December 31, 2002

2002 New Year’s Honours

It’s time once again for our annual New Year’s Honours List in which our review team selects what it considers to be the most important products and artists of the year. The 2002 awards committee once again based its decisions on reviews, reader feedback, and overall market trends and competition results.


Solo Competitive Piper of the Year:Willie McCallum, Bearsden, Scotland. Willie McCallum gets the nod once again as our Competitive Piper of the Year with another collection of major trophies at a time when the standard has never been higher. Among his awards in 2002 were the Senior Piobaireachd and Former Winners MSR at the Argyllshire Gathering, the Bratach Gorm at London, the Highlands & Islands piobaireachd, and high prizes at the Northern Meeting. While not as dominant as he was when he was our 2000 Piper of the Year, as someone with a family and a career in accounting, he did astonishingly well against colleagues whose profession is piping.

Also considered: Iain Speirs, Edinburgh; Bruce Gandy, Halifax, Nova Scotia; Greg Wilson, New Zealand; Roddy MacLeod, Glasgow.

Pipe Band of the Year:Field Marshal Montgomery, Belfast. We give our 2002 award to the reigning World Champions, Field Marshal Montgomery, a band that was the most consistent prizewinner in Grade 1. FMM also took the stage at the annual pre-World’s Glasgow concert for an “Unplugged” show, choosing to forego electronics and accompaniment with other instruments for a pure pipe band approach. While the concert received mixed reviews, we admire FMM for striving to be different by going back to musical roots.

Also considered: Ballycoan, Belfast, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Shotts & Dykehead, Scotland.

Drummer of the Year:Alex Duthart. We had a hard time picking a Drummer of the Year, but decided to go with the late, great Alex Duthart, who still influences pipe band drumming like no one else. Perhaps it’s a statement on the condition of side drumming that no one has stepped up to impact drumming in anywhere near the same way Duthart did. Who will pick up the mantle and when?

Also considered: Gordon Brown, Whitburn, Scotland; Jim Kilpatrick, Whitburn, Scotland.


Solo Piping Recording of the Year:
My Father’s Son, Bruce Gandy. The pure solo piping genre continues to dwindle in popularity, but Gandy’s effort clearly rose to the top, receiving a solid review from Andrew Wright in the Piper & Drummer. Gandy demonstrates on this recording why he went on to strong competitive success in 2002.

Also considered: World’s Greatest Pipers, Volume 15 Jack Lee.

Recording to watch for in 2003: Alasdair Gillies.

Pipe Band Recording of the Year:La Boum Ecosse, Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band with Bagad Brieg. It was another lean year for pipe band CDs, but Shotts & Dykehead’s performance at their pre-World’s concert in 2001 is captured on disc, much to the delight of Piper & Drummer reviewer Bob Worrall, who gave the effort a rating of 4.5 gracenotes. The musical influence of Brittany, after almost 20 years, continues to have a big impact on Pipe-Major Robert Mathieson, who allows Bagad Brieg to share the limelight.

Recording to watch for in 2003: 78th Fraser Highlanders.

“Fusion” Piping Recording of the Year:Va, Slainte Mhath. We really liked this work from the Canadian band, Slainte Mhath, and several tracks are nothing less than terrific. Piper John MacPhee can do just about anything with his hands, and his use of a Highland pipes in the key of A provides a much more tuneful and listenable effect. This young group is certainly one to watch.

Fusion recordings to watch for in 2003: Gordon Duncan, Michael Grey, Scantily Plaid.

Music Book of the Year:His Complete Compositions, Duncan Johnstone. The glut of music books of the last decade has finally (some would say thankfully) subsided, with mainly only top quality stuff now being released, or re-released, as in the case of this Duncan Johnstone compendium. The works of the late “King of the Jigs” are collected here, showcasing just what kind of original talent he had for memorable melody and creative structure.

Special Product Awards

Omega Drone Reeds. The much anticipated new reeds from Australia’s piping inventor Geoff Ross appeared in August and have been snapped up quickly by top bands and soloists. The workmanship and design of Omega Reeds are perhaps unparalleled, and show once again that pipers will continue to splash out $200 for anything that may result in better consistency of tone.

The Classic Collection of Piobaireachd Tutorials, Pipe-Major Donald MacLeod, MBE, Volumes 3-4 The series continues with more discs preserving the recorded teachings of Donald MacLeod. The eventual 40 disc treasury will as a whole be as important to piobaireachd preservation and development as has been the Piobaireachd Society Collection.

Colla Ma Run: A Blend of Traditional Singing and Piping From Gaelic Scotland, Margaret Stewart & Allan MacDonald. The efforts of MacDonald and Stewart continue with this combination of piping and singing, which, as reviewer Mike Cusack states, “again blend the bagpipe and song reaffirming the Gaelic nature of the noble instrument.”

News Story of the Year

78th Fraser Highlanders Boycott Maxville. In North America, there was no bigger controversy in 2002 than when the 78th Fraser Highlanders decided to skip the North American Championships in protest over 2001 World Champions being invited to perform at the event. For those outside of North America, the 78th’s decision perhaps did not seem to be that important, but anyone who has been to Maxville will understand just why the circumstance got so many up in arms. The event, of course, went on without the 78th Frasers, who reportedly have no plans to go to Maxville in 2003.

Other big stories of 2002

Millennium Implementation Report ‘Fails Miserably’. Years of positive work to attempt the re-invent the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association came to a screeching halt at the organization’s AGM when adoption of the plan was soundly rejected in a quick vote.

The sad, shocking deaths of Hugh MacInnes and Lindsay Kirkwood.


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