Double Gold: a chat with newly-minted Gold Medallists Jamie Forrester and Nick Hudson – Part 1
For most pipers competing solo at the top tier, there’s no more important achievement than winning one of the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medals at the Argysllshire Gathering at Oban or the Northern Meeting at Inverness.
These awards are traditional history-making accomplishments dating back more than 150 years. To be sure, winning, say, the Clasp or the Senior Piobaireachd at the same competitions, or the Glenfiddich Championship are even more elite prizes, those are generally not possible unless you win a Gold Medal.
Jamie Forrester of Haddington, Scotland, and Houston’s Nick Hudson added their names in the history books by winning at Oban and Inverness this year. Forrester did it by performing “The Phantom Piper of Corrieyairack” by Captain John A. MacLellan MBE, while Hudson turned in a rendition of the ancient “Lament for the Laird of Anapool” – both difficult and subtle compositions that test a piper’s technique, music, and mettle.
So, just who are these accomplished players?
Jamie Forrester was born in Edinburgh and grew up in the Trossachs region of Scotland. He worked in London for some 15 years before returning to Edinburgh in 2019. He and his wife somewhat unexpectedly decided to settle just outside in the East Lothian village of Haddington with their then two children (now ages six, three), and four months ago added a third child to the family and four months.
Forrester is by no means a full-time piper. He has a demanding career as partner in a management consultancy. Between the job and the family, he manages to fit in his piping.
On that topic, he started at school with instructor Brian Elrick at Glenalmond College in Perthshire, and continued instruction while at Edinburgh University with Colin MacLellan and, later, Roddy MacLeod.
His been winning prizes at the top level for the past decade, most notably the Dunvegan Medal (2017) and Dunvegan Medal Clasp (2018), the Gillies Cup for piobaireachd at London (2021), the Braemar Gold Medal for piobaireachd this year, and he captured a third in the Highland Society of London Gold Medal at Inverness in 2017.
Forrester narrowly missed capturing the elusive “Double” – winning both Gold Medals in the same year – finishing second at Inverness right behind Nick Hudson.
Originally from Massachusetts, Nick Hudson started his piping when his family moved to a suburb of Washington, DC, with instructor Chris Hamilton. Hudson eventually moved to Pittsburgh and enrolled in the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Performance program under professors Alasdair Gillies and Jimmy McIntosh at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
In 2017, he was recruited by headmaster Mike Cusack, the most accomplished soloist in US piping history, to be a full-time teacher at St. Thomas Episcopal School in Houston. His instruction now comes primarily from Cusack.
His competition solo piping highlights include the Braemar Gold Medal, the Silver Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering, the B-Grade MSR at the Northern Meeting, the Ram’s Head Snuff Mull for A-Grade Piobaireachd at London, twice being the overall A-Grade championship at the London, the Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal (Canada), and the overall winner of the Metro Cup. Like Forrester, Hudson had seen only one prize in a Gold Medal contest before winning this year: a fourth at Oban in 2019.
With his win at Inverness, Hudson became only the fourth American to capture a Gold Medal, following Cusack (Oban 1984, Inverness 1987), Mike Rogers of Maryland (Oban 2000), and Michigan-born Donald MacPhee (Inverness 2005).
Like Forrester, Nick Hudson is a proud parent, he and his wife welcoming their son, Alan, on the same day he won the Northern Meeting medal.
We wanted to connect with these two history-makers so, after a lot of schedule juggling, we managed to secure them for a two-part discussion on the prizes and how they might change the trajectory of their piping careers.
We hope you enjoy the first of our two-part exclusive interview with Jamie Forrester and Nick Hudson.