The Grade 1 Johnstone Pipe Band of Johnstone, Scotland, is planning to mark its seventy-fifth anniversary year in 2018 with a successful teaching program, a brand new set of pipe chanters, and a major concert.
On January 20th, the band will take the main stage of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall as the pipe band headliner for the 2018 Celtic Connections Festival. It’s the first major concert for the band under Pipe-Major Keith Bowes, and the group will debut a new set of McCallum pipe chanters that Bowes and Pipe-Sergeant Dougie Campbell have worked on for the last several months with Stuart McCallum and Kenny MacLeod of McCallum Bagpipes.
All three of the competing bands in the Johnstone organization will be playing McCallum chanters in 2018.
About the Celtic Connections show, Bowes said, “We are really excited that the opportunity has come our way to showcase the band on the platform of the Royal Concert Hall. It is an occasion for us to celebrate as 2018 is the 75th Anniversary of Johnstone Pipe Band.”
The organization’s newly-promoted Grade 3B band will also take the stage, as well as its Renfrewshire Schools Pipe Band, along with backing musicians and dancers, with STV on-air personality John Mackay as emcee for the event. The first half will feature pipers Finlay MacDonald with Ross Martin, father and son Angus MacColl Senior and Junior, and Jarlath Henderson.
Johnstone’s teaching program is extensive and, according to Bowes, “continues to grow from strength to strength . . . currently providing tuition across 20 schools in Renfrewshire.” The project is supported by the Scottish Schools Pipes & Drums Trust, Renfrewshire Council, and Creative Scotland, and numerous pupils who have learned in the program will join the band on stage.
Johnstone started its teaching program in November 2014, and now provides four full-time and part-time piping and drumming Instructors, working as part of the school week. In December 2016, more than 40 piping students sat Scottish Qualifications Authority examinations at Johnstone’s band hall across Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Levels 2-6.
The Renfrewshire Schools band was formed in 2017 and performed for the first time at the Scottish Schools Pipe Band Competition where it won in their category. The band later competed at the Gourock Highland Games in their regular school uniforms and later in the year at Rothesay and Cowal games in pipe band uniforms.
“Although [Renfrewshire Schools band] has a different name and tartan, it is very much a recognized feeder system, sharing our band hall in Johnstone, sharing instructors and socializing and fundraising as one association. We now have around 100 RSPBA registered players across the three bands,” Bowes said.
As part of its anniversary, the Johnstone organization will also hold a gala dinner at Tweedie Hall in Linwood on April 29th.
Johnstone Pipe Band was founded by Ex-Provost of Johnstone Burgh, James McKay, in 1943, and wears the Blue McKay tartan as a tribute to him. The senior band won Grade 3A at the 2014 World Championships in in 2014, was promoted to Grade 2, and promptly won that grade at the 2015 2015 World’s and again in 2016, which gained the band a promotion to Grade 1, where it made a successful debut in 2017.
Tickets for the Celtic Connections concert can be purchased from the online box office.