Angus MacColl: 2015 Glenfiddich Champion

Published: October 24, 2015

Blair Atholl, Scotland – October 24, 2015 – Angus MacColl was the overall winner of the 2015 Glenfiddich Invitational Solo Piping Championship, the 42nd time that the event was held at the Great Hall of Blair Castle. It was the fourth time that MacColl has won the event. The competition was once again one of the hottest tickets in solo piping, with a near-capacity crowd listening in-person and several thousand around the world checking in to the event via Internet streaming at some point during the day. Competitors submitted six tunes of each type. It was the 29th consecutive appearance at the competition for Willie McCallum.

Angus MacColl, with the overall trophy and the trophy for the MSR. [Photo: Derek Maxwell]

2015 Glenfiddich Championship competitors (L-R): Finlay Johnston, Iain Speirs, Angus MacColl, John-Angus Smith, Stuart Liddell (seated), Bruce Gandy, Callum Beaumont, Roddy MacLeod, Jack Lee and Willie McCallum. [Photo: Derek Maxwell]

1st Stuart Liddell, Inveraray, Scotland, “Lament for the Laird of Annapool”
2nd Angus MacColl, Benderloch, Scotland, “The Red-Speckled Bull”
3rd Roddy MacLeod, Glasgow, “The Old Men of the Shells”
4th Willie McCallum, Bearsden, Scotland, “The Earl of Ross’s March”
5th Finlay Johnston, Glasgow, “Lament for the Union”
Judges: Iain Morrison, John Wilson, Bill Wotherspoon

March, Strathspey & Reel
1st Angus MacColl, “MacLean of Pennycross,” “The Caledonian Society of London,” “Pretty Marion”
2nd Roddy MacLeod, “Hugh Kennedy, BSc.,” “Arniston Castle,” “Cecily Ross”
3rd Stuart Liddell, “P-M John Stewart,” “Lady Loudon,” “The Little Cascade”
4th Callum Beaumont, Bo’ness, Scotland, “Miss Elspeth Campbell,” “Bob of Fettercairn,” “Fiona MacLeod”
5th Bruce Gandy, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, Leaving Lunga,” “Tulloch Castle,” “The Cockerel in the Creel”
Judges: Iain MacLellan, Colin MacLellan, Andrew Wright

Also competing but not in the prizes: Jack Lee, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada;  John-Angus Smith, London; and Iain Speirs, Edinburgh.

Master of ceremonies throughout the day was Bob Worrall.

Presented with the Balvenie Medal for services to piping were Kate Paton of Dunoon, Scotland, for her commitment to teaching and piping programs in the Argyllshire area, and Liz Maxwell, organizer of the Glenfiddich Championship, who was received a special surprise presentation from Maggie Grant-Gordon of the family owners of William Grant & Sons. Worrall, Paton and Maxwell each were given strong applause for their contributions.

Shotts-Kilpatrick story continues: band offers an apology

Published: October 23, 2015

Jim Kilpatrick

The latest development in the rift between Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia and its former Leading-Drummer Jim Kilpatrick saw a new development, with the band offering an apology to Kilpatrick, admitting mistakes and asking for understanding, if not forgiveness.

Since the band released the news of Kilpatrick’s departure and the appointment of Blair Brown to the leading-drummer post on October 12th, it was revealed that the separation was in fact acrimonious, and not the retirement that was initially concluded. Kilpatrick contended that he was forced from the position. The band has stated that Kilpatrick resigned after an impasse, when the band wanted a gradual transition over 2016, allowing Brown to ease into the role.

Kilpatrick provided pipes|drums with a lengthy analysis of his side of the story, while the Shotts band has remained succinct with its comments. The past week has seen a storm on social media, with many of Kilpatrick’s supporters excoriating Shotts for their perceived actions.

pipes|drums received the following lengthy statement from Ryan Canning, which is published here verbatim, following a careful review:

Having been at the brunt of a storm for some time now, I feel it is time for me to come forward with a statement. I had hoped that this would not be necessary, as personally I feel very uncomfortable being in the limelight and I have very little confidence in writing anything even semi-official for fear of making things worse. This kind of thing certainly is not a strong suit of mine. However, given the current circumstances, I feel I need to be clear as to what has actually transpired within the band and lead to these current, very sad state of affairs. I do find it odd as to why there is so much hype and public interest around a group of people that play bagpipes and drums, but regardless here is my take on things anyway.

