December 31, 2003

2003 New Year’s Honours

We continue our tradition of awards for the New Year, in which we acknowledge the year’s best achievements, citing those who made the biggest mark on the world of piping and drumming. To determine our recipients, we asked a panel of some twenty pipers and drummers from all over the world to provide their nominations and selections. Congratulations to all award winners and to all those considered for these honours.


Solo Competition Piper of the Year

Bruce Gandy, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. As one of our panelists said: “Geez, if a Gold Medal, a Bratach Gorm, a North American Solo Championship, the Vancouver Piobaireachd and aggregate, and the Metro Cup aren’t enough, I don’t know what is!” True enough, no competitive piper had the year that Bruce Gandy had. Add to his solo competition successes the fact that he plays a pivotal role with the North American Pipe Band Champion 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel), and the decision becomes even more clear cut. Bruce Gandy was an easy choice for Piper & Drummer Online‘s coveted Solo Piper of the Year award.

Also considered:

  • Willie McCallum, Bearsden, Scotland – another standout season from the world’s most consistent all-round prizewinner in the last decade.
  • Jack Lee, Surrey, British Columbia – a strong late season finish, including the overall Glenfiddich title.
  • Chris Armstrong, Bathgate, Scotland – the Inverness Gold Medal and strong showings at several major events moved young Chris Armstrong further to the forefront of the world’s pipers.
  • Alasdair Gillies, Pittsburgh – a record eleventh Silver Star Former Winners MSR at Inverness.
  • Richard Hawke, New Zealand – several strong prizes at the big gatherings from New Zealand’s best solo piper poises Hawke for one or two 2004 breakthroughs.

    Pipe Band of the Year

    Field Marshal Montgomery. For the second straight year, our panelists chose Field Marshal as the best pipe band of the year. Despite losing the World Championship to House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia, Field Marshal had another banner year, chalking up the RSPBA’s overall Champion of Champions award for most aggregate points across RSPBA majors. The band also released the highly acclaimed recording, Unplugged—Live at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Their Web site humbly describes the band as “Northern Ireland’s premier Grade 1 pipe band.” Forget that. This was the world’s greatest band in 2003.

    Also considered:

  • House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead – another World title for this storied band based in Lanarkshire.
  • Simon Fraser University – consistently superb year after year, and probably deserves to have as many as four more World Championship victories than it has been given.
  • Clan Gregor – the dominant force in Grade 2 all year, and makes the deserved big jump to Grade 1 for 2004. Watch for continued prize success.
  • 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) – from virtually nowhere, the Grade 1 pride of Canada’s Maritimes wins both the Canadian and the North American Pipe Band Championships. Would have been in the list at the World’s had they gone and played to their potential.

    Drummer of the Year

    Jim Kilpatrick, Ashgill, Scotland. 2003 was the year when people finally stood up and took real notice of Kilpatrick’s astonishing competition record. In October, he broke his own record with his fourteenth World Solo Drumming Championship title, and led his drum section to yet another World Drum Corp Championship and Champion of Champions title. His next drumming championship win will be the one-hundredth of his illustrious career. And he is still only forty-six years old. Kilpatrick was the unanimous choice of our panel.

    Also considered:

  • Gordon Brown, Whitburn, Scotland – strong leadership of the always-in-the-running Boghall & Bathgate Caledonian Pipe Band drum section and a good showing at the World Solos in October.
  • John Fisher, Victoria, British Columbia – perhaps no other drummer was watched as closely as the 78th Fraser Highlanders’ Fisher, who stepped into the band’s hot spotlight. No other drummer was under as much pressure.
  • Reid Maxwell, Vancouver – yet another prize at the World Solos, and yet more strong corps and ensemble leadership from Simon Fraser University’s diminutive lead stick.
  • Andy Scullion, Belfast – again, a newsworthy nominee for leaving great success at Field Marshal Montgomery and joining Jim Kilpatrick’s Shotts corps as a flank man.


