Beaumont wins his third Metro Cup

Published: February 19, 2017

Callum Beaumont

Newark, New Jersey – February 18, 2017 – Callum Beaumont won both events at the 2017 Metro Cup Invitational Professional Solo Piping Competition to take his third title in four years. The event is held at the Ramada Newark Airport Hotel, and is organization by the Metro New York Branch of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association. Each event had a US$1,000 first prize, and the overall winner received a solid gold medal valued at more than $1,200.

In the Pipe-Major George M. Bell Amateur Championship, Andrew Hutton of Ontario won both events.

1st Callum Beaumont, Bo’ness, Scotland, “MacLeod of Colbeck’s Lament”
2nd Ian K. MacDonald, Whitby, Ontario, “Craigellachie”
3rd Willie McCallum, Bearsden, Scotland, “Ceol na mara”
4th Alex Gandy, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, “Ronald MacDonald of Morar’s Lament”
5th Bruce Gandy, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, “The Big Spree”
Judges: Jim Bell, Mike Cusack, Nancy Tunnicliffe

1st Callum Beaumont
2nd Alex Gandy
3rd Ian K. MacDonald
4th Bruce Gandy
5th Willie McCallum
Judges: Jim Bell, Mike Cusack, Nancy Tunnicliffe

Also competing but not in the prizes: Glenn Brown, Glasgow; Andrew Hayes, Ottawa; Alasdair Henderson, Dunoon, Scotland; Alastair Lee, British Columbia; Andrew Lee, British Columbia; Dan Lyden, Maryland; Derek Midgley, New Jersey; and John Patrick, Fankerton, Scotland.

George Bell Amateur
1st Andrew Hutton
2nd Laureano Thomas-Sanchez
3rd Steven MacDonald
Judge: Ian K. MacDonald

1st Andrew Hutton
2nd Laureano Thomas-Sanchez
3rd Patrick Johnson
Judge: Andrew Hayes


NZPolice win muddled Wellington & Hawkes Bay

Published: February 18, 2017

Palmerston North, New Zealand – February 18, 2016 – The New Zealand Police Pipe Band won the annual Wellington & Hawkes Bay Centre Championship for the second year running against the only other band in Grade 1, Manawatu Scottish. The results were announced incorrectly at the prize-giving, but officials later verified that New Zealand Police had gained the win. Overall, the band won the piping and drumming.

Judges for all events were Andrew Sanders, Craig Fraser (piping); Dennis Pearce (ensemble); Jamie McEwan (drumming).

Despite a poor forecast, weather held up throughout the day. The New Zealand Championships will be held March 10-11.

New Zealand Police Pipe Band celebrating after winning at Wellington & Hawkes Bay.

Grade 1
1st New Zealand Police (1,1,2,1)
2nd Manawatu Scottish (2,2,1,2)
Judges: Andrew Sanders, Craig Fraser (piping); Dennis Pearce (ensemble); Jamie McEwan (drumming)

1st Manawatu Scottish (1,2,1,2)
New Zealand Police (2,1,2,1)

Grade 2
1st Wellington Red Hackle

1st Wellington Red Hackle

Grade 3
1st City of Wellington (1,1,1,3)
2nd Manawatu 2&3 (3,3,2,1)
3rd City of Hastings (2,2,3,2)

1st City of Wellington (1,2,1,3)
2nd Manawatu 2&3 (2,1,3,2)
3rd City of Hastings (3,3,2,1)

Grade 4
1st Scots College (1,1,1,1)
2nd Wellington Red Hackle (3,3,2,2)
3rd Marton (2,3,3,3)
4th Kapiti Coast (4,4,4,4)

1st Scots College (1,1,1,1)
2nd Wellington Red Hackle (2,3,2,2)
3rd Marton (3,2,4,3)
4th Kapiti Coast (4,4,4,4)


McConnell, Mitchell win 78FH Belfast contest

Published: February 17, 2017

Young Jake McConnell, a piper with the Grade 3A Matt Boyd Memorial, and Cameron Mitchell, a drummer with the Grade 3A Ballybriest, will be joining some of their piping and drumming heroes on stage at the “Live Back in Ireland 87” concert in Belfast February 25th.

The two up-and-coming musicians won a draw to perform with the “band” of surviving available members of the original 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band that performed at the 1987 event, plus several notable pipe-majors, lead-drummers and well known others, led by original 78th Frasers Pipe-Major Bill Livingstone.

Jake McConnell (photo used with permission)

McConnell and Mitchell’s names were drawn for nominations by Grade 1, Grade 2 or Grade 3A bands registered with the RSPBA’s Northern Ireland branch. Bands could nominate one piper and one drummer younger than 18.

After attending rehearsals next Thursday and Friday, the two young players get to join the “cast” for the opening number, “Lord Lovat’s Lament,” and again in the second half of the show, with 6/8 marches “Ishabel T. MacDonald,” “Cameron MacFadyen,” and “Fairview Cottage.”

McConnell and Mitchell also get two tickets each to the show for their guests, and they’re allowed to keep their pipe chanter and drum sticks.

Cameron Mitchell (photo used with permission)

The re-enactment event at the Waterfront Theatre in Belfast celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of the concert that was recorded to make the Live In Ireland album that became one of the most popular in pipe band history. The concert included “Journey To Skye,” the first-ever pipe band suite. The composition was written by Donald Thompson, an award-winning Canadian jazz musician, and was originally received with disdain from several prominent members of the 1987 band.