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Peel Police going local, sets up partnerships

Published: October 22, 2015

After a frustrating competition year, the Grade 1 Peel Regional Police Pipe Band of Ontario is taking a new approach to building quality by partnering with the Grade 3 Hamilton Police Pipe Band, also of Ontario, and the Grade 4 North Coast of Cleveland, Ohio, which the bands say is mutually beneficial to all parties.

Peel Police Pipe-Major John Cairns said that the bands will feed players in both directions, as he strives to up his player-to-player quality, which he acknowledged was lacking in 2015.

“Up until two years ago, Peel was having some success, especially in Ontario,” Cairns said. “To better meet the expectations of our sponsor, the band had to significantly increase the number of local players. As there were no players sitting idle to draw upon, the band had to look at bringing in local players that we felt had the potential to play at a Grade 1 level. Those who were brought in worked extremely hard and made some tremendous strides forward, but as is to be expected, the stress and demands of playing at a Grade 1 level resulted in a number of issues that impacted the band’s performance and contest placing.”

Peel Regional Police leaving the Grade 1 qualifier arena at the 2015 World’s.

He said that the band will accept only players at the beginning of the year who are at a “true Grade 1 standard,” with only local players. Cairns said that if he has vacancies they will attempt to try to fill the remaining spots with Grade 1 players who live close enough to attend any practice or performance, and only if there are still vacancies will the band resort to fly-in players.

The band will welcome any who would like to play with the band, but not allow those not making the grade to try to develop with the Grade 1 band during the season. To develop those potential players, Peel Police will encourage them to join either the Hamilton Police or North Coast.

Peel hopes to gain players progressing from those lower-grade bands as they become good enough and, in return, Peel Police players will assist those bands with tuning and contest preparation. A full-day workshop has already been run for the Hamilton Police organization’s Grade 3 and Grade 4 bands, with more scheduled for the future. They will help with music selection and arrangement, working on maintenance, sound, unison, expression and ensemble.

“As all three of these organizations will standardize how they do things, Peel will benefit by having players come to the band that can maintain and tune their instruments and play stylistically and expressively the same way that is expected in Peel,” Cairns added. “Ideally, once a player has come through this process and improved their abilities to a solid Grade 1 standard, they will only need to contend with learning Peel’s repertoire.

“As far as feeding players to/from Peel, there are no guarantees here. For those players who want to play in Peel, but are not at the standard, we will encourage them to go to either Hamilton or North Coast so they can develop their skills. Additionally, when a player has come through either Hamilton or North Coast and is ready to make the transition to Grade 1, we hope they will come to Peel, but again there are no guarantees.”

Cairns also stressed that it could be years before Peel Police sees any players make the jump from Hamilton Police or North Coast. “We see this as an investment in the band’s future and a way to help promote piping and drumming within these two wonderful organizations.”

Peel Police Leading-Drummer Graham Kirkwood is married to Hamilton Police Grade 3 band Pipe-Major Trish Kirkwood.

The stress on building quality at a local level is in contrast to other bands, such as Dowco Triumph Street, which bolster their ranks with long-distance players, some competing only at the World Pipe Band Championships.

Glenfiddich 10 primed for Saturday; streaming live

Published: October 21, 2015

The 10 contestants for the 42nd annual Glenfiddich Invitational Solo Piping Championship are putting the final polish on their tunes and pipes in preparation for the competition at Blair Castle on Saturday, October 24th, in Blair Atholl, Scotland.

And pipes|drums readers have only a few days left to submit their entry for the magazine’s Pick The Glenfiddich Five contest, in which one canny piper, drummer or enthusiast will win a custom made-to-measure kilt from R.G. Hardie & Co., with a retail value of $720.

