Dartmouth & District latest band to Grade 2

Published: September 24, 2016

Dartmouth & District is the most recent band with plans to move to Grade 2 after completing a fine season in Grade 3, including two firsts at its last event of the year at the 40th annual Longs Peak Scottish-Irish Highland Festival at Estes Park, Colorado, September 10-11.

The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia-based band was undefeated at home on the Atlantic Canada Pipe Band Association circuit and placed second to Rob Roy of Kingston, Ontario, in Grade 3 at the North American Championships at the Glengarry Highland Games at Maxville, Ontario, with two firsts in piping, a second in ensemble and an eleventh in drumming in the 13-band contest. Rob Roy has also made known its desire to move to Grade 2.

“After a strong fourth place finish in Grade 3A at the World Pipe Band Championships in 2015, the band took a very cautious approach in moving forward after seeing the RSPBA re-grading for 3A bands post-World’s,” said Scott Long, pipe-major of Dartmouth & District. “We decided it was in our best interests to remain in Grade 3 for 2016 in North America and not request a move up to ensure we meet the reality of the Grade 2 standard when we return to Scotland in 2018.”

Dartmouth & District was a Grade 2 band through the 2008 season, after which the band all but collapsed due to a heavy loss of personnel, but the band steadily rebuilt itself over the ensuing eight seasons. Dartmouth has a strong teaching program that includes a Grade 5 band that also anticipates an upgrade.

The both Dartmouth bands and Rob Roy are expected to have their upgrades approved by their home associations. Long added that he plans to submit its 2017 registration as a Grade 2 band and does not expect any challenges from the ACPBA, and said that new and past members are expected to join the Grade 2 band.


Virginia Tattoo returns without Grade 1

Published: September 23, 2016

The inaugural Virginia International Tattoo American Pipe Band Championship last April featured a Grade 1 competition with Inveraray & District, Police Scotland Fife and the Toronto Police going at it, along with Grade 2 band, but the 2017 event on April 29 in Norfolk will be limited to Grade 2 and Grade 3 bands.

Apparently the commitment to perform and compete in Norfolk is too much for Grade 1 bands, according to organizer Scott Jackson, so they opted to forego the top grade in 2017.

“I spoke with all of the pipe-majors after last year’s event and my sense was that the North American Grade 1 bands’ top travel priority is attending the World’s every year,” Jackson said. “A significant trip to Virginia is a big commitment of time off and money on top of the World’s, so there was much more enthusiasm for an every-other-year schedule vs. every year among the Grade 1’s.”

Jackson said that North American Grade 2 bands demonstrated more interested in participating annually because of relatively less commitment to attending the World Pipe Band Championships every year.

“We decided for Grade 2 and 3 in 2017 with an eye toward returning to Grade 1 and 2 in 2018,” Jackson added.

Grade 2 Metro New York competing at last year’s Virginia Championship.

The Virginia International Tattoo is scheduled to take place April 27- 30 at the Norfolk Scope Arena, in addition to the competition. As part of the deal Grade 1 bands last year had to perform twice daily at the tattoo, which saw approximately 6,000 attend each show with tickets ranging in price from US$100-$10. Competing bands that performed in the tattoo did not receive any payment for their work, and did it in return for having their travel expenses and accommodation paid for.

Prizes for overall awards from two events in each grade are Grade 2: $2,500 for 1st, $1,000 2nd, $500 3rd, and, for Grade 3: $2,000 1st, $800 2nd, and $400 3rd, as well as a single first prize of $1,000 for an Open Drum Fanfare event.

Andrew Carlisle of Carnegie Mellon University and a member of Field Marshal Montgomery is again in charge of selecting the eight judges for the event.

Grade 2 and 3 bands interested in participating in the tattoo and competition should contact the organizers for more information for more information, and they stress that “a limited number of travel grants are available to participating bands.”


pipes|drums readers: where are they?

Published: September 22, 2016

Have you ever wondered where readers of pipes|drums, like you, live?

While we operate mainly from Toronto, our approach is truly international, serving the piping and drumming agnostically, without favour to any particular piper, drummer, band, country or association.

Here is a snapshot of visits to pipes|drums, collectively calculating the location of visitors.

Click to enlarge.

You will notice that the geographic breakdown of readers pretty much reflects the number of pipers and drummers in each region, with the UK leading the way, then Canada, the United States and so forth.

We believe that this geographical summary indicates that we are indeed succeeding at serving our readers equally and fairly, with plenty of coverage for all, commensurate with their regions and interests.

pipes|drums is not connected with any association, we’re not on anyone’s payroll, we don’t make a penny from our efforts, we’re not selling anything except for subscriptions and advertising, and we return that money to our costs and use whatever might be left over to support worthwhile non-profit piping and drumming causes.

To all of you, wherever you live, thank you for your readership and dedication to pipes|drums, and we hope that you subscribe so that we can continue to deliver even more and better coverage. To our many advertisers, we appreciate your support and we trust that you are pleased with your canny marketing investment reaching the entire piping and drumming world.

As always, stay tuned . . .


Henderson elected to Scots Trad Music Hall of Fame

Published: September 21, 2016

Murray Henderson, the only piper in history to win the Clasp at the Northern Meeting at least once in four separate decades and a native of New Zealand, has been elected to the Scots Trad Music Hall of Fame for Services to Performance.

Along with the likes of famed accordionist Iain MacPhail, legendary Celtic folk group the Battlefield Band and the late renowned singer Andy M. Stewart, Henderson goes into the Hall of Fame at a gala dinner on November 11th at Caird Hall in Dundee.

Murray Henderson performing at a Piobaireachd Society event at Piping Live!, August 2016. [Photo copyright pipes|drums]

From Timaru, New Zealand, Murray Henderson immigrated to Scotland at the age of 20 in 1973, and in 1974 his piping career was off and running after winning the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at Inverness, and the next year picked off the first of his six Clasps. He won just about everything there is in competitive solo piping, including four Glenfiddich Championships before retiring only a few years ago.

Henderson is a tireless teacher and is a professional reed and bagpipe maker, and the designer of the popular Strathmore pipe chanter. He lives in Kirriemuir, Scotland. Recently he has collaborated with fellow solo piper John Mulhearn on The Big Music Society, working to orchestrate arrangements of piobaireachd with other instruments.

