Published: October 31, 2010

McKenzie era ends at Manawatu with Parker appointment

There are about 14,000 kilometres between the United Kingdom and home-base, but the Grade 1 Manawatu Scottish Pipe Band of Palmerston North, New Zealand, continues to diversify its roster with the appointment of Graeme Parker to Lead-Drummer.

A native of Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Parker takes over from Fraser McKenzie, who held the post for 17 years. McKenzie will reportedly stay with the band, playing in the snare line.

Graeme Parker had played with Manawatu Scottish for the past two years, and previously he was a member of Field Marshal Montgomery and Ballinderry Bridge, the latter of which he was “drum-corporal” when the corps won World, Cowal and Champion of Champions titles in Grade 2.

Parker will lead the drum section from his home in Northern Ireland, and travel to select competitions in New Zealand during their summer contest season during the UK winter. A similar arrangement with Pipe-Major Stewart McKenzie has worked for the band for the last three years, with McKenzie living in London.

The change marks the first time in 24 years that a McKenzie has not led the band’s drum section. Before Fraser McKenzie, the late Jock McKenzie – father of Fraser and Stewart – ran the Manawatu corps from 1986 until 1993.

“I’m delighted to be offered this job in such a top-class band and I’d like to thank Stewart, Fraser and the band as a whole for giving me this great opportunity,” Parker said. “Having played with the band over the past couple of years, I’m convinced we have plenty of ability and potential in all sections. We have also gained a number of new players, both in New Zealand and the UK, and we’ll continue to work hard as we look to build on recent successes.”

Parker’s debut as Manawatu L-D will be at the Palmerston North Square Day competition in December.

“I’m delighted Graeme has agreed to take on the drum corps,” Stewart McKenzie said. “I’ve been really enjoying working with him over the past couple of months on a pile of  new music, and he brings with him fresh impetus and innovative musical ideas. In the same breath, Fraser has done a great job over the past 17 years as drum sergeant, and  on behalf of everyone  at Manawatu Scottish I  thank him wholeheartedly for  his efforts. From my perspective, it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable and successful musical partnership.”

When asked about the challenges of long-distance management, he said, “Global membership is fairly commonplace for Grade 1 bands these days, although  I guess we’ve taken it a step further with piping and now drumming leadership remote  from the band’s  base in New Zealand. In saying this, Stuart Easton does an excellent  job  running the pipe corps back home, likewise  Fraser the drum corps. It  is a real  team effort.”

The band works with several other UK-based members as well.

Stewart McKenzie added that the band’s pipe section has discontinued use of synthetic bags and canister systems in favour of a traditional sheepskin set-up.

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