Helen Wilkinson, marketing officer with the National Piping Centre, confirmed that the event will once again be streamed live on the net, accessible from the Centre’s website. While the stream is free, donations are encouraged, with all money again going to the annual Donald MacLeod Memorial Solo Piping Competition in Stornoway, Scotland, a non-profit event on April 8th that celebrates the music of the late great piper.

In addition to the piping performances, interviews with contestants, judges and others will be conducted with stream host Fergus Muirhead. Bob Worrall will be the host of the competition itself.

This year’s Glenfiddich contestants and their qualifying record for this year’s event:

Judges for the events are. for the Piobaireachd, Iain Morrison, John Wilson and Bill Wotherspoon and, for the MSR, Colin MacLellan, Iain MacLellan and Andrew Wright.

ScottishPower incites Revolution for May Aberdeen concert


The sixth annual Aberdeen Pipe Band Concert has quickly emerged as the top performance event of the new UK season, and the 2016 version on May 14, 2016, will see the Grade 1 ScottishPower Pipe Band combine with the host Grade 2 Bucksburn & District to mount a show, named “Revolution,” at the Aberdeen Beach Ballroom.

Moving to the new venue with improved acoustics, ScottishPower plans to record the concert for a CD and DVD release in the summer.

ScottishPower Pipe-Major Chris Armstrong has indicated that his band is well ahead of schedule, already scoring more than two hours of new concert material, developing a new competition medley, and ushering in 11 new pipers and several additions to the drum section.

“We always work on making every concert that bit different and special,” Bucksburn band manager Gus McAskill said. “Our visual intros and visuals throughout the show are a big wow factor, moving to the Beach Ballroom will add another special aspect to the show. It’s an amazing setting for the audience to enjoy the masters of the live pipe band performance.”

The Aberdeen concert has featured a series of contending Grade 1 bands, including Field Marshal Montgomery, Inveraray & District, Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia and Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia. The various bands in the Bucksburn organization generally perform as an opening act and then in combination with the headline band at the end of the show.

“The timing of this well-established annual event is perfect,” Armstrong said. “Preparing for the competition season is hard enough so having the energy and excitement of the concert to work towards makes the hard work all that bit easier. We have heard a lot about the Aberdeen concert and their energetic audiences, we welcome this opportunity greatly and promise to give the Aberdeen audience a very special night.”

An amicable drumming change: Rocky Mountain appoints Borton

Published: October 18, 2015

In a world of recent pipe band acrimony, the Grade 2 Rocky Mountain of Calgary has done something relatively novel with the friendly appointment of Tim Borton to the position of leading-drummer.

Pipe-Major Sean Somers shared the news with pipes|drums just before a second wave of news broke that 2015 World Champions Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia’s leading-drummer change was far less than pleasant for each party.

Borton replaces Trevor McKay as lead-tip, with McKay voluntarily stepping aside when Borton joined after being a member of the Grade 1 Dowco Triumph Street of Vancouver (and also Glasgow), where he played for several years. Borton has also played with, among other bands, the now defunct Grade 1 Alberta Caledonia and the Grade 1 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel).

Tim Borton

“We’re very excited to have Tim Borton on board,” said Somers. “Tim brings a wealth of drumming experience, both in a kilt and in a tuxedo, and I’m particularly excited to see what his professional percussive experience brings to the band musically.”

Borton is a professional percussionist with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and has performed with the Toronto Symphony, Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, National Ballet of Canada, Calgary Philharmonic, Vancouver Symphony, Winnipeg Symphony, Symphony Nova Scotia, Thunder Bay Symphony, and two seasons as acting Principal Percussionist with the Auckland Philharmonia in New Zealand.

McKay will remain with the Rocky Mountain drum section. The band won the Alberta 2015 Provincial Aggregate Championship as the best overall Grade 2 band.

“This is very much an amicable trade-off,” said McKay. “Tim is a very talented guy, and with him now living in Calgary full-time, and no longer with Triumph Street, I saw it as an opportunity for the band, and actually approached Sean about making the switch.”

“I want to express my gratitude to Trevor,” Somers added. “The 2015 season was a building year for the band in many ways, and we owe a lot to Trevor for all of his great work with the corps. He took a fledgling drum corps and built it into a viable, solid group of Grade 2 players. We owe many thanks to Trevor for his time, commitment and particularly for the shape he’s left us in for the upcoming season.”