Other Highland pipers in the Scots Trad Music Hall of Fame are John D. Burgess, Gordon Duncan, Ian Duncan,  Rona Lightfoot, Iain MacDonald (Glenuig), Donald MacLeod, Roddy MacLeod, Donald MacPherson, G.S. McLenann and Iain MacLellan.

The Scots Trad Music Hall of Fame is run by the Hands Up For Trad organization, which also runs the Scots Trad Music Awards on December 3rd, also at Caird Hall. Sixteen categories, including Pipe Band of the Year, will be announced after a period of public voting that starts in October. Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia was voted Pipe Band of the Year in last year’s awards.

Buchan returns Grade 1 to north of Scotland

Published: September 19, 2016

buchan_logoThe elevation of Buchan Peterson to Grade 1 after finishing as high as second and as low as sixth at the five major RSPBA championships in 2016 might have surprised some, but the band is ready to represent the north of Scotland in the pipe band world’s top-tier for what they hope will be a very long time.

It might have seemed more logical for the association to upgrade Buchan after the 2013 season when it won Grade 2 at the World Championships and gained the Champion of Champions aggregate award. Since then the band has consistently finished in the top three in the annual aggregate Grade 2 tables, demonstrating a consistent level of commitment.

The Peterhead, Scotland-based Buchan Peterson becomes the first Grade 1 band from the Aberdeenshire area since 2013, after the Grampian Police Pipe Band ‘s relatively brief spell in the front rank, and potentially resumes a tradition in the north of Scotland.

The challenges of Grade 2 and Grade 1 bands to maintain large enough numbers to be competitive and, more importantly, sustain themselves has always been true in the Aberdeenshire area. Buchan Peterson, Johnstone and Police Service of Northern Ireland were each at the top of Grade 2 and were promoted to Grade 1, and each currently feature large numbers in each section.

Buchan Peterson celebrating its Grade 2 win at the 2013 World’s. [Photo copyright pipes|drums]

Buchan Peterson learned of the upgrade while holding its annual end-of-season barbeque, when Pipe-Major Scott Oliphant announced the news to the band.

“I feel very blessed to be able to work with such a great bunch of guys,” Oliphant said, “in particular my leading-drummer Brian ‘Mooner’ Martin who has kept the drum corps right at the top throughout, and Peter Carter who runs the bass and tenor section. Without their input and ability none of this would have happened and it is down to their hard work that we have gained the promotion.”

Since 2013 Buchan has won as a band or a pipe section or drum section at no fewer than 15 major championships.

“We have had a very consistent run of results over the past four years and I’m sure that was taken into consideration with the upgrading decision,” Oliphant continued. “The north of Scotland is a tough place to try to run a competitive band, as we seem to lose so many of our rising stars to the Central Belt bands. The allure of playing in Grade 1 is sometimes too strong for a lot of guys and there is also the fact that so many of the young guys head down south for university.”

While sustaining numbers is a considerable challenge for top grade bands in order to remain competitive, Oliphant, who took over Buchan Peterson in 2011 after many years with the Grade 1 Vale Atholl, indicated that hard work and strong commitment are the best recipes for retaining and attracting members.

“As for the future of Buchan, it’s now down to hard graft during the winter period. In Grade 2 our aim was to go out and try to win every competition we entered. Now the emphasis is to go out, play our best and try to push our way up the grade.”

And, as is true of just about every pipe band in the world, Oliphant said that he encourages any potential new members “who are up for the challenge” to get in touch with the band.


Springbank 2016 Champion: Willie McCallum

Published: September 18, 2016

Campbeltown, Scotland – September 17, 2016 – Based on winning the Piobaireachd and a third in the MSR, Willie McCallum gained the overall prize at the annual Springbank Invitational Solo Piping Championship. The 6/8 March and Hornpipe & Jig events are not counted toward the overall prize, and the 6/8 contest is played as part of the tune-up before each competitor plays the piobaireachd. Contestants are allocated three 6/8 marches composed by Campbeltown pipers and then given one to play.


Willie McCallum with Springbank awards [Photo used by permission: Derek Maxwell]

1st Willie McCallum, Bearsden, Scotland, “The Big Spree”
2nd Roddy Macleod, Glasgow, “The Old Men of the Shells”
3rd Callum Beaumont, Linlithgow, Scotland, “Lament for Ronald MacDonald of Morar”
4th Stuart Liddell, Inveraray, Scotland, “The Bells of Perth”


Competitors at the 2016 Springbank Invitational (L-R): Stuarl Liddell, Callum Beaumont, John-Angus Smith, Roddy MacLeod, Willie McCallum, Iain Speirs, Finlay Johnston, Angus MacColl. [Photo used by permission: Derek Maxwell]

1st Stuart Liddell, “The Clan MacColl,” “Arthur Bignold of Lochrosque,” “Lady Louden,” “Catlodge,” “The Little Cascade,” “The Cockerel in the Creel”
2nd Finlay Johnston, Glasgow
3rd Willie McCallum
4th Angus MacColl, Benderloch, Scotland

6/8 March
1st Callum Beaumont, “The Highland Brigade Depot”
2nd Finlay Johnston
3rd Stuart Liddell
4th Willie McCallum

Hornpipe & Jig
1st Stuart Liddell, “The Busy Buddy, “The Canister”
2nd Finlay Johnston
3rd Iain Speirs, Edinburgh
4th Willie McCallum

Also competing was John-Angus Smith, London.

The judges for all of the events were Iain MacFadyen, Iain Morrison and John Wilson.


PSNI confirmed elevated to Grade 1

Published: September 17, 2016

psni_logo_smallThe RSPBA Grade 2 2016 Champion of Champions Police Service of Northern Ireland are joining Scotland’s Johnstone in an upgrade to Grade 1, PSNI’s Pipe-Major Robert Cupples has confirmed.

He received the news on September 17th that the RSPBA’s Music Committee has made the formal recommendation to upgrade the band to the association’s Board of Directors for their official approval.

