July 12, 2021

Composing contest inspires Canadian legend to pull out the pipes again

Bill Gilmour in 2019. [Photo courtesy Bethany Bisaillion]
Bill Gilmour is one of the legends of Canadian piping and, although in his eighties and having not played in many years, he was inspired to pull out his pipes one more time to enter the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario’s composing competition.

Gilmour is one of the most accomplished pipers in Canadian history. He served with the Canadian military for decades and was pipe-major of the Royal Canadian Air Force Pipe Band, one of the top groups of the last 50 years, and senior Pipe-Major of the Canadian Armed Forces for years. He was one of the most formidable solo competitors of the 1950s and ’60s.

The contest is looking for tunes that will commemorate the association’s 75th anniversary. A requirement is that the composer must submit a recording of their tune.

Unfortunately for Gilmour, he managed only about four minutes on the pipes.

Concerned that his entry to the competition might not be accepted, Gilmour’s neighbour, fellow Canadian military pipe-major Hugh MacPherson, who enjoyed a long and decorated career himself, contacted PPBSO Vice President Chris Dodson.

About prompting Gilmour to get out his pipes, Hugh MacPherson said, ‘It might turn out to be the greatest thing I have done for this art form in my whole career.’

Fortunately, Dodson reassured them that the composer does not have to perform the tune on the recording.

Bill Gilmour in the 1970s.

“It can be anyone, and considering Mr. Gilmour’s advanced years I can’t imagine anyone would bat an eye if someone else were to step in,” Dodson said. “I’d hope that this understandingly disappointing development wouldn’t be the difference between him entering and not.”

Not only was Gilmour inspired to play again, he inspired MacPherson to create a tune for the contest.

About prompting Gilmour to get out his pipes, MacPherson said, “It might turn out to be the greatest thing I have done for this art form in my whole career.”

The association has partnered with Jim McGillivray’s bagpipe music repository,, to make the effort a success, with a prize purse for the top three four-part 2/4 marches totalling $1,450, with a first-prize of $1,000. A separate competition for a 4/4 march will award a silver engraved practice chanter from McCallum Bagpipes and a one-year membership with the PPBSO.

The plan is for the winning 4/4 march to be played at massed bands at all competitions in 2022.

The 2/4 march category is open to anyone, while composers submitting two-part 4/4 marches must be a PPBSO member “in good standing.” Music creators have to give their entries a name that references the 75th anniversary.

The contest is being judged by Bill Livingstone and Bob Worrall and the deadline for entries is July 18th.



Ontario launches tune composing contest to mark 75 years
May 17, 2021





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