More to Shotts L-D change story as Kilpatrick releases statement

Published: October 17, 2015

With rare exceptions, pipe band leadership changes are less than amicable, try as parties might to create a solution that pleases all. The announcement from 2015 World Champions Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia had appointed Blair Brown as the band’s leading-drummer, replacing 59-year-old and 29-year band leading-drummer Jim Kilpatrick was at first positioned as an agreeable move, but further details have emerged.

pipes|drums received a statement from both Shotts & Dykehead and Jim Kilpatrick and agreed to publish each verbatim.

Jim Kilpatrick (centre) leading the Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia drum section before the 2014 World’s Final. Blair Brown, now leading-drummer for the band, is to his left.

Kilpatrick contends that he did not agree to step down, and was actually forced from the position. Further, he says he has no plans right now to retire from competitive pipe band drumming, and that he has the support of the strong majority of the 2015 Shotts drum section, inferring that they might well follow him should he decide to play elsewhere.

pipes|drums was notified of the change by the band approximately an hour before the band went public itself with the news.

Shotts & Dykehead contends that Kilpatrick originally agreed to step down when the band decided that it was time, and in fact resigned.

The band said that the original decision to make a change was made together by Canning, Kilpatrick and Blair Brown to make a transition, with 2016 being the last season for Kilpatrick as L-D. Canning, Brown and Kilpatrick reportedly discussed and reconfirmed the 2016 succession plan again before the 2015 World Championships. Sources close to the band said Kilpatrick was asked to begin a transition to Brown over the course of the year, sharing some leadership responsibilities. Kilpatrick reportedly felt the approach, which would include Brown having a say in who would join and leave the corps, would hinder his power, and was unacceptable. Kilpatrick submitted his resignation on Sunday, October 11th, a day before the band communicated the move to pipes|drums and subsequently published its own announcement on the band’s website.

“Upon his departure, Jim was very clear to [Shotts band manager] Ewan McAllister and myself that he would be putting out his own independent press release, rather than coordinating with the band’s official press release, which was his own choice,” Pipe-Major Ryan Canning said. “I can only reiterate the sentiment which the band has already shared, which is to thank Jim for his many years of service after a remarkable career with Shotts, and to wish him all the best.”

Kilpatrick said that he learned that the band had officially made the move only after hearing from others who read the news on pipes|drums, which broke the story.

Shotts & Dykehead called a special meeting on the evening of Monday, October 12th, following the release of the news. The meeting was reportedly attended by . . .


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Steven McWhirter: 2015 World Solo Drumming Champion


Steven McWhirter

Glasgow – October 17, 2015 – Steven McWhirter of Inveraray & District earned the 2015 World Solo Drumming Championship held at Glasgow Caledonian University in an extensive three-round format that narrowed a field of 58 (comprising heats of 20, 19 and 19) to a semi-final of two 30-contestant heats, to a final of 12 playing in an MSR and a Hornpipe & Jig event, with the aggregate winning. The contest began at 9 am and finished around 7 pm. It was the fifth consecutive world title for McWhirter, and his sixth overall. McWhirter won both the MSR and Hornpipe & Jig events.

The record for World Solo victories is held by Jim Kilpatrick, with 16. Kilpatrick was the subject of controversy earlier in the week when Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia announced that Blair Brown, who finished fourth in the solo event, would be the band’s new leading-drummer. The news was a hot topic of discussion at the competition.

1st Steven McWhirter
2nd Michael McKenna, St Laurence O’Toole (Ireland)
3rd Jake Joergensen, ScottishPower (Scotland)
4th Blair Brown
5th Stephen Creighton, St. Laurence O’Toole (Ireland)
6th Eric Ward, Greater Glasgow Police Scotland (Scotland)

1st Steven McWhirter
2nd Michael McKenna
3rd Blair Brown
4th Jake Joergensen
5th Eric Ward
6th Stephen Creighton
Judges: Greg Dinsdale, Joe Noble, Sandy Steele

Hornpipe & Jig
1st Steven McWhirter
2nd Michael McKenna
3rd Jake Joergensen
4th William Glenholmes, Cullybackey (Northern Ireland)
5th Blair Brown
6th Stephen Creighton
Judges: Gordon Craig, Ciaran Mordaunt, Paul Turner

Also competing in the Final, but not in the prizes were Neil Bruce, Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia (Scotland); Grant Cassidy, St Laurence O’Toole (Ireland); Craig Lawrie, Lomond & Clyde (Scotland); Gurvan Sicard, Inveraray & District (Scotland); and Marcus Wenlock, Cullybackey (Northern Ireland).