Under Cupples, the former pipe-major of the essentially defunct Grade 1 Cullybackey, also of Northern Ireland, PSNI surged forward in 2016, with wins at four of the RSPBA’s major championships, only missing a win at the World’s, where the band finished second to Johnstone.


PSNI at the 2016 UK Championships in Belfast

The upgrade of Johnstone and PSNI bring the total number of active Grade 1 bands based in the United Kingdom to 13, excluding Spirit of Scotland. Four of those Grade 1 bands are now from Northern Ireland.

The roots of PSNI go back to the Royal Ulster Constabulary Pipe Band, which changed its name along with the reorganization of the country’s police force.


Suspects picked for Sherriff line-up


SherriffGeorgeThe 10 amateur pipers invited to the 2016 George Sherriff Memorial Invitational Competition on November 19th at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, Ontario, have confirmed their attendance to one of the world’s most prestigious solo piping events.

  • Maeghan Bielski, Middleboro, Massachusetts
  • Austin Diepenhorst, Santee, California
  • Roger Holland-Lye, Coquitlam, British Columbia
  • Andrew Hutton, Brantford, Ontario
  • Tori Killoran, Pitt Meadows, British Columbia
  • Gavin MacKay, Kitchener, Ontario
  • Michael McLeod, Greenwood, South Carolina
  • Christian Rhoads, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Alexander Seto, Aurora, Ontario
  • Sarah Simpson, Cavendish, Prince Edward Island

Diepenhorst, Hutton, Rhoads and Simpson are making return visits to the Sherriff, and Diepenhorst was the 2015 overall champion. Three female pipers are the most so far for the long-running competition.

The Sherriff consists of three events: 6/8 Marches, Piobaireachd and an MSR, with prizes awarded for each section and more prizes presented for overall winners.

Competitors are invited via a system that is weighted by relative piping geographical densities and top amateur pipers’ competitive success over the past year, as nominated and recommended by their home associations. For example, Ontario and British Columbia, because of the larger numbers of competitors, generally receive three and two spots, respectively, while other regions will have one or two, depending on individual playing standards.

The 21-year-old competition is organized by a team of volunteers led by Bob Worrall, and sponsored by the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario.

The adjudicators for all events are Andrew Hayes, Donald MacPhee and Shaunna Hilder.

pipes|drums is one of the event’s many sponsors.


Johnstone jumps to Grade 1


Johnstone_logo_2After a second straight win at the World Championships and another excellent season in Grade 2, the Johnstone Pipe Band is making the leap to Grade 1, and will do so with newly-appointed Pipe-Sergeant Dougie Campbell.

The band learned of the news following the meeting of the RSPBA’s Music Board, which officially made the recommendation, pending rubber-stamp approval by the association’s Board of Directors.

Known for his proficiency in helping to produce excellent pipe section tone and tuning, Campbell was the former pipe-sergeant of the Grade 1 Inveraray & District, and has a long track record at the top level.

“Moving to Grade 1, I realized the gulf between where we are and where we need to be to go into Grade 1 and to be able to compete, and therefore I wanted to appoint someone who had the experience, capability and drive to help progress Johnstone,” said Johnstone Pipe-Major Keith Bowes. “I am incredibly excited to work alongside Dougie, and we will be working tirelessly with no stones unturned to make sure that we provide consistently strong performances that are always improving. I hope he can help create a band that has a long future that is sustainable. We will chip away at it bit by bit, year by year.”

Campbell replaces Bowes’s father, Keith Bowes Sr.: “I’d like to thank my dad for his services as pipe-sergeant over the past two years and his great source of support in the hand-over of pipe-major. This was something that he had worked hard for over the 20 years when he was pipe-major, teaching a large bulk of our current players. He will stay as a player in the band and will remain focused on building a feeder system.”

Johnstone_Worlds2015Saturday_medUnder the younger Bowes, Johnstone mad a rapid ascent to the top of Grade 2, and finished the 2016 season on a strong note, adding members, with plans to begin a Novice Juvenile band to go along with the organization’s existing Grade 4B band, in partnership with Renfrewshire Council, the Youth Music Initiative and Scottish Schools Piping and Drumming Trust. The Grade 4B also won its event at the World’s and is expected to move to Grade 4A.

The move the Grade 1 is more often than not very difficult for a band to make, and perhaps the hardest there is. Bands that are accustomed to winning in Grade 2, generally stay at the lower-levels of Grade 1 for several years, making the retention and attraction of players challenging.

The most recent move to Grade 1 in the UK was by Bleary & District after the 2015 season. Bleary has so far proved that it can hold its own in the top grade.

It is expected the Grade 2 Police Service of Northern Ireland will also be moved to Grade 1.


(Update 1) Ward says he is still with Glasgow Police

Published: September 15, 2016

Eric Ward in a 2013 photo.

The news that came directly from the Greater Glasgow Police Scotland Pipe Band that Lead-Drummer Eric Ward is no longer with the band is being vehemently denied by Ward.

“Regarding myself no longer being with Greater Glasgow Police Pipe Band, this is not true,” Ward said in response to a request for comment immediately following receipt of the band’s statement. “Earlier today [Sept. 15] I was told to retire by the pipe-major [Iain MacPherson] and bass drummer [Niall West] of the band, however, when I refused to do so they went ahead and started this campaign for a new leading-drummer. All this was done without consultation or knowledge from the band and drum corps.”

When asked to comment on Ward’s inference that he is still with the band, MacPherson said, “He has, without question, been informed personally. He is not. Just as per the earlier statement, we are seeking a new L-D and this decision was arrived at through the Officer-in-Charge, Niall West and myself.”

Ward went on to say, “The drum corps has won several championships under my leadership and most recently the two drumming championships won in 2015. The band has had a tough year, however, I have spoken with members of the drum corps who have shown their support for the band and genuinely believe this is not in the band’s best interest. I enjoy playing and I am more than capable of doing so. I don’t intend on giving up my position as leading drummer at this time and will provide updates when this matter has more transparency.

“I do not plan on leaving voluntarily. There was no vote put to the band to see what members thoughts were. This is usually the case for a civilian band who would hold an AGM to address such matters. However, given the circumstances of our organization, the only other route would have been for the police authorities to make such a decision. The police authorities are not involved as of yet. This has been solely created by the pipe major and the bass drummer as stated previously. The drum corps remain in tact and are giving me their full support.”