    “Pure” Solo Piping Recording of the Year

    Masterpipers In Recital, Volume 1, Highlights of the St. Andrew’s College Recitals 2000-2002—Alasdair Gillies, Angus MacColl, Bruce Gandy, Jim McGillivray, John Cairns, Rob Crabtree, Willie McCallum. Could 2003 be the year when the “pure” solo piping recording (i.e., one that features only bagpipes) meets its extinction? There were very few pipes-only recordings in 2003, but for sheer brilliance and value none was better than this compilation of the best performances from the Ontario School of Piping Summer School.

    Also considered: The Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society Recital.

    Pipe Band Recording of the Year

    Unplugged—Live at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Field Marshal Montgomery. Another unanimous choice by our panelists. This recording captured FMM in fine form at their 2002 Glasgow concert, throwing a spotlight on the technical and tuning brilliance of one of history’s most successful competition bands.

    Also considered: The Calling, Manawatu Scottish Society Pipe Band; Cascade, 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band.

    “Fusion” Piping Recording of the Year

    Nine Blasted Notes, Michael Grey. The second fusion piping effort in three years from Grey gets the nod for best recording of 2003 in a close call by our panelists. Grey again extends the reach of the Highland pipe by applying its tone and abilities to numerous other musical styles and genres. Integrating the instrument with Iraqi folk music may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Grey’s willingness to push the Highland pipe’s nine notes—blasted or not—is unlike anything going on with the instrument today.

    Also considered: Thunderstruck, Gordon Duncan; Up South, Fred Morrison; good drying, Roddy MacDonald.

    Music Book of the Year

    Ceol Mor—General C.S. Thomason (Ceol Sean Bagpipe Music Books). For the first time ever, we give our award to a collection published on CD-ROM. This reprint of Thomason’s 1900 landmark piobaireachd collection brings back to the masses a quintessential work for all pipers. Long suppressed as a resource, Ceol Mor is a sensitive and ingenious interpretation of piping’s classical music. In digitized form, there is no risk of it mysteriously vanishing from dealer shelves ever again.

    Also considered: A Collection of Pipe Band Drum Compositions by the Royal Ulster
    Constabulary G.C. Drum Corps

    Special Product Award

    William Donaldson’s Set Tunes Series. We’ll give ourselves a pat on the back for bringing to the thousands of daily readers of Piper & Drummer Online Dr. William Donaldson’s landmark series on the Set Tunes. We can think of no more important Internet-based resource for pipers with as much real importance. Donaldson’s contribution to piping is lasting and profound. What’s more, it’s free and available to all.

    News Story of the Year

    EUSPBA Asks Games to Pay Tariff For “Guest” Judges. This was a close call, but we decided that the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association’s decision to try to collect a US$50 fee from games not using judges on the association’s list was the most controversial story of the year. In fairness, the EUSPBA rescinded the decision weeks later, but this was one of several EUSPBA news items that garnered headlines in 2003.

    Other big stories of 2003:

  • The World’s 2003: A Judge’s View From Outside The Ring – veteran RSPBA judge Jim Hutton speaks his mind on Piper & Drummer Online about the state of pipe band bass and tenor sections igniting a firestorm of controversy.
  • Four Judges Removed From EUSPBA Panel. – another sticky situation for the EUSPBA resulting from the organization simply enforcing a policy.
  • PPBSO Approves 78th Frasers’ One-Medley Request – the PPBSO takes extreme heat for reducing its Grade 1 competition requirement.
  • RSPBA Changes World’s Grade 1 Prizes – the embattled RSPBA fudges up the numbers at the World Championships and finds it awarded the wrong fifth and sixth Grade 1 prizes.
  • Historic Maxville Building Burns To The Ground – the Angus Grey Hall at Maxville is the victim of apparent arson, and fifty years of trophies are lost.
  • Andrew Scullion Joins Shotts and Dykehead – months after leaving Field Marshal Montgomery, Andy Scullion joins his former band’s Scottish rivals as a flank drummer.

    The piping and drumming world saw several unfortunate and sad passings in 2003, including those of John McAskill, James Campbell, John Weatherston, Polig Monjarret, Arthur Gillies, and Peter Brinckmann. We are much the worse for their absence, and we miss them all.


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