Dowco Triumph Street takes un-fly-in tack for World’s

Published: October 15, 2015

The Grade 1 Dowco Triumph Street Pipe Band of Vancouver like most bands is in recruitment mode. Unlike most Grade 1 bands, they’re recruiting from 4,500 miles away, encouraging interested pipers and drummers in the UK to inquire about joining monthly practices in Glasgow.

According to Pipe-Major David Hilder the band already has at least 10 players in Scotland committed to the band, and practices will be run usually by Ullapool, Scotland-based Gary Nimmo, who has been a member of the Dowco Triumph Street for a few years.

The idea of “fly-in” players is familiar, especially to non-UK bands that load up the ranks for bigger contests, chief among them the World Pipe Band Championships each August in Glasgow. Belfast-based Field Marshal Montgomery has a strong contingent of members from Scotland, and Glasgow-based pipe-sergeant Alastair Dunn runs regular practices in Glasgow.

Dowco Triumph Street approaching the Grade 1 Final arena at the 2014 World Pipe Band Championships.

Hilder also plans to make the 13 total flight-hours journey to Glasgow a few times in the year. The Dowco Triumph Street approach is likely a first for a North American band.

“In the age of out of town players to field a strong and competitive band, often the out of town players feel left out,” Hilder said. “The connection to the band in the off-season is something that the players have told me they want. This will give the Scotland group a sense of belonging and have them get together to get a really good feel for the music.”

When asked whether the full complement of pipers and drummers will be available to compete with the band at any contests apart from the World Championships, Hilder said, “I think it’s always the intent of every band to field their full band as many times as possible in the season, we are no different. Dowco Triumph Street will target the key contests and put a strong band out every time.”

As Grade 1 bands have become larger and more complex, many talented pipers and drummers around the world are joining bands as occasional players in competition, attending practices only occasionally, choosing instead to prepare mostly from home. The approach allows them to avoid the expectation or pressure to attend weekly or twice-weekly practices if they played with a local band.

Hilder did not respond when asked if any of the UK-based players will displace any members based in the Vancouver area when the band competes at the World Championships.

Dowco Triumph Street has qualified for the Grade 1 World’s Final the last several years, including last year, but so far has not made the prize-list.

Stalwart Henderson retires after 34 years with ScottishPower


Retiring ScottishPower Pipe Band secretary Jack Henderson and Pipe-Major Chris Armstrong.

These days a stint of five years with a band might be considered veteran commitment, but compared with retiring ScottishPower Pipe Band secretary Jack Henderson, five years are only just a brief beginning.

Henderson, 83, is stepping down from the organization after 34 consecutive years with the band under various names since 1981, starting as British Caledonian Airways in, then Power of Scotland, and now as ScottishPower.

Henderson announced his retirement at the band’s recent annual general meeting and was celebrated for his contributions at the band’s annual dinner. His affiliation with the organization actually started in 1947 when he joined the Grade 1 Renfrew Pipe Band as a piper at the age of 15. Renfrew was the band that changed its name in the 1970s to British Caledonian Airways when it landed a major sponsorship deal.

Henderson reluctantly became band secretary in 1989 after then pipe-major Harry McNulty persuaded him to accept an interim role.

Apart from brief stints with the now defunct Red Hackle Pipe Band and a hiatus from bands in the 1960s, Henderson’s legacy affiliation with ScottishPower amounts to the better part of 68 years.

In addition to McNulty, Henderson has worked with several of history’s greatest pipe-majors, including Roddy MacLeod, Donald Mackay and, currently, Chris Armstrong.

