Erwan Ropars, a major figure in Breton piping, died on January 8, 2015, after an illness. He was in his sixty-sixth year.
Born on July 30, 1950, he originally played with Bagad Kerfeunteun from Cotes d’Armour, Brittany, but he was best known as a 30-year member of Bagad Kemper, 25 of them as penn soner, or pipe-major.
Bagad Kemper made a mark as one of Brittany’s worldwide piping exports, winning the Breton Championships a record 22 times – twice as many as the number-two on the list, Brest St. Mark. Ropars was penn soner of the band for nine of them (1975, ’76, ’77, ’78, ’82, ’84, ’85, ’88, ’91).
Under Ropars, Kemper was renowned for a powerful sound from its pipe section, which played strong chanter reeds made by Ropers with blackwood Naill chanters, an unusual combination for pipe bands at the time, accustomed to playing mainly McAllister reeds and Sinclair or plastic WarMac chanters.
Ropars often travelled to Scotland for tuition, and received instruction from, among others, Bob Gibson and Jock Kerr of the now-defunct Edinburgh City Police Pipe Band.
After leaving Bagad Kemper in 1998 he led Bagad Kerne for several years, and then retired from competition.
On behalf of the piping and drumming world, we extend our condolences to Erwan Ropar’s family and friends at this sad time.