The concert was first re-enacted in January 2016 at a sold-out Glasgow Royal Concert Hall as part of the Celtic Connections festival. The concert was made into a video available by pay-per-stream or download. Each was well-reviewed in pipes|drums.

+ 87 78: reflections on the past

+ Legacy and memories captured

Among newcomers to the Belfast show are current 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe-Major Doug MacRae and Shotts & Dykehead Pipe-Sergeant Glenn Brown.


CLASP gets an app


The Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers (CLASP) in the UK is putting updates and communications in the palm of their members’ hands with a new mobile app through the popular Team handheld platform.

The free CLASP app enables members to enter events, check in on contests and get notifications about competitions draws and updates.

To get the app, search for and download the Team app. Once installed and registered, open the Team app and search on it for the CLASP group to become a member of the group.

“We are delighted to be able to offer our CLASP members an easy to use app, where they will always be connected to the latest CLASP news, events, and also with the option of a very quick way to enter a CLASP competition,” Roddy MacLeod, principal of the National Piping Centre, said in a statement. “This is a great way of applying new technology to make CLASP very accessible to its members and to improve efficiency in the administrative processes.”

CLASP was started in 2005 by the National Piping Centre to fill the void in the UK, which previously had no regular solo piping competitions for adults not qualified or good enough to compete in the country’s “senior” events. Unlike the rest of the world, the UK does not have an all-ages graded “amateur” system for solo pipers and drummers.

+ Scotland to start first-ever contest circuit for amateur adult pipers

The predominant UK system requires anyone 18 and older to compete for cash prizes in a single open group, sometimes delineated by the Competing Pipers Association’s sub-classifications, grading soloists by Premier, A, B and C, with the C-Grade the rough equivalent of Grade 1 Amateur in mature solo scenes like those in Ontario, British Columbia and the United States.

CLASP runs a number of competitions for adult amateur pipers. Points are accrued to determine an annual overall winner, and members can compete as little or often as they would like throughout the year.


The dawn of piping technology

Published: February 16, 2017

We revisit our 1999 feature with Ed Neigh and the very first days of the bagpipe tuning meter . . .

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World’s Week solstice: revisit 2016 in video

Published: February 13, 2017

Piping and drumming is a least as monumental as Stonehenge, so we celebrate the mid-point between World’s Weeks by revisiting in video the 2016 World’s Week – or Glasgow Week in Hamburgers, for those of us who survive on Street Café delicacies.

Six months out and six months to go, you’re either shoveling snow in the north or mopping sweat in the south.

We hope that you’re making plans and looking forward by looking back to see what your missing or what you missed as medleys are being refined, gear is being sorted, money’s being hoarded and, for those low on numbers, rich ringers are being arranged.

We hope that you enjoy our look back at World’s Week 2016, and hope to see you six months from now in Glasgow!


Boney Invitational goes to Andrew Lee

Published: February 12, 2017

Andrew Lee (right), winner of the 2017 Boney Music Invitational, with Andrew Bonar and Bonar’s son, Cameron.

Burnaby, British Columbia – February 11, 2017 – Andrew Lee of Surrey, British Columbia, was the winner of the second annual Boney Music Invitational, held at the Halpern Centre, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby Campus, with profits going to the BC Cancer Foundation. The decision was unanimous by the panel of five unidentified judges in an audience that was full of qualified piping adjudicators. Alastair Lee was second, also by unanimous decision.

The contest called for each contestant to perform a variety of own-choice material in a 20-minute (including tuning time) recital format: a ground of a piobaireachd; at least two two-parted strathspeys; at least one four-parted 4/4 march; at least one tune in 9/8 time; and at least one tune written by Andrew Bonar or a tune from Boney Music Book 1, a collection compiled and published by event organizer Andrew Bonar, a BC Pipers Association Life Member and four-time BCPA Open Piping Grand Aggregate winner.

Invitations to the competition were given to the top five finishers in the previous year’s BC Pipers’ Association grand aggregate standings as well as the winner from the previous year’s Boney Music Invitational: Jori Chisholm, Zephan Knichel, John Lee, and James P. Troy.

Competitors and organizers at the 2017 Boney Music Invitational (L-R): Kate Bonar, Andrew Bonar, Cameron Bonar, Andrew Lee, Alastair Lee, Zephen Knichel, John Lee and Jori Chisholm. (Not pictured: James P. Troy)

+ First Boney Invitational goes to Troy

Andrew Bonar is one of the best pipers to emerge from North America. He was diagnosed in 2014 with malignant cancer and has been undergoing treatment since. Through efforts by him, the BC Pipers Association, and the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, more than $100,000 have been raised for cancer research charities.

+ Andrew Bonar, in his own words

To make a donation to the BC Cancer Foundation, go to the fundraising page and enter “Boney Music Invitational” in the comments field.


Duncan wins Wheel; Hazzard gets the Joke

Published: February 11, 2017

Ben Duncan [Photo: Derek Maxwell]

Danderhall, Scotland – February 11, 2017 – Ben Duncan of Edinburgh was the overall winner of the annual Pipe-Majors Wheel of Fortune solo piping and humour competition, held at the Danderhall Miners’ Club and put on by and as a fundraiser for the Grade 2 City of Edinburgh Pipe Band. The contest has contestants playing three sets of tunes, starting with an MSR of their choice, then a light music medley of their choice, and then a selection of tunes determined by spinning the Golden Chanter on the Wheel of Fortune.