“I would like to personally thank Jack for his many years commitment to the band, as a player and then as secretary,” Armstrong said. “This was not only for all the hard work shown during his tenure but under all previous pipe-majors. Having a keen, competent and enthusiastic secretary like Jack took away a great deal of pressure from the administrative side of the band, which was a fantastic help. Everyone involved with the band would like to take this opportunity to thank Jack once again for all his many years of dedication and hard work that he did behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of the band. Thank you!”

Taking the secretary (better known as “band manager” to those outside of the UK) spot with ScottishPower is Drum-Major Billy Jordan.

MacPherson quarry goes unsold

Published: October 14, 2015

A young Donald MacPherson with some of his early prizes.

The auction of many of the late Donald MacPherson’s piping medals and trophies, to be sold in their entirety as a lot, was unsuccessful, with a reported top bid of more than £9,000 not meeting the reserve price.

MacPherson’s estate hoped to realize as much as £18,000 for the lot, and minimum was set at £12,000.

MacPherson was one of history’s most successful competitive pipers, amassing a trove of awards that included 15 Senior Piobaireachd titles from the Argyllshire Gathering and nine Northern Meeting Clasps.

MacPherson died on April 21, 2012, at the age of 89. The pipes that he played for most of his life were auctioned by his estate only a few months later, purchased by Peter Anderson of Australia for £29,800 ($47,366).

The auction resulted in some controversy, with the piping community hoping that the items would be acquired for public display by one of the two significant museums for Highland piping at the National Piping Centre or College of Piping in Glasgow. The Piping Centre’s museum is curated by the National Museums of Scotland, which also would have to acquire the items.

pipes|drums published an extensive interview with Donald MacPherson in 2004, republished here.

Passmore returns to 400 Squadron

Published: October 13, 2015

The Grade 2 400 Squadron of Ontario, Canada, couldn’t get to the 2015 competition field due mainly to drumming concerns, but the band hopes to recitify that with the return of Mark Passmore to the leading-drummer role.

Passmore had been lead-tip with the band for the 2013 season, but departed to take the leading-drummer position with the Grade 1 Toronto Police Pipe Band. That role lasted only one season, with the band moving Craig Stewart into the job.

Passmore is a sergeant in the Canadian Armed Forces, Music Branch, and joins Pipe-Major Matt MacIsaac, who took over the post in March 2014, and has since worked to build up the pipe section of the group, which often competed in 2013 with minimum numbers.

Mark Passmore

“Mark’s return to 400 Squadron is a good thing,” MacIsaac said. “I’m looking forward to getting this band back on the rails after an extended absence from the field, and Mark is the guy to help me do that. We share many common musical philosophies and we have the same desire to achieve excellence. I’m confident that this new partnership will be a productive and successful one.”

MacIsaac added that the band will move to different chanters and sheepskin bags in 2016, and that elements of its uniform will be changed.

Along with Paris-Port Dover, 400 Squadron is one of only two bands in Ontario competing in Grade 2.

Passmore is the son of Gary Passmore, who died recently, and was a prominent tenor drummer, most notably as a member of the 78th Fraser Highlanders in the 1980s.

Jim Kilpatrick steps down from Shotts; Blair Brown new L-D

Published: October 12, 2015

Jim Kilpatrick

Jim Kilpatrick, the greatest competitive pipe band drummer in history, has announced that he will step down as leading-drummer of the Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia. Long-time corps drummer Blair Brown has been appointed to the role.

After 29 years with the band, Kilpatrick has amassed an unmatched array of competition success, both in bands and as a soloist. He has guided Shotts to 60 major drum corps titles, including 16 World Drum Corps Championships (a record 11 straight, 1988-’98), in addition to several championship wins with the now defunct Polkemmet Pipe Band, where he was leading-drummer for six years before joining Shotts in 1987. As Shotts leading-drummer the band won 31 major championships and six World’s, five with Pipe-Major Robert Mathieson and this year with Pipe-Major Ryan Canning.

Kilpatrick is the only leading-drummer in history to win the Grade 1 band drumming “Grand Slam,” when in 1991 the Shotts corps won all five RSPBA majors.