The apparent dispute appears to be trending along a familiar pipe band path, reflecting to some extent last year’s disagreement between Shotts & Dykehead and former Lead-Drummer Jim Kilpatrick, and, more recently, the Grade 1 City of Whitehorse of Australia contention that it could not be suspended by Pipe Bands Australia because they had quit the organization first.

Stay tuned for more on this story as more information emerges.

Glasgow Police searching for L-D as Ward departs


Eric Ward

After 21 years with the Strathclyde/Greater Glasgow Police Pipe Band, drumming great Eric Ward is no longer the leading-drummer.

The band has officially commenced a search for his replacement. At publication time, it was not known whether Ward stepped down, and Ward and Pipe-Major Iain MacPherson had not yet responded to questions.

In a media statement, MacPherson said, “The band recognizes with gratitude his massive contribution over the last 21 years, which has been a key factor in the band’s success over that period. His is, without doubt, a legendary name in pipe band drumming and his very high standards of rudimentation and musical interpretation have been widely acclaimed for many years.”

Ward is a famous figure in the pipe band world. Under his watch, the Greater Glasgow Police were  regularly in the upper echelon of drumming, but not generally considered a consistent threat to take drumming titles this year. Under Ward in 2016, the band’s highest finish in drumming was fifth at each of the UK and British Championships, and was overall eighth in drumming at the World’s.

The 2016 season was in contrast to a highly successful 2015 campaign, when Ward led the drum section to titles at both the British and UK Championships to start the year.

Ward had been a constant in the band through several periods of change, including no fewer than four pipe-majors, the change of name from Strathclyde Police to Greater Glasgow Police Scotland and the reported near-collapse of the band due to reorganization and budget cuts within the Scottish police system. The most recent major change was the appointment of MacPherson to pipe-major after the 2015 season.

Although he never managed to win a World Solo Drumming title, Ward was consistently in the top-tier and considered one of the pipe band greats, his roots with the legendary Alex Duthart’s Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia corps of the 1970s and early-’80s.

The band is actively encouraging applicants from those interested and qualified to take the lead-drummer spot, and ask that they respond by email with their credentials. The application process will go until noon, Friday, September 23rd.

Here’s a video from the pipes|drums YouTube Channel of performances by Eric Ward and then-Pipe-Major Duncan Nicholson at the 2014 Pipes+Drums Recital of Grade 1 pipe-majors and leading-drummers at the Piping Live! Glasgow International Festival of Piping.

Stay tuned for more details on this story as they emerge.

Blair which? Glenfiddich invitees decided

Published: September 13, 2016

The 10 invitees for the 2016 Glenfiddich Solo Piping Championships at Blair Castle in Blair Atholl, Scotland, on October 29th have been determined and feature nine names familiar at the event and one newcomer:

BlairCastle_Glenfiddich2015_medAlasdair Henderson makes his first appearance at the Glenfiddich, considered to be the ultimate competition destination for solo pipers, while those who comprise the rest of the list have competed at the event before, some multiple times. Ian K. MacDonald returns for a second time after last competing there in 2011 following his third in the Silver Star MSR at Inverness.

The 2016 competition will be a record 29th time in a row that Willie McCallum has gained an invitation to the Glenfiddich, where he has won the overall prize eight times, also a record.

Because of Angus MacColl and Ian K. MacDonald qualifying for the event more than once in 2016, organizers went to second and even third prizewinners in a few instances.

There had been some speculation that Sean McKeown of Toronto might gain an invitation as a result of being second in both Highland Society of London Gold Medals, but the system of qualifying calls for prizewinners in the senior / former winners events first.

Based on the system, Niall Stewart of Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland, who was third in the Former Winners Silver Star MSR at the Northern Meeting, would get the nod in case one of the 10 can’t attend.

Organizer Liz Maxwell confirmed that the Glenfiddich Solo Piping Championship once again will be streamed live on the Internet.

Judges for the Piobaireachd event are Iain MacFadyen, Willie Morrison and Jack Taylor. Ian Duncan, Iain MacLellan and Iain Morrison will make up the MSR bench.

John Wilson returns as fear-an-tighe.

Be sure to check out pipes|drums special feature from last year’s Glenfiddich Championship.


Commission insight: Allan MacDonald’s tune for fundraiser

Published: September 12, 2016

Ontario piper Steve Tripp’s eye was caught when the Grade 2 City of Edinburgh Pipe Band put together a fundraiser that, among other items, offered an auction of a tune writing especially for the winning bidder by the famed pipe-music composer Allan MacDonald.

Tripp knew that he wanted a composition to honour his father, Donald William Tripp, and hoped that his bid of £110 might be the top offer, and, as it turned out, it was.

The result is “Donald Tripp, The Polymath,” a two-parted reel in MacDonald’s trademark creative flair and style. The younger Tripp let MacDonald determine the category of tune, and provided him with a description of his father and a general sense of what he hoped for from the work.

donaldtripppolymath_med“My dad has always been my biggest supporter, he always encouraged me to be the best I could be but with the understanding that piping was a hobby first and foremost,” Steve Tripp said. “He’s an avid hunter, trapper, artist, photographer, beekeeper, boat-builder, shoemaker, fly fisherman and piper. My dad to this day still plays the pipes at his house he built on 300 acres of forest in Northern Ontario. I thought this would be a great gift for the old guy.”

Allan MacDonald

Allan MacDonald

But what about the process for developing the tune? Is a successful composer being commissioned to create a piece a challenge different from the perhaps typical serendipity of the muse naturally striking?

“I really do not know what to say about this composition on a deeper level, because if I could say it all in words I would not be writing the tune,” Allan MacDonald said. “I did this because the City of Edinburgh Pipe Band were trying to raise funds and asked me if they could put a composition up for auction. I was given information from [Steve Tripp] along the lines of his father being talented in a number of areas, so I decided to write something that was of a different construct to try and represent this in some way. The process involves sitting down and starting to play the chanter until something ‘original’ comes up!”

