, Stuart Shedden packed it in as pipe-major of Grade 2 Torhpichen & Bathgate, giving way to pipe-sergeant, William Brown, who is described by the band as a “popular choice.”

Shedden, who took the reins of the band in 2009 when it was in Grade 1, enjoyed some success with the group, attracting more personnel, including renowned solo piper Gordon Walker, but the band was not able to regain Grade 1 status and was in and out of the prizes in Grade 2 for most of the time.

A statement from band spokesperson Graham Clark said, “The band see this as the natural progression and work has already started in preparation for the 2015 season. As a band, we are delighted that William has accepted the position and we are excited by his approach and drive. He is very motivated and ambitious and is looking to use this, along with his considerable experience, to lead the band back to competing at Grade 1 level.”

Clark said that Shedden’s decision to step down was based mainly on his desire to commit more time to judging solo piping competitions. Stuart Shedden had an excellent solo career, among other prizes winning the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting in 1998.

In 2014 the band won Grade 2 at the British Championships, was third at the UK, European and Scottish championships, but fell to seventh overall at the World’s.

Torphichen & Bathgate receives financial support from Matt Purdie & Sons, allow the band to invest in equipment and maintain its Novice Juvenile band, which Shedden worked to start from scratch in 2010. The young band competed for the first time in 2014 and now works to channel players into the Grade 2 band.

The Grade 2 band practices at Armadale Academy in Armadale, West Lothian, Scotland, and stressed that, like all bands, it welcomes interested pipers and drummers.

Ottawa Police officially moved to Grade 1; Paris-Port Dover to Grade 2

Published: October 20, 2014

As pipes|drums recently anticipated, the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario has promoted the Ottawa Police Services Pipe Band to Grade 1, after an unbeaten season in Grade 2, and several successful challenges against established Grade 1 bands, including narrowly missing winning the four-band Grade 1 competition at the Georgetown Highland Games, with a tie for first broken by ensemble.

Also moving up is Paris-Port Dover to Grade 2, the Rob Roy Pipe Band of Kingston, Ontario, to Grade 3, and both the Hamilton Police and Lindsay pipe bands from Grade 5 to Grade 4.

The PPBSO did not downgrade any bands.

Ottawa Police competing in 2014.

The move of the Ottawa Police also comes approximately a year after the band reportedly requested to be upgraded to Grade 1, but was denied by the PPBSO. The Ontario society enacts grading first by recommendation of its Music Committee and then after ratification by the organization’s Board of Directors.

“We are very proud of our development as a band, and we are committed to continuing our progress in Grade 1,” Ottawa Police Pipe-Major Andrew Hayes said. “Without a doubt, the ability to challenge up against Grade 1 bands in Ontario has contributed enormously to our growth, both in terms of experience and confidence. We have a dedicated group, and we look forward to next summer.”

Hayes added that his band does not plan to compete at the 2015 World Pipe Band Championships, and instead will “focus on development.” He said that they aim to go in 2016.

The addition of the Ottawa Police to Grade 1 brings the total number of premier-grade bands to 28. Only two years ago the total number worldwide was 38. There are now four certified Grade 1 bands in Ontario, and a total of seven in Canada.

Paris-Port Dover brings Ontario’s Grade 2 bands to only two, with the only other being the 400 Squadron under new Pipe-Major Matt MacIsaac.

McWhirter wins fourth consecutive World Solo title

Published: October 18, 2014

Steven McWhirter in a 2013 concert photo.

Glasgow – October 18, 2014 – After three initial qualifying heats totaling 53 contestants, two semi-final heats comprising 29, and then a final round of 12, Steven McWhirter of Inveraray & District emerged the 2014 World Solo Drumming Champion at the RSPBA-run event at Glasgow Caledonian University. It was the fourth consecutive win of the award for McWhirter and his fifth title overall. A quarter of the finalists belonged to the St. Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band of Dublin. It was the first time in nearly 30 years that Simon Fraser University Pipe Band Leading-Drummer Reid Maxwell did not attend the event.