His solo career is equally illustrious, winning a record 16 World Solo Drumming Championships.

In 2004 he was named a Member of the British Empire for services to music.

Blair Brown

New leading-drummer Blair Brown, 32, a native of Milton, Ontario, and currently living in Portland, Oregon, has been a member of Shotts for a total of eight seasons, playing under Kilpatrick from 2002-’07 and re-joining Shotts in 2013 after stints with the Grade 1 Simon Fraser University, Peel Regional Police and 78th Fraser Highlanders bands. With Shotts he has been a part of 17 major drum corps titles, including four World Drum Corps victories; and nine major band titles, including three World Championships. As a solo player he has featured in the top-six at the World’s eight times, and finished in the top-three for the last four years.

Brown plans to move to Scotland permanently in the next few months.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to take on the role of leading-drummer at Shotts,” Brown said. “I was seven years old when I first heard the band, and from an early age I tried to model my playing on what I heard, and saw from Jim and the Shotts corps. Jim has been a huge influence in my life. He has been a mentor and role model for most of it, and it’s been an amazing and invaluable learning experience being able to play with him in his corps. Having committed so many years to Shotts, I understand the weight of the job ahead, and I believe I’m ready for the challenge. I’m very excited, and am really looking forward to working with Ryan and the band.”

Blair Brown’s brother, Glenn, is pipe-sergeant with Shotts, and the Brown brothers’ mother, Gail, was a member of the band in the 1970s, one of the first females to compete with a World Championship-winning Grade 1 band.

“Jim Kilpatrick is the most successful leading drummer of all time,” Shotts pipe-major Ryan Canning said. “The fact that he has kept his corps at the top for almost three decades is remarkable. Over the last three years, Jim has helped ensure a transition from a challenging time for the band, back to a very healthy place with this year’s World Championship win. These have been special years for everyone involved, and Jim has been a huge part of that. Anyone who follows an iconic leader like Jim will certainly have big shoes to fill. However, Blair’s competitive track record speaks for itself, and I believe that there is no better candidate than Blair to take over the Shotts corps. Blair shares the band’s philosophy of hard work and determination which Jim fostered before him, and I’m really excited for the next stage ahead.”

It is not known if the 59-year-old Kilpatrick will step away from competing altogether. He continues his professional work with Pearl Percussion.

Shotts & Dykehead Caledonia as much as any band in the world has had a tradition of great drumming leadership, with the legendary Alex Duthart running the corps for many years. World Solo Champion John Scullion was also a prominent leading-drummer in the 1980s.

Block and roll


Andrew Bonar reviews the new collection from the Shotts pipe-major . . .


McLean wins 33rd annual Nicol-Brown

Published: October 10, 2015

Albany, New York – October 10, 2015 – Kevin McLean of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, was the overall winner of the 33rd annual Nicol-Brown Memorial Amateur Invitational Solo Piping Competition, held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. McLean gained the aggregate prize after receiving a first in the Piobaireachd and a second and third in the 6/8 Marches and MSR, respectively, finishing one point ahead of Tyler Bridge. All of the events were judged by Callum Beaumont. McLean receives airfare to compete at the Scottish Pipers Society of London competition in November 2016 and an McC2 pipe chanter with a custom-designed sole, donated by McCallum Bagpipes. pipes|drums was a sponsor of the event.

Master of Ceremonies Donald Lindsay, 2015 Champion and Piobaireachd winner Kevin McLean, MSR winner James Dyson, 6/8 Marches winner Tyler Bridge and judge Callum Beaumont.