Paid commissioned pieces are relatively infrequent in the piping world, but composers like Bruce Gandy have offered the service for many years. Commissions were relatively common when estate pipers were frequently employed by the Scottish aristocracy, and many piobaireachds were made to honour benefactors.

“I was told that Allan would compose a tune with some ‘buzz’ to it,” Tripp said, “and the organizer had told me he wasn’t sure if that was in reference to the bees my dad keeps or his chainsaw in the woods! I am truly thankful to for the opportunity Allan has given and hope the money I spent will help the band’s cause. The idea of having Allan MacDonald compose a tune and then have the option to name it after my dad was too good to be true.”

Click here to listen to a sound recording by Allan MacDonald of “Donald Tripp, The Polymath.”

We thank Steve Tripp and Allan MacDonald for their permission to share the composition with pipes|drums readers.


Lamond goes to Pitlochry. Wins.

Published: September 10, 2016
Brian Lamond.

Brian Lamond.

Pitlochry, Scotland – September 10, 2016 – Several solo pipers who currently compete infrequently emerged to play at the Pitlochry Highland Games, one of the last outdoor events of the Scottish season. One was Brian Lamond of Dunfermline, Scotland, who emerged the overall winner. As usual at Pitlochry, there was no piobaireachd event. Weather was warm and sunny with large crowds mainly of international tourists. Sixteen competed.

1st Brian Lamond
2nd Donald MacPhee, Alexandria, Scotland
3rd Craig Sutherland, Crieff, Scotland
4th Edward Gaul, Dundee, Scotland
5th Greg McAllister, Wishaw, Scotland
6th Rory Grossart , Glasgow
Judges: Barry Donaldson, Logan Tannock

6/8 March
1st Andrew Bova, Glasgow
2nd Brian Lamond
3rd Craig Sutherland
4th Rory Grossart
5th Sandy Cameron, Roybridge, Scotland
6th Graham Mulholland, Fife, Scotland
Judges: Jimmy Banks, Gordon Clark, Tom Speirs

1st Craig Sutherland
2nd Sandy Cameron
3rd Brian Lamond
4th Andrew Bova
5th Graham Mulholland
6th Greg McAllister
Judges: Jimmy Banks, Gordon Clark, Tom Speirs


Judging lessons


Editor’s note: an opinion piece like this by the pipes|drums editor is generally reserved for Blogpipe. In this instance, the article became longer due to the importance of the topic, and is thus offered on pipes|drums as an editorial. This is opinion. Your opinion might well differ, and the article is intended to create constructive dialog about an important issue.

By Andrew Berthoff

In 1984 I was not yet 21 years old and won the Silver Medal at the Northern Meeting at Inverness. I had lived in Scotland for more than a year, doing my third year of university at Stirling. Early on, I was fortunate to get a few lessons in gpiobaireachd from a great piper who lived far away, at least in Scotland terms. Around October 1983 I was truly gifted to be accepted as a pupil by another legendary piper for piobaireachd about once a month. He lived much closer to where I was. About the same time, I started to get weekly lessons – in light music only – from yet another famous piper.

These great men imparted their wisdom freely to me. I was a rather scared and awestruck kid from St. Louis who essentially was too frightened (or wise) to do anything except listen, learn and practice hard so as not to disappoint them or myself. I’d come too far to do anything else and I was and continue to be grateful to them.

I must stress that each of these pipers I considered then, and consider today, to have the utmost integrity and honesty. Their ethics and intentions are beyond reproach.

I had spent the Scottish winter and summer playing at as many contests as possible. Whoever the judges were, I would never question it. I just wanted to play and compete. A few prizes started to fall my way in the days when there were no A or B gradings, so I’d compete with people like Iain MacFadyen, John MacDougall, Murray Henderson and Iain Morrison. By July or so I was enjoying a little roll, getting high prizes around the games, which then were well attended.

When it got close to the Northern Meeting they revealed the judges. As luck – or fate – would have it, not just one, not two, but all three of the judges for the Silver Medal were the people who had taught me directly in the last year. In those days the Silver Medal was adjudicated by one experienced judge and two current top-tier competitors. It was a way then to bring active player-judges into the mix. I am sure that each of them simply did what was always done back then, and didn’t much question their teacher-judge situation. I wasn’t the only pupil in the mix, to be sure, and it was simply how things were then and for the preceding two-hundred-odd years of piping competition.

But I remember not knowing what to make of my fortune or fate. Was it good? Was it bad? So, as with the rest of it, I simply shut up and did my thing. I just wanted to play and compete, and I wouldn’t dare make any waves. It was just the way things were. Go with the flow.

I played “Lament for the Little Supper” – a tune that I went through with my regular piobaireachd teacher and never with the other two. I was first on after lunch, as I recall. I played it as well as I could on an in-tune instrument. I was pleased. Perhaps of some relevance, I had played “Grain In Hides and Corn in Sacks” at the Argyllshire Gathering Silver Medal and got nothing. I thought I’d played even better there.

One of the great memories of my life is my dad, who came over to visit in August and September, telling me the news that I had won. He was visibly shaking with excitement, teary-eyed with pride. It was what I had been working toward, and it actually happened. My dad, who had supported every ounce of my piping ambitions with time, money and love was there to share the moment with me.

Later, each of the judges separately told me that the first-prize decision was quick and unanimous. I thought that that was nice, but a little odd.

The prize didn’t sit perfectly well with me and it never has. Why? Because, while I knew I had played my best and probably deserved it as much as the next person, it had the appearance of bias . . . in triplicate. I got the Silver Medal on my first try from three judges who had taught me in the past year. Only one of the judges I had actually gone through the tune with, and I am certain that they called it like . . .


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Three days later, Vale appoints Hoy L-D

Published: September 9, 2016

hoy_adrian_2016Only three days after the band announced officially that Lee Irwin was no longer running its drum section, the Grade 1 Vale of Atholl of Pitlochry, Scotland, confirmed that Adrian Hoy is the new leading-drummer.

Hoy is the former leading-drummer of the Grade 1 Cullybackey of Northern Ireland, and has a long history with the band. Cullybackey has fallen on hard times in the last few years and was unable to compete as a band in 2016, a victim of the numbers game in the top grades.