The competitors then have to tell a joke that is judged by the audience.

1st Ben Duncan
2nd Sarah Muir, Campbeltown, Scotland
3rd = Lachie Dick, Edinburgh, and Jenny Hazzard, Edinburgh

Duncan won the MSR and Hazzard won the Joke event, which was judged by the audience. Her joke featured the characters Barry, Rab and Seumas.

Also competing were Gordon Bruce, Kilwinning, Scotland; and Jonathon Simpson, Bo’ness, Scotland. Allan Russell, Kelty, Scotland, couldn’t make the event due to car trouble, and 2016 winner Douglas Murray had to withdraw from the event in January.

Four of the five tune categories in the selection are determined by competitors spinning the wheel when they arrive at the competition, and the final category of tune is determined by a member of the audience spinning the chanter as each competitor comes on stage. Competitors have a Joker that they can use once to deselect a category they don’t like.

The tunes can be played in any order but must be combined to form a continuous medley.

This year’s tune categories were 1. a Donald MacLeod composition, 2. a 4/4 march, 3. a Gaelic or Irish air, 4. a tune composed by Gordon Duncan, 5. a tune written by G.S McLennan tune, 6. a hornpipe, 7. a 9/8 march, 8. a composition written by the competitors, 9. the ground of a piobaireachd, 10. a polka, 11. two Irish jigs, 12. two Irish reels.

Judging the piping were Ian Duncan, Allan Forbes and Alan MacDonald, and Angus Clarke served as Fear an Tighe.


Canmore Games resuscitated

Published: February 10, 2017

The long-struggling Canmore Highland Games of Alberta were confirmed dead by organizers late last year, but have been resuscitated by a new team of organizers and financial backers have breathed new life into the spectacularly scenic competition.

+ Canmore Games calls it quits

The Malcolm Scottish Society has been created, led by a local developer, to resurrect the event, typically held in early-September each year, saying that the contest will be administered for a few years, with assurances that volunteers will not be alienated with over-work.

The Rocky Mountain Pipe Band competing at the 2015 Canmore Highland Games. [Image used with permission.]

According to legend, Scotland’s King Malcolm, nicknamed “Canmore,” came up with the idea of Highland games, thus the name for the new organization.

While the event is a staple on the Alberta piping and drumming scene, competitors have not always been pleased with the organization or conditions. September mornings in the Rocky Mountains can be freezing and icy, and afternoons range from rainy to sunshine and 20 degrees, wreaking havoc on instruments and performances.

The backdrop for the event is one of the world’s greatest for a piping and drumming competition, rivalled only by the likes of the Luss and Lochearnhead games in Scotland. The Canmore games typically attract about 5,000 visitors to the winter ski resort town.


CITES permits could have profound impact


While sets of new pipes made from African blackwood will start shipping again to the world soon after a six-week stall while processes and paperwork were completed by bureaucracies, the imposition on the material could have a lasting impact on smaller bagpipe makers and dealers.

+ Blackwood slowdown nearing end

pipes|drums has learned that UK-manufactured blackwood pipes now have to go through the Animal & Plant Health Agency (ALPHA) in the UK for their permit. Each permit takes approximately 15 working days to process, and more time if the paperwork is deemed incorrect, with a charge of £59 (about CAD$96) to the maker for every application.

[Creative commons]

However, the permit is per shipment of pipes, whether one or many. A larger bagpipe maker making a shipment of many pipes to a dealer would be at a potential advantage over smaller makers that send out individual sets directly to customers, and have no network of dealers.

If a maker sends out 100 sets it is the same price as one set or one practice chanter in the shipment. Any bagpipe piece made from blackwood requires a CITES permit, so a small replacement part would technically be hit with at least a £59 charge to be in compliance, potentially marked-up by bagpipe makers.

Further, while most countries do not require an additional import permit for blackwood pipes, Australia does. This additional permit takes about 40 days, so paperwork for an order to Australia all told could take approximately nine weeks before it can be sent. A “re-export” permit must be seen before issuing an import permit.

According to sources, permit numbers then need be passed to the customer by the bagpipe maker so that the buyer can provide evidence that the blackwood has come from a legal source that adheres to sustainable growth of the trees and that the material has not been illegally poached.

Smaller bagpipe makers and dealers that work in lower volumes are potentially at an economic disadvantage, unless their customers are willing to pay more and for their instruments, which is entirely possible, especially for “bespoke” manufacturers that specialize in marketing their instruments as ultra-premium at luxury prices.

An additional complicating factor could be the impact of BREXIT, should Great Britain ever actually leave the European Union. As part of the EU, Scottish-made blackwood pipes can be sold more freely within the Union, without the stringent CITES stipulations, paperwork and costs. If Scotland became independent nation and stayed within the EU, as the majority of its population have indicated is their desire, it would essentially mean that pipes sold to EU countries would keep moving at less cost to buyers.

With the environmental and conservation restrictions on blackwood and ivory, the hassle of moving bagpipes around is increasing, pointing to a potential future surge in interest in instruments made from acetyl or non-threatened woods.

+ The next big thing

Stay tuned to pipes|drums for ongoing developments in this interesting and complicated development with the world’s manufacturers of Highland pipes.


