MacKenzie latest in P-M recruitment mode after Nicholson steps down
Neil Nicholson will no longer take the front right spot in the ranks of the Grade 2 MacKenzie Caledonian of Dundee, Scotland, after stepping aside following the band’s Grade 2 Final performance at the World Pipe Band Championships.
Nicholson confirmed that he informed the band’s management of his plans in July, and he intends to stay with the band as a piper, focusing on “developmental projects designed to secure the future of the band.” He has been pipe-major for the last five years and, for eight years before that, was the band’s pipe-sergeant.
According to Nicholson, MacKenzie Caledonian is “actively speaking to two high calibre interested parties. He or she will be in charge of the musical direction of an already dedicated and close-knit unit. The band also has a Novice Juvenile unit, and it would be expected that the successful applicant will work closely with the tutors and pm in order to create a smooth transition between the two units as players are brought through the system.”
Under Nicholson, “The MacCals” have enjoyed a solid run through the grades, this year regularly featuring in the Grade 2 prize lists at RSPBA majors, the high point being a win at the European Championships at Forres, Scotland.
Despite qualifying for the 12-band World’s Grade 2 Final, the band finished eighth in a tie for seventh broken by ensemble, with a last-place in drumming destroying the band’s chances of getting in the list.
“While in some ways there was a feeling of unfinished business after a disappointing result at the World Championships Grade 2 Final after winning the qualifying heat, it was an appropriate time both personally and for the band for a change,” Nicholson added. “Leading the band has been a privilege with a real strength in depth both in and out with the circle.”
Lead-Drummer Barham “Baz” Brummage said that he is willing to step aside if a suitable replacement can be found and, ideally, the new pipe-major would have the opportunity to bring a new leader for the drum section.
There is a precedent in the organization for amicable leadership changes, with Alan Low and Nicholson swapping P-M and P-S roles, and Brummage and Calum Burns switching on two occasions.
MacKenzie Caledonian in 2018 is celebrating its hundredth anniversary, making it one of the world’s longest-running pipe bands. The group has a highly successful teaching program that has produced dozens of pipers and drummers over the years.
The band has been at the forefront of a surge in piping and drumming success for the Tayside region of Scotland. Dundee also supports the City of Discovery Pipe Band, which narrowly missed qualifying for the World’s Grade 2 Final.
The band joked that, with so many trophies won in 2018, it would be handy if the new pipe-major were also a skilled engraver.
MacKenzie is the latest top-level band to undergo a change of leadership. Last week Grade 1 Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia and Buchan Peterson each confirmed the resignation of their respective pipe-majors.