Terry Lee, the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band’s only Pipe-Major in its existence in Grade 1, has retired from the position, giving way to Alan Bevan, a member of the band for more than 15 years and who is well known as a successful solo piper, his latest major prize being the Highland Society of London’ Gold Medal for piobaireachd at the Argyllshire Gathering.
According to sources within the band, the decision was made without consulting members overall, and most learned of Bevan’s appointment by email on the morning of September 29. Terry Lee later refuted that claim, saying that the majority of the band were informed of the move at a party at his home on the night of September 28, and the news was received with “shock and awe.”
At 36 years, Terry Lee’s run as pipe-major is one of the longest in the history of Grade 1 pipe bands, and the longest by a wide margin of any band currently competing in the top grade.
Terry Lee’s brother, Jack, will remain as pipe-sergeant, and Terry Lee will stay with the organization, “involved with the band in various ways, including teaching the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band youngsters,” the band said in a statement.
Alan Bevan is 37 years old; Terry Lee is 57 59.
While Simon Fraser University has supported a pipe band since the 1960s, it wasn’t until the late-1970s that it got serious with a top-level competition band, securing a relationship with the Lee brothers, which brought almost instant success.
During Lee’s tenure as pipe-major, SFU gained six World Pipe Band Championship victories, and finished second nine times, several of them highly debatable results in which many pegged SFU to win, only to have one judge out-of-sync with the majority. In the more than 25 appearances at the Worlds, SFU has finished in the top-three more than half of the time, but in 2013 the band dropped to fourth after competing first in both events in both the qualifying round and the Final and playing through rain several times.
“The band has been and continues to be in great hands,” said Jack Lee. “The veteran players in the band, including Reid Maxwell . . . are very enthusiastic in their support for Alan. It is not very often that a retiring pipe major has the good fortune to ‘pass the torch’ to a great piper and [twice] Gold Medalist, like Alan Bevan. Alan takes over running the band with a very solid corps of players, excellent group of young talented players, vibrant junior pipe band program and a solid organization.”
Under Lee’s direction SFU has also made a name for itself in concert performances and teaching. The band has performed in some of the world’s great concert halls, including Carnegie Hall and Centre in New York, the Sydney Opera House in Australia and the Mormon Tabernacle in Utah, as well as two “Pre-World’s Concerts” in Glasgow. Through the organization’s Robert Malcolm Memorial initiative, more than 2,000 children in the Vancouver area have learned to play the pipes or drum.
SFU has also made 12 audio and two video recordings under Terry Lee.
Alan Bevan’s family is also closely involved with the SFU organization. His wife has been a piper in the Grade 1 band for many years, and their two sons, Alistair and Callum, are members of the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band.
It was confirmed that Bevan got the position by appointment, but is enthusiastically supported by the balance of the Grade 1 band, saying that Bevan and Lead-Drummer Reid Maxwell “get along very well. Everyone in the band has nothing but respect for Alan. Should be a seamless transition.”
SFU’s “tuning team” remains unchanged, with Terry Lee, Andrew Lee, and Andrew Bonar handling drones Bevan and Jack Lee managing the chanters.
Rumours had circulated that former Shotts & Dykehead Pipe-Major Robert Mathieson was leaving SFU, but the band said that he has no plans along those lines.
Both Terry and Jack Lee’s sons also are pipers with the SFU Grade 1 band. The older Lee brothers received honourary doctorates from Simon Fraser University in June of this year, and in 1999 were awarded Canadian Meritorious Service Medals for their contributions to piping and drumming. Terry Lee was part of a pipes|drums mini-interview in 1994 and 2009.
Terry Lee is the third Grade 1 band Pipe-Major to step down in 2013. St. Laurence O’Toole’s Terry Tully announced his retirement after the Cowal Championships in order to spend more time with his family, while Kilts & More-Dysart & Dundonald’s Greig Canning resigned after the World Pipe Band Championships. Dysart was later demoted to Grade 2 status.
St. Laurence O’Toole has not officially announced its new pipe-major, but Pipe-Sergeant Alan Tully is expected to be officially voted in by the band at its annual general meeting on October 3rd.