Blackwood slowdown nearing end

Published: February 9, 2017

When dalbergia melanoxylon – commonly known as African blackwood – was added to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora (CITES) Appendix II on January 2nd of this year it resulted in a virtual halt in all exports of blackwood pipes outside of the European Union, severely hindering business for pipe makers and dealers.

+ Blackwood use could soon become tricky

But the flow of new bagpipes should start up again on February 10th, according to top bagpipe makers. CITES certificates, required for every new set of blackwood pipes, had not been made available until now, essentially stopping international sales.

[Image used with permission of R.G. Hardie & Co.]

“The CITES certificates are available for application as from Friday, so it’s all starting to move now,” said Kenny MacLeod, owner of McCallum Bagpipes in Kilmarnock, Scotland, one of the world’s most popular Highland pipe manufacturers. “They anticipate there will be a fairly big backlog though. It’s not just bagpipe makers that this applies to, but hopefully in another couple of weeks the problem will be over.”

Many high-end woodwind instruments, including clarinets and oboes, are made from African blackwood. Pianos and other instruments also use dalbergia melanoxylon as a preferred material.

“The speed at which the CITES regulations have been implemented has caused great confusion and the delay in obtaining permits due to the lack of an EU listing has had a short-term effect,” said Alastair Dunn, head of R.G. Hardie & Co., another of the world’s most popular makers. “As the regulations settle down and businesses get used to the process we don’t foresee any issues in the longer term with regards to bagpipe sales. Small purchases that require a permit do become prohibitive and we have been working with our worldwide dealers to discuss the most cost-effective way of maintaining supplies.

Most bagpipe makers of size prefer that customers buy from their worldwide network of dealers that carry their instruments. As CITES permits are required and additional expenses are incurred, some costs are inevitably passed along to customers.

“We always advise customers to purchase from their local dealers and going forward we only expect a small increase in the price of blackwood products as businesses factor in the added administration required,” Dunn added. “There will be anomalies and misinterpretations over the coming weeks and months and we have, for example, already . . .


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Australia accounting matter involves police

Published: February 7, 2017

The rocky political road for the Australian pipe band scene got considerably bumpier after the resignation of the treasurer of both the Queensland Pipe Band Association (QPBA) and the Pipe Bands Australia (PBA) collective of Australian state pipe band associations.

The QPBA and PBA issued somewhat cryptic statements to members and the general public regarding the accounting situation, saying that the matter had been reported to the Queensland Police, and the Victoria Police, where Pipe Bands Australia is incorporated.

The treasurer had served with the QPBA / PBA for nine years before submitting her resignation following the appointment of a new Pipe Bands Australia Queensland Branch executive at a meeting in November 2016. At the meeting the branch’s audited financial statements were not available, and were not delivered until late January 2017

“The contents of those accounts, the Treasurer’s continuing absence from Qld Branch and QPBA meetings and a variety of other information caused the Qld Branch Executive, and myself on behalf of the QPBA, to agree that evening to seek her resignation and also to audit her conduct,” the statement from QPBA Secretary Alex McConnell read. “Pipe Bands Australia (Qld Branch) also advised the President of Pipe Bands Australia at that time.”

McConnell said that results of the investigations conducted by the police and the branch will be reported at the branch’s annual general meeting on February 21st.

In a separate statement from the QPBA executive, Chairman Andrew Roach and McConnell together wrote, “The National Management Committee has confirmed to the Qld Branch Executive that [the National Management Committee] are responsible for management of all matters of finance of the PBA and have directed that the Qld Branch not take actions without their direction. We have therefore written to the National Management Committee suggesting a number of actions that we consider should be taken as a matter of urgency.”

A memo from Pipe Bands Australia to PBA National Councillors and Branch Secretaries read: “There are no words to describe this alleged gut-wrenching action against our organization comprised of many members who unselfishly devote countless hours each year raising funds to operate their bands and associations.”

The amount of money in question is not known, but was described by a source who spoke on condition of anonymity as “substantial,” and went on to say, “there may well be resistance to one person holding treasurer roles at two levels in the future.”

The situation follows a protracted dilemma with the Grade 1 City of Whitehorse Pipe Band of Melbourne. Four members of the band were suspended for alleged comments on the band’s members-only Facebook page regarding Pipe Bands Australia and RSPBA judge Nat Russell. The band’s pipe-major and leading-drummer were suspended for four years and two years, respectively, and two other members were banned for a year.

+ City of Whitehorse breaks down

In the two statements about the matter, McConnell and Roach and the  requested that “members do not participate in social media ‘gossip’ surrounding the matter, and the PBA memo to National Councillors and Branch Secretaries also pleaded to members not to talk about the matter on social media. The QPBA statement included, “If you have any questions, please contact me,” and in the joint statement, “please contact either of us.”

At those invitations, pipes|drums contacted both McConnell and Roach with questions regarding the matter, but had not received a response at publication time.

Pipe Bands Australia is the collective organization that comprises the various pipe band associations of each Australian state with a pipe band association of its own. Each association is in effect a PBA “branch,” while also an association unto itself.

Pipe band membership in Australia is completed on a national level, with funds redistributed by PBA to state affiliates, so transfer of moneys between organizations is routine. It is believed that any financial discrepancies, if indeed they occurred, likely would have happened quickly around the Christmas and New Year mid-summer break in Australia.