Hoy started with Cullybackey at the age of nine and by age 22 was appointed L-D and remained in the role until 1990 when he was a member of the Grade 1 ScottishPower for three years before returning to Northern Ireland, then a Grade 2 band.

Hoy brings to Vale of Atholl “all of his former corps,” which will practice in Northern Ireland and make the commute to Scotland.

Vale of Atholl said that it’s a “natural fit” because of “a close relationship with the two bands.” Vale Pipe-Major Adrian Cramb said that Hoy has given a “long-term commitment” to the band.

Lee Irwin was appointed leading-drummer in January 2016 following a lengthy search, but parted ways with the band in July of this year for health reasons.

The Vale’s move is the latest in what appears to be a growing trend for bands who aren’t one of the current “big five” – comprising Field Marshal Montgomery, Inveraray & District, ScottishPower, Shotts & Dykehead and St. Laurence O’Toole – to develop creative ways to remain competitive, or simply survive in Grade 1.

Vancouver’s Dowco Triumph Street in 2015 announced that it would maintain a group in Scotland, and this fall appointed former World Pipe Band Drumming Champion Gary Corkin of Northern Ireland as leading-drummer.

Other bands, like Denny & Dunipace of Scotland and Ravara of Northern Ireland, have either suspended operations or been severely impacted due to not being able to field numbers that are competitive in Grade 1.

Vale of Atholl’s appointment of Hoy means that the band probably is the first ever to have two people named Adrian as pipe-major and leading-drummer.


343 The Fallen charity single Red Hot on charts


Fallen_RedHotChilliPipers_smallA tune that began as a piece by famed pipe music composer R.S. MacDonald for his friend Willie Armstrong of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers when he was a serving fireman in Glasgow has quickly become a smash charity track, climbing up the charts in the UK in sync with the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday.

“343 The Fallen” was recorded in late August and has reached #65 and #3 on the iTunes UK singles and rock charts, respectively, for most popular downloads, with all proceeds going to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Family Support Trust and the FDNY Emerald Society Pipes & Drums.

The project started as an idea by Armstrong in tribute to his firefighter friend, Ally Boyle, who was diagnosed with blood cancer and had to retire at a young age and wanted to do something for a major charities connected with the profession. Armstrong funded the project himself and reached out to the Red Hot Chilli Pipers to get wider reach.

Playing on the track are current and former Red Hot Chilli Piper members and a few special guests: Robert Mathieson, R.S. MacDonald, Craig Muirhead, Dougie McCance, Campbell Webster, Craig Munro, Willie Armstrong, Lorne MacDougall, Kyle Howie and Stuart Cassells. MacDougall also produced the track.

The group hopes that the piping and drumming community will step up and download the track and also donate to the cause via project’s Go Fund Me page.

Among the 2,996 who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were 343 Fire Department of New York firefighters. Hundreds more suffered short and long-term injuries, and the lasting effects of the event have devastated many of the families of the victims and will continue to do so for decades.

A video made for the project can be found here.

The story has also been picked up by Good Morning Britain, the Daily Record and the New York Daily News.


RMM, Rocky Mountain high at Canmore and Calgary

Published: September 8, 2016

Calgary & Canmore, Alberta – September 2-3, 2016 – The traditional Saturday-Sunday double-barrelled weekend in Alberta produced dividends for both the Rocky Mountain and Robert Malcolm Memorial bands in Grade 2, winning at Calgary and Canmore, respectively. The Calgary Highland Games were held under mostly sunny, warm weather with bands attending from four provinces, while the Canmore Games started cold at 4°C in its spectacular Rocky Mountains setting. Quite a few soloists braved the cold to play their tunes, and the day was a balmy 13°C when bands started. Several bands played in heavy downpour late in the afternoon, and the skies cleared just in time for massed bands.

Rocky Mountain Pipe-Major Sean Somers plays “AMazing Grace” at the Canmore games massed bands.

Calgary Highland Games (Saturday)
Grade 2
1st Rocky Mountain (1,1,1,3)
2nd City of Regina (2,2,2,1)
3rd Robert Malcolm Memorial (3,3,3,2)

Grade 3 (MSR)
1st Ogden Legion
2nd Calgary Police

Grade 4 (Medley)
1st Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada – Winnipeg
2nd Kamloops Pipe Band Society
3rd Edmonton Youth

Grade 5 (Marches)
1st Alberta Firefighters
2nd 78th Highlanders Youth Squad
3rd Ogden Legion V

Judges for all events: Hal Senyk, Mark Christie (piping); Gregor Merry (drumming); René Cusson (ensemble)

Professional Piper of the Day: Zephan Knichel
Professional Drummer of the Day: Elizabeth Shaw
Best Bass: Meg Stade, City of Regina

Canmore Highland Games
Grade 2
1st Robert Malcolm Memorial (2,2,1,1)
2nd Rocky Mountain (1,1,2,2)
3rd City of Regina (3,3,3,3)

Grade 3 (Medley)
1st Ogden Legion (1,1,1,1)
2nd Kamloops Pipe Band Society (ens.pref.) (3,3,2,2)
3rd Calgary Police (2,2,3,3)

Grade 4 (Marches)
1st Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada – Winnipeg
2nd Kamloops Pipe Band Society
3rd Edmonton Youth

Grade 5 (Marches)
1st Ogden Legion
2nd 78th Highlanders Youth Squad
3rd Grande Prairie & District

Judges for all events: Hal Senyk, René Cusson (piping); Gregor Merry (drumming); Dave Trew (ensemble)

Professional Piper of the Day: Ann Gray
Professional Drummer of the Day: Elizabeth Shaw
Best Bass: Meg Stade, City of Regina


The Vale searching again for L-D

Published: September 6, 2016

Lee Lawson was appointed lead-drummer of the Grade 1 Vale of Atholl eight months ago after a lengthy search, and now the band is looking again for someone to take charge of the corps after it confirmed her departure.

According to the band Lawson took a sabbatical from the band mid-season “for personal reasons,” and said that she will not continue.

“We would like to thank Lee for her contribution and the band will shortly provide a further statement to clarify arrangements for the leadership of the drum corps as we move forward,” said Vale of Atholl spokesperson Fiona Mackay, who also confirmed that the band made the decision to make the move under the circumstances.