The MSR score is supposed to double the importance as that of the Hornpipe & Jig, and the lowest overall score wins each event and overall. But the RSPBA has used a system in which the MSR score is doubled and then tallied, rather than halved. If the MSR points halved system were used, McWhirter would still be the clear winner, but Blair Brown  would finish second, Michael McKenna third

1st Steven McWhirter (14)
2nd Michael McKenna, St. Laurence O’Toole (26)
3rd Blair Brown, Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia (39)
4th Stephen Creighton, St. Laurence O’Toole (45)
5th Chris McNicol, Inveraray & District (52)
6th Jake Jørgensen, ScottishPower (60)
7th Craig Brown, Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia (63)
8th Eric Ward, Greater Glasgow Police Scotland (67)
9th Grant Cassidy, St. Laurence O’Toole (68)
10th Jason Hoy, Cullybackey (72)
11th Jonathan Hoy, Cullybackey (96)
12th Grant Maxwell, Simon Fraser University (100)

1st Steven McWhirter (1,1,3 x 2 = 10)
2nd Michael McKenna (2,3,1 x 2 = 12)
3rd Stephen Creighton (3,4,5 x 2 = 24 )
4th Blair Brown (4,5,6 x 2 = 30)
5th Grant Cassidy (5,2,12 x 2 = 34)
6th Jake Jørgensen (8,9,2 x 2 = 38)
7th Chris McNicol (6,6,8 x 2 = 40)
8th Jason Hoy (7,7,7 x 2 = 42)
9th Craig Brown (10,8,4 x 2 = 44)
10th Eric Ward (9,11,9 x 2 = 58)
11th Jonathan Hoy (12,10,11 x 2 = 66)
12th Grant Maxwell (11,12,10 x 2 = 66)
Judges: Ciaran Mordaunt, David Brown, Jim Baxter

Hornpipe & Jig
1st Steven McWhirter (1,2,1 = 4)
2nd Blair Brown (3,1,5 = 9)
3rd Eric Ward, Greater Glasgow Police Scotland (2,5,2 = 9)
4th Chris McNicol (5,4,3 = 12)
5th Michael McKenna (4,3,7 = 14)
6th Craig Brown (8,7,4 = 19)
7th Stephen Creighton (7,6,8 = 21)
8th Jake Jørgensen (6,10,6 = 22)
9th Jonathan Hoy (12,8,10 = 30)
10th Grant Cassidy (10,11,9 = 30)
11th Jason Hoy (10,11,9 = 30)
12th Grant Maxwell (11,12,11 = 34)
Judges: Joe Noble, Gordon Parkes, Sandy Steele

The MSR score is worth twice that of the Hornpipe & Jig, and the lowest overall score wins each event and the overall championship.

But calculation is made with MSR score doubled, rather than halved, as it should be with a fewer-points-are-better system.

If the MSR points halved system were used, McWhirter would still be the clear winner, but the rest of the overall result would change, thus:

1st Steven McWhirter (9)
2nd Blair Brown (24)
3rd Michael McKenna (27)
4th Chris McNicol (32)
5th Stephen Creighton (35)
6th Eric Ward (38)
7th Jake Jørgensen (41 – MSR pref)
8th Craig Brown (41)
9th Grant Cassidy (47)
10th Jason Hoy (51)
11th Jonathan Hoy (63)
12th Grant Maxwell (67)

The 2013 overall result would have had Barry Wilson second and Blair Brown third several results changed if the MSR were reflected as twice the value by halving the points.

At the prize giving, there was confusion about the accuracy of the final result after the RSPBA issued summary sheets showing the wrong judges on each event. But it was quickly determined that the overall result was correct using the system of doubling the MSR points.


Three Western US bands bumped up to Grade 2

Published: October 17, 2014

WUSPBA_logo_2014There’s more good news for the pipe band scene in western North America with the promotion of three bands to Grade 2 by the Western United States Pipe Band Association.

From Grade 3 the WUSPBA has promoted the Bushmills Irish Pipers of San Francisco, the Queen City Pipe Band of Denver, and the Wasatch & District Pipe Band of Bountiful, Utah, to the penultimate grade.

The moves come on the heels of three additions to Grade 2 in Alberta, injecting additional life into a grade that has been struggling to maintain viability in other areas.