Shotts Rises up for Pre-World’s Concert


The mystery surrounding which band will take the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall stage for the prestigious “Pre-World’s Concert” was finally solved, with the Grade 1 Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia announced as the chosen ones, with a show named “Rise” on Wednesday, August 9, 2017.

The event will mark the first time that the band under Pipe-Major Ryan Canning will take on the monumental task, which comes just two days before the World Pipe Band Championship. The band did the concert under Pipe-Major Robert Mathieson several times during the 1990s and 2000s.

The event has been produced and coordinated by the Grade 2 Glasgow Skye Association Pipe Band of Glasgow. Typically, the headlining band is announced well before the New Year, but Glasgow Skye has changed the management of the concert to Pipe-Sergeant Kurt Mackintosh, with long-time manager Dougie Orr stepping away from the role.

“We are thrilled to host yet another of the world’s greatest pipe bands for the pre-Worlds concert,” said Kurt Mackintoh. “Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band are one of the most resilient and successful pipe bands in recent decades. We have no doubt they will put on a fantastic show.”

After a meteoric rise from a state of confusion when Canning took over in 2012, to winning the World Championship in 2015, to several changes in leading-drummer in the fall of 2015, Shotts bounced back in 2016 to take prizes at several RSPBA championships, including a fourth at the World’s.

+ Field Marshal Montgomery: 2016 World Champions

+ Shotts appoints Andrew Lawson leading-drummer

+ Ryan Canning accepts Shotts Pipe-Major position

“Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band are thrilled to be taking on the highly popular ‘Pre-World’s’ concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall this August,” said Canning. “The band’s ethos is to continually strive to play at the top of our abilities and to reach the highest level of competitive success. ‘Rise’ befits what we have and will continue to aim for as a band. We can’t wait to get on stage on August 9th.”

The Pre-World’s Concert is often seen as a good luck talisman for bands competing at the World’s. The roots of the concert came from the 1987 78th Fraser Highlanders’ “Live In Ireland” concert in Balleymena, Northern Ireland, when the band went on to win the World’s a few days later. Among other bands to enjoy similar post-concert success have been Field Marshal Montgomery, Inveraray & District, Simon Fraser University, St. Laurence O’Toole, and ScottishPower.

Field Marshal played the 2016 concert and later won the World Championship for its eleventh time.

+ Some magical stuff

The concerts are typically sold-out, with standing-room tickets opened up in the final weeks before each event.

Tickets are priced at £20 and go on sale on Wednesday, February 8th from the Royal Concert Hall box office.


Geoff Neigh, 1942-2017

Published: February 5, 2017

Geoff Neigh, a stalwart and well-liked figure on the Ontario piping scene, died on the morning of February 5, 2017, aged 74, from complications due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

Born in Stratford, Ontario, Always known to be at the side of his more famous piping brother, Ed, Geoff Neigh was a piper with the Grade 1 Guelph Pipe Band under his brother’s pipe-majorship for many years, and competed at the Open level around the Ontario games.

Geoff Neigh (right) in the 1980s with the Guelph Pipe Band, the first band to use a chromatic tuner.

In addition to its inventive medleys and competition success, Guelph was known as the first pipe band in the world to use a chromatic tuner to refine its pitch and drone sound. Geoff Neigh worked with his brother on various techniques to get the best results, and the bagpipe tuner, which was initially mocked by many traditionalists, has become a standard piece of equipment for every competition pipe band.

Geoff Neigh contributed to the local scene, serving with various committee with the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario, including the group’s Music Board/Committee, of which he was chair for several years only recently. He was a significant and successful teacher, and, again with his brother, had a strong role in the success of the Paris-Port Dover Pipe Band, taking it from scratch to its current Grade 2 level. Geoff Neigh was also a solo and pipe band adjudicator with the PPBSO since the 1990s, judging the top grades at the North American Championship at the Glengarry Highland Games at Maxville, Ontario, many times.

Details of the funeral have not yet been determined.

On behalf of the world’s piping and drumming community, we extend our sympathies to Geoff Neigh’s many friends and family at this sad time.


Georgetown at 75 an inspiring success story

Published: February 4, 2017

In 2012, the Georgetown Pipe Band of Georgetown, Ontario, was nearing total collapse. Despite having just celebrated their seventieth anniversary, the band was on its last legs, with only a handful of pipers and a bass drummer remaining after a mass-exodus of an entire snare drum section.

But instead of calling it quits, the nucleus of players, including Pipe-Major David Stewart, decided to rebuild. They invested their time and talent in a teaching program, advertising in regional publications to attract interest young learners.

According to band spokesman Ron Hall the response was immediately overwhelming, and “much greater than anyone had dared imagine.” More than a dozen aspiring pipers and drummers immediately applied, and the band secured the teaching services of Craig Stewart, David’s brother, who was then playing with the Grade 1 Los Angeles Scots and who is now the Lead-Drummer of the Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe Band.

+ Craig Stewart returns to Toronto Police as Leading-Drummer

Now, in their seventy-fifth anniversary year, the Georgetown Pipe Band has completely rebounded, with more than 15 pipers and a drum section of at least eight. Even though the band, which once competed successfully in Grade 4, voluntarily dropped back to Grade 5, it is enjoying its renaissance. With eight pipers currently in the learner stage the band looks forward to an even brighter future.