Lee Lawson as a member of Field Marshal Montgomery.

Lawson, who lives in Northern Ireland and was previously a member of Grade 1 Field Marshal Montgomery, had to step back from the band before the Scottish Championships. She had been commuting regularly to Scotland to attend practices and competitions.

Before settling on Lawson in January of this year, Vale of Atholl had been look for a leading-drummer since 2013 when long-time Vale drum section leader John Moneagle retired after returning to the band for two years. Alistair “Bongo” McNab had run the corps until the arrival of Lee Lawson.

The band had also talked with drumming legend Jim Kilpatrick about the possibility of running its drum section, but could not come to an agreement. Kilpatrick subsequently joined the Grade 1 Spirit of Scotland, assembling a full complement of drummers, in a one-season commitment. Kilpatrick announced his retirement from competitive pipe band drumming two days before the 2016 World Championships.

Lawson did not comment on her future plans.


Triumph Street tops X 2 at Pleasanton

Published: September 5, 2016

Pleasanton, California – September 3-4, 2016 – The 151st annual Scottish Highland Gathering & Games were held over two at the Alameda County Fairgrounds near San Francisco, and Dowco Triumph Street won both Grade 1 events. Contestants in that grade were restricted to eight pipers, three snares, three tenors and a bass. Bands that finished first in their grade at the 2015 event were permitted to play up a grade, and, of note, the Grade 2 Prince Charles Pipe Band was awarded a first in drumming in the Grade 1 medley by drumming judge and former Triumph Street lead-drummer Andre Tessier.

Grade 1
1st Dowco Triumph Street (1,1,2,1)
2nd LA Scots (2,2,3,2)
3rd Prince Charles (Gr2) (3,3,1,3)
Judges: Alex MacIntyre, Richard Parkes (piping); Andre Tessier (drumming); Jim Barrie (ensemble)

1st Dowco Triumph Street (1,1,1,1)
2nd LA Scots (2,2,3,2)
3rd Prince Charles (Gr2) (3,3,2,3)
Judges: Donald Lindsay, Campbell Naismith (piping); Hugh Cameron (drumming); Alan Bevan (ensemble)

Grade 2
1st North Stratton (1,2,1,2)
2nd Prince Charles (2,1,2,3)
3rd Cameron Highlanders of San Diego (Gr3) (3,5,3,1)
4th Irish Pipers of San Francisco (4,3,5,4)
5th Wasatch & District (5,4,4,5)
Judges: Alex MacIntyre, Richard Parkes (piping); Andre Tessier (drumming); Jim Barrie (ensemble)

1st Prince Charles (1,1,1,1)
2nd North Stratton (2,3,4,3)
3rd Irish Pipers of San Francisco (3,2,2,2)
4th Wasatch & District (4,4,3,4)
Judges: Donald Lindsay, Campbell Naismith (piping); Hugh Cameron (drumming); Alan Bevan (ensemble)

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RSPBA 2017 major championship dates set

Published: September 4, 2016

The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association’s North of Scotland Branch reported today the dates and places for the five major championships for 2017. The calendar looks pretty much like that of 2016.

  • British Championships – Paisley, Scotland – May 20th
  • United Kingdom Championships – Belfast – June 10th
  • European Championships – Forres, Scotland – June 24th
  • Scottish Championships – Dumbarton, Scotland – July 29th
  • World Championships – Glasgow – August 11-12

The World Pipe Band Championships would appear to be following the same format as the last few years despite calls to return the event to a one-day competition. There is some confusion with the branch’s report conflicting with the association’s announcement at the 2016 World’s that the 2017 event would be August 18-19.

The scene at the rainy 2016 Friday Grade 1 World’s qualifier.

The Grade 1 qualifying rounds will apparently again take place on the Friday. Some see an extra day for a qualifying round as superfluous, since all 20-plus bands could be fit into a one-day Saturday MSR and Medley schedule, allowing all bands to be shown on a livestream broadcast, if the livestream in fact continues in 2017. The 2016 Friday Grade 1 qualifying suffered from horrendous weather, adding an extra challenge for the world’s greatest pipe bands.


No horsing around for Troy at Blair


Jamie Troy

Blairgowrie, Scotland – September 4, 2016 – A lovely sunny day greeted nearly 30 pipers competing in the senior events at the annual Blairgowrie games, until about 1:30 pm when it started hosing down rain and never stopped. Jamie Troy of Victoria, British Columbia, was the winner of the overall award for those in the top grades, and James Dyson of Halifax, Nova Scotia, was the overall winner of the C-Grade events, taking the Jimmie MacGregor Memorial Shield. The games received high praise from competitors due to the efficient organization of the Henderson piping family and friends. The contest took strong measures to ensure that policies against teachers judging pupils were followed.

Premier & A-Grade Piobaireachd
1st Ed McIlwaine, Vancouver, “Lament for MacLeod of MacLeod”
2nd Jonathan Greenlees, Glasgow, “Mary’s Praise”
3rd James MacHattie, Summerside, Prince Edward Island, “Lament for the Viscount of Dundee”
4th Jamie Troy, “The Battle of Waternish”
Judge: Colin MacLellan

B-Grade Piobairecahd
1st Jonathan Simpson
2nd Cameron MacDougall
3rd Ben Duncan, Edinburgh
4th David Shedden, Glasgow
5th Dan Lyden, Maryland
Judges: Patricia Henderson, Iain Speirs

1st James Dyson
2nd Ben Mulhearn, Troon, Scotland
3rd Kaitlin Kimove, Stoney Creek, Ontario
4th Chris Lee, Hong Kong
5th Andy Graham
Judges: Douglas Murray, Andrew Wright

Grades A&B
1st Jamie Troy
2nd Glen Ross
3rd Ben Duncan, Edinburgh
4th Andrew Donlon, Washington, DC
Judges: Ian Duncan, James Banks

Strathspey & Reel
1st Ross Miller
2nd Jonathan Simpson, Bathgate, Scotland
3rd Andrew Donlon
3rd Jamie Troy
Judges: Ian Duncan, James Banks

1st Chris Lee
2nd James Dyson
3rd Ben Mulhearn
4th Kaitlin Kimove
Judges: Colin MacLellan, Douglas Murray, Andrew Wright

Strathspey & Reel
1st Chris Lee
2nd James Dyson
3rd Kaitlin Kimove
4th Ben Mulhearn
Judges: Colin MacLellan, Douglas Murray, Andrew Wright


McCallum joins Piping Centre with other stars

Published: September 3, 2016

If there’s competition between them, the National Piping Centre has responded boldly to the College of Piping’s appointment of Colin MacLellan as new Director of Piping with the news that piping legend Willie McCallum will succeed Stuart Samson as the Centre’s new lead tutor of the BMus (Traditional Music – Piping) course that it delivers in collaboration with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. McCallum will take over at the end of September from Samson, who is retiring.

