Chris Anderson, 1928-2023
Chris Anderson, a seminal figure in Canadian piping and drumming, died on April 1, 2023, at the age of 94.
Anderson was the pipe-major of the Grade 1 City of Toronto Pipe Band in the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s, making history as the first non-UK/Ireland band to receive a prize at the World Championships on June 26, 1966, at Bught Park, Inverness, Scotland, with a fifth against a field of 15 other bands, finishing second from piping judge Seumas MacNeill.
But while the City of Toronto – also known as “Caber Feidh” – made history for that singular breakthrough, it was Anderson’s leadership that laid the groundwork for an Ontario piping and drumming scene that would eventually become the focal point of the pipe band world in the 1980s.
Among the members of Anderson’s City of Toronto were several who would go on to lead or greatly influence Ontario bands in the future, including Bill Livingstone, Ron Rollo, Jake Watson, Luke Allen, and Gerry Quigg. Livingstone would succeed Anderson in 1974 as City of Toronto’s pipe-major, with all of those members continuing with him and then on to form the 78th Fraser Highlanders in 1981. Rollo was pipe-major of Grade 1 Toronto & District in the 1970s, while Watson would go on to lead the Grade 1 Toronto Police in the late 1980s and ’90s. Allen revolutionized the significance of the bass drum in pipe bands, and it was Quigg’s innovative creativity that formulated adventurous medleys with both City of Toronto and the 78th Frasers.
After City of Toronto, Anderson was pipe-major of Glenmor, taking the band from Grade 3 to Grade 1 with a famously large squad of players who included Lead-Drummer Hugh Cameron and a very young Ian K. MacDonald. Because of its large size for the time, with some 24 pipers at one point, the band was affectionately known as “Anderson’s Army.”
As a soloist, Anderson successfully competed at the highest level in Canada against contemporaries like Archie Cairns, Bill Gilmour, and Reay Mackay.
A Scottish immigrant who originally settled in Nova Scotia, Anderson eventually moved to the Niagara region of Ontario, playing with the Grade 1 St. Catharines Pipe Band (later to become Clan MacFarlane) before moving to Toronto to form City of Toronto.
He was known as a quiet and self-effacing gentleman, who left the competition scene in the 1970s and was not attracted to judging, infrequently seen around the local games.
Chris Anderson played a major role in the formative years of piping and drumming in Ontario, and we extend our sympathies to his family and friends at this sad time.