The Georgetown Pipe Band at their hometown Georgetown Highland Games, Georgetown, Ontario, June 2016.

In sync with the anniversary, the band is planning several events this year, including a concert/pub night in the fall, when it hopes to have as many past members join the current band on stage.

“We have gone through a tremendous transformation in the last number of years,” Hall said. “2016 was our first year back competing and it was a resounding success. Our results were secondary to the experience all of the new players received and the fun we had as a group. This year is set to be even better and bigger. We will be competing . . . with a pipe corps closing in on 15-16 and a drum corps of close to eight with four tenors. A long way from the humble beginnings [in 2012] of five pipers and a bass drummer.”

At a time when virtually every band struggles to keep numbers up to remain competitive, and many are simply prone to chucking it when things get bleak, Georgetown’s story is one of successfully rebuilding a pipe band from the inside out through patience, perseverance and commitment.

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Dundee / Angus scene continues to surge

Published: February 3, 2017

Tayside, Scotland.

The Tayside area of Scotland continues to ramp up its piping and drumming resurgence, with the High School of Dundee and the Angus area schools looking to expand their teaching programs.

The High School of Dundee is searching for a Drum-Sergeant who will teach three days a week, with applications closing on February 10. The position is the counterpart to the recently-added piping instructor post that Grade 2 Lomond & Clyde Pipe-Major David Wilton accepted last year.

+ Piping Centre recruiting for two full-time teachers

In addition, Clare Lynas, who’s married to Wilton and also plays in Lomond & Clyde, has seen her part-time role teaching piping with Angus Schools made a full-time position, as a result of a counterpart part-time teacher retiring.

David Wilton

According to Wilton, the Dundee and Angus councils and schools are hoping to join forces to increase the piping and pipe band community at grass-roots level.

“The area is starting to push forward with lots of piping and drumming initiatives starting,” Wilton said. ” It’s a real positive step forward for the area, as a whole, and something I feel very fortunate to be involved in, alongside my wife. It’s very encouraging that jobs are consistently being created in our area and we all feel that the future is bright for Dundee and Angus. Hopefully we will be able to build a strong representation of this often forgotten, county.”

The new High School of Dundee position is the third piping and drumming job to be advertised in the last six months, and there is reportedly discussion of further expansion in all areas.

A city of only 150,000, Dundee supports two Grade 2 bands, with both the MacKenzie Caledonian and the City of Discovery competing in the penultimate grade.

The Grade 3B Arbroath Pipe Band has been working in the Angus area’s Youth Music Initiative, where Angus Council Schools & Learning receive funding for musical projects. The Arbroath band runs a free weekly after-school club for pupils from Primary 4 to Primary 7 to learn chanter and snare and tenor drumming, taught by Morag MacKenzie and Joe Fleming.

Wilton said that the High School of Dundee hopes to create a competition band with him and the new drumming instructor leading.


PiobSoc gets birthday gift from QE2

Published: February 1, 2017

The 112-year-old Piobaireachd Society is the recipient of a £2,500 gift from 90-year-old Queen Elizabeth II by way of the monarch’s Patron’s Fund, a fund totalling £750,000 set up to support charitable organizations of which the Queen is a patron, coinciding with her ninetieth birthday year.

According to Piobaireachd Society President Jack Taylor, the group plans to use the money to fund expert piobaireachd tuition at the College of Piping in Glasgow “for young pipers who do not have easy access to a teacher.”

The Piobaireachd Society is one of almost 300 other registered charities and organizations in the UK and Commonwealth countries with Queen Elizabeth as the designated patron. The Patron’s Fund itself receives donations from individuals, businesses, schools and community groups.

Taylor said that the bursary scheme was set up around 2011 as a result of a proposal from the College of Piping. Student recipients of funds so far have benefitted from tuition from the likes of Willie Morrison, John Wilson and Gordon Walker, and two students have played at the society’s annual conference.

The Piobaireachd Society has long been connected with the UK’s royal family, perhaps emanating from the legendary Angus MacKay being appointed piper to Queen Victoria in 1843. Taylor was not sure how long his group has had official royal patronage.

+ The Greatest 20 Pipers in History

Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her ninetieth birthday on April 21, 2016.


Make it a double-double

Published: January 31, 2017

A double Tim Hortons double-double.

Anyone who has spent any time in Canada will be familiar with the Tim Hortons chain of coffee shops, and anyone who’s learned about Canadian culture will know that a Tim Hortons coffee with two creams and two sugars is known as a “double-double.”

Anyone who’s serious about piping will know that “The Double” – winning both Highland Society of London Gold Medals at the Argyllshire gathering at Oban and the Northern Meeting at Inverness in the same year – is a rarity. In fact, the Double Gold Medallist feat has been achieved only a handful of times in history, and in 2016 Ian K. MacDonald became only the twelfth person to do it.

But 12 times is relatively a lot, compared with the fact that probably never before in the last two centuries has something else that happened in 2016: the first and second prizes in the Oban and Inverness Gold Medals went to the same people, with Sean McKeown placing second at each.

Ian K. MacDonald and Sean McKeown. [Photo: pipes|drums]

Add to all that the fact that MacDonald and McKeown play in the same band, as pipe-sergeant and pipe-major, respectively, of the Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe Band. They’re also both serving police officers. While MacDonald persistently traveled to compete in the Gold Medals for upwards of 20 years, and even returned to keep at it after suffering a heart attack in 2014, McKeown gained his double-seconds in his first year of playing in the Gold Medal events, after winning the qualifying Silver Medal at Inverness last year.