Willie McCallum

Additionally, the National Piping Centre revealed in a pipes|drums exclusive that Gold Medallist Wilson Brown and emerging soloist Dan Nevans have been appointed as full-time teachers of piping, taking over the spots vacated earlier by Clare Lynas and David Wilton after they moved to Dundee.

Wilson Brown

Among many other awards, Brown won the Highland Society of London Gold Medal at Inverness in 1996 and this year returned to compete around the games and in the Clasp. Nevans is a piper with the Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band and a graduate of the University of Strathclyde with a degree in applied music.

The National Piping Centre also announced that its team will be strengthened with the addition of the well-known pipe music composer and performer, Ross Ainslie, as a part-time tutor. Ainslie is best known for his work with Jarlath Henderson and the Treacherous Orchestra, and was Composer of the year in 2015 at the Scots Trad Music Awards.

And also coming on board is former Scots Guards Pipe-Major and Army School of Piping instructor Iain Lowther on a contract until December to deliver intensive instruction for international students on SQA courses.

Regarding the appointment of McCallum, National Piping Centre Director Roddy MacLeod said, “We needed to find someone with a tremendous profile in piping to take on where Stuart left off, and Willie McCallum brings exactly that to the table. Willie is without doubt one of the most successful and highly respected figures in piping today and so we are sure that his input will be a positive force for the future success of the degree programme. Willie’s list of successes in solo piping are too numerous to mention . . . but perhaps the most impressive is his eight times winning of the Glenfiddich Piping Championship. Stuart is a highly respected figure and has been responsible for guiding many of our graduates to reach their potential in piping. We will miss his strong influence and wish him and his wife Wanda well in their new adventure.”

In addition to McCallum’s massive competitive success, his teaching has been much in demand at home and around the world.

“I’m very excited at taking up the post at the National Piping Centre,” McCallum said. “There are many very talented pipers on the degree course, and of course I have very high regard for Roddy MacLeod and his team at the NPC. It is a part time post, so it will mean a different organization of what I am involved in currently but I expect it won’t impact greatly on my private students or the work I’m engaged in with McCallum Bagpipes or Bannatyne Ltd. I’ll intend to still be involved in some summer schools and weekend workshops, but this will have to be scaled back a little.”




Hudson, McClamrock in form at international Braemar


Braemar, Scotland – September 3, 2016 – The prize lists at the Royal Braemar Highland Gathering were heavy with non-UK competitors in an even more pronounced way than usual. Pittsburgh’s Nick Hudson and Ben McClamrock of Washington, DC, pulled in the firsts, Hudson winning the Braemar Gold Medal. Hudson was fresh off of a successful Northern Meeting where he won the B-Grade MSR, and McCalmrock took both light music events and was awarded the Braemar Silver Medal for Best Overseas Piper, and won the the overall award for most aggregate points in the senior piping.

The competition had at least one teacher judging at least one pupil, which goes against the policies of both the Competing Pipers Association and the Scottish Solo Piping Judges Association.

Nick Hudson with the Braemar Gold Medal for piobaireachd.

1st Nick Hudson
2nd Jori Chisholm, Seattle
3rd Anna Kummerlow, Germany
4th Darach Urquhart, Glasgow
5th Ed McIlwaine, Vancouver
6th Derek Midgley, New Jersey
Judges: Malcolm McRae, Robert Wallace, Duncan Watson

1st Ben McClamrock, Washington, DC
2nd Jori Chisholm
3rd Andrew Lee, Surrey British Columbia
4th Nick Hudson
5th Donald MacPhee, Alexandria, Scotland
6th Graham Mulholland, Fife, Scotland
Judges: Jimmy Banks, Ian Duncan, Stuart Samson

Strathspey & Reel
1st Ben McClamrock
2nd Andrew Carlisle, Pittsburgh
3rd James P. Troy, Victoria, British Columbia
4th Dan Lydon, Maryland
5th Calum Iain Brown, Aboyne, Scotland
6th Andrew Donlon, Washington, DC
Judges: Jimmy Banks, Ian Duncan, Stuart Samson


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September 26, 1958Dinner to honour John MacFadyen, Grosvenor Hotel, Glasgow.
  • Regarding regrading
    Mon, 19 Sep 2016
    It’s regrading time, and that means associations all over the northern hemisphere are considering results and making decisions as to who should go up and down the competitive ladder. Some bands and soloists prefer to force the mat …
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UPCOMING EVENTS October 1, 2016Australian Pipe Band ChampionshipsKnox Grammar School, Wahroonga, Sydney, Australia

October 7, 2016Willie McCallum Concert in Scotia, New YorkFirst Reformed Church of Scotia, 224 N. Ballston Ave (Route 50), Scotia, NY 12302

October 8, 2016The Nicol-Brown Amateur Invitational Piping CompetitionFirst Reformed Church of Scotia / 224 N. Ballston Ave (Route 50) / Scotia, NY 12302

October 9, 2016Master Class with Willie McCallum in Albany, New YorkCeltic Hall / 430 New Karner Road / Albany, NY 12205

October 22, 2016World Solo DrummingGlasgow Caledonia University, Glasgow, Scotland

Pipers: When selecting and setting reeds (chanter & drone) always take time. There is no such thing as a “plug & play” reed – just ask any professional. We are always making the slightest of adjustments to achieve the maximum from the instrument.
Murray Henderson, Kirriemuir, Scotland