December 31, 2005

2005 New Year’s Honours

Could it be that 2005 is already over? It seems like the 2005 season had only just started with the promise of new music, new champions, and new innovations when, all of a sudden, it’s December 31 and we’re getting ready to open that special bottle to tak a cup of kindness.

Oh, dear. As is now our tradition, we celebrate the year’s greatest achievers and achievements by highlighting those people, products, and projects that made the biggest impact on the world of piping and drumming. We gathered together a battalion of pipers and drummers to offer their thoughts on the best of the year, which follow below. Congratulations to all award winners and to all those considered for these honours.


Piper of the Year

Terry Tully, Dublin – in many ways, 2005 may be seen as a turning point for Terry Tully’s band, St. Laurence O’Toole, and the man behind the musical machine for the past 20-odd years is Terry Tully. He’s led the band down new musical avenues and composed some of the best music to come out of a Highland bagpipe. A virtuoso performer, his loyal band members look to him with reverence and integrity. In the face of heavy challenges such as travel costs, time and things we don’t even want to get into here, Terry Tully has brought St. Laurence O’Toole and Irish-Highland piping to the fore. For his perseverance, musical intelligence and leadership qualities, our 2005 Piper of the Year is Terry Tully.

Also considered:

  • Robert Mathieson , Hamilton, Scotland – another World Championship for House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band, a trend-setting CD and the continued development of new products for the pipe band world make Rab Mathieson a worthy contender for the title. A point worth noting: Terry Lee, Mathieson and Richard Parkes had each won four World’s, and Mathieson moved ahead with his number five, putting him ahead of and tied, respectively, with pipe band legends Tom McAllister and Iain McLeod.
  • Willie McCallum, Bearsden, Scotland – McCallum’s contest success across both light music and piobaireachd moved him ever closer to “World’s Greatest Piper Ever” consideration. A veritable prize-winning music-machine.
  • Bill Livingstone, Whitby, Ontario – at age 63, Livingstone led his 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band back into the prizes at the World Championships after winning everything in the band’s home province, including its 13th North American Championship. Livingstone retired from solo competition in style with a last performance in the Clasp at the Northern Meeting.
  • Donald Mackay, Glasgow – As the new Pipe-Major of the Strathclyde Police, expectations were perhaps relatively and reasonably lowered for his band, but Mackay pulled off a stellar season and proved he was the right man for the job – and a nice guy as well.

    Solo Competition Piper of the Year

    Willie McCallum. Last year McCallum also got the nod for Solo Competition Piper of the Year, and we raised the thought that he should start to be considered as the greatest all-round competitive piper in history. Consider these 2005 feats: his eighth Glenfiddich title, the Springbank Invitational, a second in the Clasp, the Highland & Islands, the Dan Reid, and the Donald MacLeod Memorial. Ho-hum. Just another year for Willie McCallum.

    Also considered:

  • Angus MacColl, Benderloch, Scotland – yet another excellent season for the wonder-handed MacColl, who so often plays under the radar only to hit the target spot-on.
  • Pipe-Major Gordon Walker, Moscow, Scotland – a giant on the boards, the diminutive Walker lets his fingers speak for themselves. The Bratach Gorm, the Argyllshire Gathering Former Winners’ MSR, and strong showings at just about every major event puts Walker near the top-of-the-heap.

    Pipe Band of the Year

    St. Laurence O’Toole – Terry Tully’s band from Dublin gained even more solid-footing at the RSPBA majors and is perhaps the first band in a long time to threaten the “Big Three” competitive gridlock at the top. Leading with music, SLOT continually gets feet tapping and the audience listening for more than just tone. Add to the band’s year a spectacular concert in Glasgow before the World’s and a follow-on CD of the event, and SLOT is our 2005 Pipe Band of the Year.

    Also considered:

  • House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead – the 2005 World Champions and RSPBA Grade 1 Champion of Champions, Shotts accomplished their competitive feats with a truly international roster of players from Scotland, Canada, and Scandinavia.
  • Field Marshal Montgomery– always a dominant force in Grade 1 and 2005 was no exception. For the band’s impeccable drone-sound at the World’s alone, FMM deserves strong consideration.
  • Simon Fraser University – year after year, SFU comes out with the biggest and most consistent challenge to Shotts and FMM. Many thought that the band deserved to win the World’s.
  • Windsor Police– Ontario’s Grade 2 champions took two firsts in piping at the World Championships to seal its move to Grade 1. With a strong teaching system, watch for this band to make that difficult transition with alacrity.
  • Drambuie-Kirkliston – a tremendous year for this Edinburgh-based band, which won the Grade 2 event at the World’s and the Champion of Champions title, only to disband in December due to sponsorship problems.

    Drummer of the Year

    Jim Kilpatrick, Ashgill, Scotland – a remarkable sixteenth World Solo Drumming Championship and another World Drum Corps award for House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead mean that KP MBE just keeps on going and going and going. His successful competitive roll appears open-ended, and he will probably keep winning as long as he keeps competing. Add to his contest success his diligent teaching schedule and his research and development work on drumming products, and Jim Kilpatrick returns as our 2005 Drummer of the Year.