+ Ian K. MacDonald resting comfortably following minor heart attack

+ Inverness day 1: Ian K. wins historic Double Gold

+ Inverness: Johnston wins Gold; McKeown Silver; Gandy takes MSR

After their apparently unprecedented piping “Double-Double,” we caught up with MacDonald and McKeown at a Toronto Police band practice at the Toronto Police College, Tim Hortons double-doubles in hand, on a cold winter’s day for a brief video chat about their twinned accomplishment.


Strutting with flair and aplomb

Published: January 29, 2017

The Pipe Band Concert
Inveraray & District
Bagad Kemper
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Glasgow, January 28, 2017, £15

Reviewed by Euan Anderson

Inveraray & District on stage at Celtic Connections. [Photo: Bob Worrall, used with permission]

The traditional Celtic Connections pipe band concert is always high on the agenda of must-see events, and this year did not disappoint. With Bagad Kemper of Brittany and Inveraray & District from Scotland on the bill it promised to be an excellent blend of music and cultures.

The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall was set out with tables on the ground floor and this added to the relaxed ambience in the auditorium. A large audience (about two-thirds capacity) were clearly in the mood to be entertained.

Bagad Kemper were up first presenting their new “Melezour” concert (the mirror in Breton-French). The new creation, under the musical direction of Steven Bodénès, was to offer a new perspective on Breton music.

While there was everything you would expect to hear from a bagad with the usual mix of pipe, drum and bombard, the main feature was the vocal accompaniment provided by guest artists Marthe Vassallo and Sylvain Girault. This was a pleasant and unexpected addition and with the blend of Bernard Le Dreau on saxophone, Erwan Volant on bass and Thibault Niobe on guitar the audience were royally entertained to some classic Breton music.

Bagad Kemper. [Photo: Bob Worrall, used with permission]

The group filled the stage and there must have been some 50 musicians performing, all of whom were clearly enjoying their task. This was a hugely entertaining spot that left the audience wanting more as they headed for refreshments at the interval.

In the second half the 2016 RSPBA Champion of Champions took to the stage under Pipe-Major Stuart Liddell and Lead-Drummer Steven McWhirter. One of the most accomplished and musical pipe bands in the world, they started off with some high-calibre stuff and maintained that for their entire performance. It was a real treat to see this band on stage in top form. They appeared very relaxed and that came across in the delivery. Not a drone tuner in sight and in all honestly it didn’t sound like they needed one.

Interestingly, during some sets McWhirter dropped down from 10 to five snares and this, from where I was sitting, produced the best musical blend.

I am not a fan of the Royal Concert Hall’s acoustics but, then again, I only go there to listen to pipe bands. The word from the performers is that it is very good acoustically when playing on stage, but the audience sometimes misses the subtleties of musical arrangement due to heavy percussion accompaniment.

That aside this was a first class musical program from both bands who strutted their stuff with flair and aplomb.

If this is the quality they are producing now, 2017 will surely be a very successful year for both groups.

Euan Anderson has been a member of several top-flight pipe bands in his career, including as pipe-sergeant with the Grade 1 Lothian & Borders Police and the Grade 2 Drambuie-Kirkliston. Now retired as a detective in the Lothian & Borders Police Force, he is a solo piping judge with the Scottish Piping Judges Association. He lives in Edinburgh.


Echoes of a Master

Published: January 28, 2017

Andrea Boyd reviews the new collection of light music by and about the late Donald MacPherson

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Connie Blaney, 1933-2017

Published: January 26, 2017

Connie Blaney, whose name was synonymous with the Glengarry Highland Games at Maxville, Ontario, has died at the age of 83.

She was secretary of the games from 1983 to 1988, then vice-president for two years, and then president from 1991, continuing a director and past-president until she died.

Connie Blaney was an accomplished piper, and in the first year of the Glengarry Highland Games she won the under-18 piping contest, and was known at the time as one of the best female players in North America.

“Respected for her many accomplishments in the community and in the piping world Connie will be missed, and her contributions to the Games will never be forgotten,” said current Glengarry Highland Games President Anne Stewart. “Connie was a trailblazer, whose determination and success as a young female piper competing on the Ontario circuit in the 1940s and 1950s enabled future generations of women, including my eldest daughter, to play and compete at the highest level of piping and in pipe bands worldwide. Her smile, her laugh, her knowledge . . . Connie is irreplaceable and we will miss her terribly.”

Under Blaney’s leadership, “Maxville” moved from being good-sized piping and drumming event, to becoming the largest event in the world in terms of separate solo piping and drumming and band competitions, contestants and attendance. Crowd estimates over the two-day early August event typically exceed 50,000.

Details of the memorial service and funeral are available from Munroe & Morris Funeral Homes.

On behalf of the piping and drumming world, we extend our sympathies to Connie Blaney’s family and friends at this sad time.


Making a rest: NZ Police skipping Scotland


New Zealand Police competing in the Grade 1 qualifier at the 2016 World Championships. [Photo copyright pipes|drums]

The Grade 1 New Zealand Police Pipe Band won’t be travelling to Scotland to compete in the 2017 World Championships “to allow the band and its members a chance to rest and refresh.” It will be the first time in three years that the band won’t make the massive trek.