Bushmills Irish Pipers of San Francisco competing at the 2014 Queen Mary competition in Long Beach, California.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the decision,” Queen City Pipe-Major James Cuthill said. “The band is relatively new, and we’ve come a long way since our formation in 2011. We are especially pleased to be the first band in Colorado to make this grade. We will be going into the 2015 season with at least 20 pipers, eight sides, five tenors, and a bass. All but two live in Colorado, and we are proud to make a name for ourselves with dedicated local musicians.”

Queen City and Wasatch are the highest graded bands even from Colorado and Utah, respectively, while Bushmills Irish Pipers continue a 50-year tradition of top-grade bands from San Francisco, joining cross-town rivals Prince Charles in Grade 2.

Queen City Pipe Band of Denver.

The Irish Pipers of San Francisco was started in 1932 and claims to be “the oldest continuously active Irish pipe band west of the Mississippi River.”

Wasatch & District of Bountiful, Utah, at the 2014 Queen Mary contest.

While the western part of the continent has been boosted, Grade 2 in Ontario continues to languish. The Grade 2 Ottawa Police Services Pipe Band is widely expected to be promoted to Grade 1 after competing up successfully at several Ontario competitions in 2014. It is also anticipated that the Grade 3 Paris-Port Dover Pipe Band will be upgraded, joining only the 400 Squadron in Grade 2. The Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario has not disclosed upgrades made by its Music Committee.

Cuthill added, “I hope our grading may attract other bands to consider traveling to compete in Colorado. We will make it to World’s when we feel we will be a real contender on that stage, but want to prove ourselves at home first.”

Ian K. MacDonald resting comfortably following minor heart attack

Published: October 14, 2014

Ian K. MacDonald in a 2013 photo.

Pipe-Major Ian K. MacDonald of the Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe Band is in good spirits and resting comfortably after a minor heart attack in Newmarket, Ontario, on the evening of October 13th.

One of the world’s pre-eminent solo pipers, MacDonald experienced discomfort in his chest after playing sports with his kids on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Being a long-serving police officer, MacDonald decided to contact emergency services when the pain did not subside, and was taken to cardiac care at a local hospital.

According to Toronto Police Pipe Band Pipe-Sergeant Sean McKeown, Emergency Medical Services and hospital staff were quick to identify the problem and treat MacDonald.

“No permanent damage was detected, and he is showing signs of a positive recovery,” McKeown said. “I was with him today, and he is in good spirits, and feeling good considering the circumstance. He had a smile on his face, and was already talking about the new set of pipes he just bought!”

McKeown added that the prognosis is good, but that he will need some down-time, but he appreciates the thoughts and concern from his friends.

MacDonald has led the Toronto Police Pipe Band for the better part of the last 20 years, and manages the overall Toronto Police pipe band organization. In addition to his work with the band, he is one of the world’s top solo pipers, one of the few eligible to compete in the Silver Star March, Strathspey & Reel at the Northern Meeting. MacDonald has frequently been in the prize lists in the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal competitions at Oban and Inverness, and was second in the event at the Argyllshire Gathering this year.

In 2004 Field Marshal Montgomery Pipe-Major Richard Parkes suffered a stroke, but made a full recovery, going on to lead his band to another six World Championships and a few dozen other major titles.

On behalf of the piping and drumming world, we wish Ian K. MacDonald a speedy and full recovery.

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.


  • Toeing a fine line
    Sun, 29 Mar 2015
    Pressuring bands to compete only in sanctioned contests makes some sense. The RSPBA’s most recent alleged request – some use the word “bullying” – that bands not compete at the new Spring Gatherin’ has brought the topic to the for …
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UPCOMING EVENTS April 3, 2015BC Pipers’ Annual GatheringSimon Fraser University & TBA

April 3, 2015Maclean Highland GatheringMaclean, New South Wales

April 4, 2015Toronto Indoor GamesMoss Park Armoury, Toronto, ON

April 11, 2015Amateur CompetitionHamilton, Ontario

April 11, 2015Spring Training in Albany, NYCeltic Hall, 430 New Karner Rd, Colonie, NY

Pipers: Tailor the bag cover to suit the bag. If the cover is too big then the bag can slip within the cover causing discomfort and poor posture.
Stuart Shedden, Glasgow, 1998 Northern Meeting Gold Medallist