May 31, 2007

Australia Highlanders latest top band to go natural

The Grade 1 Australia Highlanders are the latest band to announce that they are moving from synthetic drone reeds and pipe bags in favour of cane and sheepskin products.

“For the past few years with the increased chanter pitch, we have not been entirely happy with our drone balance, especially in regards to bass drone volume and projection,” said Pipe-Major Danny Boyle. “At the World’s in 2006 we had a chanter sound we were extremely happy with, but not the depth in drone volume. We have since experimented with many different configurations of pipe setup, and in March of this year introduced the sheepskin and cane drone reeds.”

The band joins St. Laurence O’Toole in its return to traditional materials, which SLOT announced in December 2006. Other prominent bands, such as five-time World Champions Field Marshal Montgomery, have always used sheepskin and cane products.

After finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Qualifier at the 2006 World Pipe Band Championships, the Australia Highlanders ended up eleventh overall in the final contest.

Synthetic drone reeds were originally developed for mass-production in Australia by piping products pioneer Geoff Ross. Ross introduced the first plastic-body drone reeds in 1985, and in the 1990s brought about a revolution in internal drying methods with the launch of the Ross Canister system. The first mass-produced synthetic pipe bags came on the market in the late 1980s with the advent of the Canmore bag from Gore-Tex.

The band also confirmed that it will release a new CD, Without Fear (pictured at right), during the week before the 2007 World’s.

With the renewed interest in cane drone reeds and many pipers never having used them before, reedmaker Murray Henderson recently provided an article on the topic for pipes|drums subscribers.


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  1. Does anyone have info on what the ‘Top 4’ are playing? Is this a high risk strategy for all but the guys at the top of the game? Will lower grades be tempted back into the murky waters where only the great ‘tone meisters’ can eek that extra few percent from their players instruments?

  2. -there-was-nothing-wrong-with-nunas-tone-at-last-years-worlds-it-was-poor-playing-that-let-them-down-just-another-piece-of-publicity-pipe-bands-should-just-keep-quiet-if-the-setup-changes-are-so-good-they-will-be-rewarded-by-getting-one-over-on-their-riva

  3. Re the CD cover, what’s with all this patriotic stuff? Changing the name from Nunawadding (Sp?) to the Australian Highlanders (when were they chosen as the Aussie reps?) and having the Australian Map on the cover of their latest CD. It’s fine to be patriotic, but it can be taken too far. Let the music speak!

  4. Interesting article. I find the previous comment a little unjustified in that SLOT also had a good sound at last years worlds but still opted for sheep and cane and are now getting rave reviews so why shouldnt Aus Highlanders do the same. Also the PM stated the fact they were happy with chanter sound but wanted more from drones. One things for sure, they had one of the best sounds at last years worlds in my opinion and if its improved i can`t wait to hear it.

  5. Look forward to getting a listen. I wouldnt say its too patriotic. The whole criticism against the name change has been exhausted. This band are the only current Australian band that look like making a serious challenge at the top level. I guess folk from Aus that criticise the name change only wish they had thought it up.

  6. having heard aus highlanders at last years worlds in the medley final, in my opinion they were in the top 6. if the PM and co think that the natural set up will give them the edge then go for it. i just hope that it works for them! as to the patriotic comments, instead of stating how you think its over the top… why not just judge them on their music instead.



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