“Even though we have healthy numbers for a World’s trip in 2017 there are other factors at play that makes it strategically more sound for the band to take this year out before returning in 2018,” Pipe-Major Emmett Conway said. “[It] is a huge commitment for both the organization and the individual members.”

Band members have to fund the trip on their own and its southern hemisphere base means that there is virtually no break in the competition season.

“We want to balance long term sustainability and allowing our members to have some down time with their friends and loved ones this year before it becomes potentially unsustainable for them to continue.”

The band qualified for the Grade 1 Final in 2016, finishing twelfth of 12 overall.

The band said that it plans to make the trip, which collectively costs well over $100,000, in 2018, and that they will do “a deep dive review of everything that we currently do to make sure we are getting the best value and set us up for success moving forward.”

Also from New Zealand, the Grade 1 Canterbury Caledonian dropped out of the 2016 World’s, but Manawatu Scottish returned after a year’s hiatus, qualifying and finishing eleventh. Manawatu generally attends every two years and is apparently on track to return in 2018. The band enjoyed a fifth and sixth in piping in the MSR event in the Grade 1 Final.

Canterbury Caledonian announced in December that it would be making a change at its leadership positions, with Pipe-Major Richard Hawke and Lead-Drummer James Laughlin both stepping down. The band has not yet said who its new leaders will be or if the band will be travelling to the 2017 World Championships.

+ Hawke, Laughlin to leave Canterbury leadership

Bagpipe Lung – a piper-MD’s perspective

Published: January 25, 2017

By Dr. Lachie Dick MD

Editor’s note: The recent mainstream media publicity about so-called “Bagpipe Lung” resulted in much misinformation and amateur analysis, even some from within non-professionals in our own piping community. pipes|drums decided to do things right, and worked with an actual medical doctor who is also a top-quality piper. Dr. Lachie Dick of Edinburgh took a look at the matter and provided the following contribution for our subscribers.

In August 2016, the concept of “Bagpipe Lung” was re-introduced to the piping community.(1) Several national newspapers and broadcasters, both in the UK and abroad, covered the publication of a medical article describing the case of a patient who developed Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis.(2-5) Of interest to us, daily playing of his bagpipes was identified as the most likely cause for this.

Some of this coverage labelled the bagpipes as a potential harm to health(6-8) if not cleaned properly and regularly. Given that the patient died from his underlying condition, it further added to the idea that there were potential damaging effects from playing bagpipes. How much should we read into these reports? Should we be cleaning out and disinfecting our pipes after every performance? And what are these reports based on?


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Pipes+Drums 2016 videos: Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate

Published: January 21, 2017

As we wait out the long winter months in the northern hemisphere, pipes|drums Magazine is pleased to bring you the second in our series of videos from the annual Pipes + Drums Recital, sponsored by pipes|drums Magazine, at the Piping Live! Glasgow International Piping Festival.

+ Pipes+Drums 2016 videos: Ottawa Police Service

This year’s event on August 9th drew probably the largest crowd ever for a Street Café event at Piping Live!, with enthusiastic listeners spilling out from the marquee at least 20 deep, almost onto the road.

We bring you Lead-Drummer Gordon Brown and piper Calum Watson of the Grade 1 Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia.

Boghall-PipesPlusDrums2016_ (8)_medGordon Brown is a superstar of pipe band drumming. The leading-drummer of Boghall & Bathgate since 1992, Brown was the winner of the World Solo Drumming Championship in 1994 and 2002, and featured routinely in the top-six oat the event until he retired from solo competing. He has led his Boghall & Bathgate drum section to multiple titles, including two RSPBA Champion of Champions (2007 and 2010), a World Band Drumming title (2001). He teaches and judges all around the world.

Calum Watson, who filled in on short notice for Pipe-Major Ross Harvey, who had to cancel due to work commitments in Edinburgh, is from Lasswade, Scotland, and a piper on the rapid ascent, featuring in solo competition prize-lists in Scotland over the last few years.

With proceeds from pipes|drums subscriptions and advertising revenues, we are able to fund events such as the Pipes+Drums Recital, where performers are compensated fairly for their work. Be sure to check out the pipes|drums Magazine YouTube channel, now featuring almost 500 original piping and drumming videos.

+ Check out the pipes|drums Magazine YouTube channel

We hope that you enjoy these videos from last year’s pipes|drums Magazine Pipes+Drums Recital, and please stay tuned for more over the next few months.

(Keep turning to the next page for each of the five videos.)


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February 20, 1998Simon Fraser University plays concert at Carnegie Hall.
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UPCOMING EVENTS February 23, 2017Pittsburgh Piping Society (Smallpipes Night)Cafe Sam 5242 Baum Blvd. Pittsburgh, PA 15224

March 3, 2017Buffalo Bagpipe Band Club 2nd Annual Higland Ball “A Musical Progression”Brownschidle Legion Post Kenmore NY

March 3, 2017Redding Bagpipe CompetitionRed Lion Hotel, Redding, CA USA

March 3, 2017Winnipeg Scottish FestivalCanadinns Polo Park

March 3, 2017Pipers Club AtlanticThe Old Triangle Alehouse 5136 Prince Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Seek out the best players/bands in your area and always get a listen to them when you have the opportunity.
Colin Armstrong, P-M LA Scots