    Also considered:

  • Tyler Fry, Kincardine, Ontario – whether you love or loathe tenor drumming, there is no denying that Tyler Fry has taken the art to a new level, with band mid-sections more prevalent than ever.
  • Stephen Creighton, Dublin – the leading-drummer of St. Laurence O’Toole, Creighton is making a mark with his complementary scores and his consistent showings at the World Solo Drumming.
  • Eric Ward, Glasgow – always up there in the solos and always tasteful with his Strathclyde Police scores.


    Solo Piping Recording of the Year

    Angus MacColl Live – Angus MacColl. MacColl’s musical brilliance is often under-appreciated, but this live capture of a special night of piping at McTavish’s Kitchen in Oban is pure brilliance. Everything is here, from piobaireachd to often-ignored 3/4 marches, and everything in between, each played with MacColl’s unique panache on a rock-steady pipe.

    Also considered:

  • A Piobaireachd Diary – Bill Livingstone – perhaps shouldn’t ‘t be classified as purely solo piping, Livingstone’s discussion of the tunes performed on these four volumes extends the recording genre to a different realm
  • The Piping Album– Matt MacIsaac– a quietly-produced CD that many may have missed, but one that reeks music. If you can find it, buy it.

    Pipe Band Recording of the Year

    The Dawning of the Day – St. Laurence O’Toole – more music than you can shake a shillelagh at, this recording captures the band in full-flight two days before the World’s. More than 20 tracks populate this CD, including the band in choir mode singing “The Auld Triangle” with as much heart and unbridled enthusiasm as their jig-playing. This recording is just what SLOT needs to catapult to replacing The Big Three with The Big Four.

    Also considered:

  • On Home Ground, Volume 1– Simon Fraser University – is there ever anything not to like with SFU? The band’s novel approach of combining live and studio tracks charts a new course for pipe band CDs.
  • The Legendary House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band– House of Edgar Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band – another new format for pipe band recordings, this CD is a musical history of the greatest competition band ever, interspersed with commentary from past and present leaders and a well-written and informative narrative.
  • The 2005 World Pipe Band Championships– three CDs for Sunday-morning pipe-majors and Monday-morning judges.

    Special Product Award

    The World Pipe Band Championships 2005 (DVD) – you asked for it, you got it, Monarch Recordings and the Uist Media Group teamed to create the first DVD of the World Pipe Band Championships. Yes, there are a few problems with syncing video to sound, but it’s a solid first effort. Several vintage performances and a perfectly sunny day in Glasgow make this production a dream-come-true. Put it on a 50-inch plasma with surround sound, crack open a few Newkie Broons and you can easily get through a long winter dreaming about 2006.

    News Story of the Year

    The Band Room goes in to liquidation– 2005 was chock-a-block with news from the piping and drumming world, but the biggest was the demise in August of The Band Room business. Yes, businesses fail all the time, but never before has the piping and drumming world seen a bankruptcy quite so large and quite so fraught with intrigue. Allegedly shutting down owing almost a half-million pounds to creditors, The Band Room reportedly left dozens of pipers, drummers and bands without merchandise for which they had paid. The story itself goes beyond the demise of a company, we see it as watershed point for the piping and drumming market, opening eyes to just how much money it is worth.

    Other big stories of 2005:

  • Drambuie-Kirkliston disbands– after winning Grade 2 at the World’s and the Champion of Champions title, and being moved to Grade 1, Drambuie decides to pack it in.
  • Premier purchases R.G. Hardie – the famous drum-manufacturer swoops in to buy the equally famous R.G. Hardie name and operation after its bankruptcy.
  • Roddy MacLeod steps down as ScottishPower P-M – it had been rumoured for some time, but MacLeod decided to give up the band that he made famous, later handing the reins to Chris Armstrong.
  • Paul Turner returns to the Vale – Robert Wiseman Dairies Vale of Atholl gains back its form famous leading-drummer.
  • Northern Meeting moves to Aviemore – “Inverness” becomes “Aviemore” and it looks like the world’s most important solo piping competition could be there to stay.
  • Bill Livingstone retires – North America’s most successful solo piper ever decides to make the Northern Meeting his last event.
  • CLASP Scottish amateur competition circuit – The National Piping Centre adopts the North American system for amateur contests.
  • Argyllshire Gathering brings in North American judges – Jim McGillivray and Bob Worrall of Canada are the first non-UK-resident judges to take benches at one of the major Scottish gatherings.
  • RSPBA to implement new format for lower grades – a bold move to attempt reform of Grade 4 and Novice Juvenile events in the UK.

    The piping and drumming world saw several unfortunate and sad deaths in 2005, including those of John D. Burgess MBE, Pat Hayes, Gordon Duncan, Mary MacKinnon, Jimmy McMillan, Tommy Pearston, Willie McBride, Martyn BennettTom Weir and Malcolm Campbell. We are much the better for their lives, and much the worse for their absence. We miss them all.

    Stay tuned for our expert panel’s fearless predictions for 2006!


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