1st Kevin McLean
2nd Tyler Bridge, Guelph, Ontario
3rd Christian Rhoads, St. Louis
4th Maeghan Bielski, Middleboro, Massachusetts

Piobaireachd Robert Nicol-Robert Brown Chalice
1st Kevin McLean, “The Red Speckled Bull”
2nd Tyler Bridge, “The Big Spree”
3rd Laureano Thomas-Sanchez, Cleveland, “The Battle of Aldearn” No. 1
4th Christian Rhoads, “MacLeod’s Controversy”
5th Maeghan Bielski, “Lament for the Departure of King James”

MSR (William Ross Challenge Targe)
1st James Dyson, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, “Leaving Lunga,” “Loch Loskin,” “The Sound of Sleat”
2nd Maeghan Bielski, “Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society,” “The Islay Ball,” “The Brown Haired Maid”
3rd Kevin McLean, “Miss Elspeth Campbell,” “The Ewe wi’ the Crookit Horn,” and “The Smith of Chilliechassie”
4th Tyler Bridge, “Donald MacLellan of Rothesay,” “Highland Harry,” “Thomson’s Dirk”
5th Christian Rhoads, “Colin Thompson,” “John Roy Stewart,” “Alick C. MacGregor”

6/8 March (Donald MacLeod Memorial)
1st Tyler Bridge, “The Bonawe Highlanders,” “Dundee City Police Pipe Band”
2nd Kevin McLean “Cameron MacFadyen,” “Jean Mauchline”
3rd Christian Rhoads ,”Jean Mauchline,” “Capt. C.R. Lumsden”
4th Laureano Thomas-Sanchez, “P-M Charles Timmers,” “George Sherriff”
5th James Dyson “The MacNeils of Ugadale,” “All the Blue Bonnets are Over the Border”

Also competing but not in the prizes: Allyson Crowley-Duncan, Latham, New York; Andrew Hutton, Brantford, Ontario; Blaise Theriault, Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Jack Toohey, Newberg, Oregon.

Nicol-Brown 2015 competitors and others.

Hilton’s tunes to be available for charitable download


Lincoln Hilton

Twenty-three-year-old piper Lincoln Hilton of Melbourne is planning to make his compositions available for purchase online on October 31st with all proceeds going to Australia Cancer Research Foundation, a cause he is particularly keen to support because the disease has affected two of his good friends.

Hilton is the composer and arranger of several compositions that have gained traction, mainly because of the Grade 1 Simon Fraser University Pipe Band’s use of them in concert. His original pieces, “400%,” “Me and My Chanter,” and “Ian McMaster,” as well as arrangements for Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” “David Ross” by G.S. McLennan and AC/DC’s Angus Young’s “Thunderstruck” have proven popular, but the specific scores have not yet been published.

Hilton plans to make the tunes available for anywhere between $5 and $15 each.

His inspiration to give to the Australia Cancer Research Foundation came after his teacher, Ian McMaster, died from the disease. And the well-known piper Andrew Bonar’s diagnosis in the fall of 2014 further informed his idea for the charitable angle.

Hilton added that he hopes that Bonar himself will contribute some of his own tunes to the project, and said it was “semi-confirmed” at this point.

“I’m anticipating quite a positive response,” he said. “There are a number of pipers and bands that I have notified that the sheet music will go on sale on the 31st of October. I’m hoping to attract others that are looking for the sheet music to any of these pieces by getting the word out as much as possible. The bigger the response, the more money we can raise for the Australia Cancer Research Foundation which is what the project is all about. Fingers crossed!”

The project will be released via his website.

Hilton is Deputy Director of the piping and drumming program at Haileybury, a private school in Melbourne.

Donald MacPherson medals and trophies to be auctioned

Published: October 9, 2015

Donald MacPherson, 1938.

The medals and trophies amassed by the late Donald MacPherson, one of the most prize-winning pipers of the 20th century, will be put up for auction by his estate on October 14th in Edinburgh, including his Highland Society of London Gold Medals, 15 Senior Piobaireachd titles from the Argyllshire Gathering, and nine Northern Meeting Clasps, a record for the competition.

The medals and trophies will be sold as a single lot, the MacPherson estate reportedly hoping that a museum or some other institution will pay up to £18,000.

The sale will be completed by Lyon & Turnbull auction house of Edinburgh. The lot can be seen here.

Only two piping organizations would be apt destinations for the material. The College of Piping and the National Piping Centre each house a museum on their respective premises in Glasgow, but National Piping Centre Director Roddy MacLeod said the outlook does not appear good for the historic hardware to land in the Cnetre’s museum, which is curated by the National Museum of Scotland.

“To be in our collection they need to be purchased by the National Museum of Scotland and they don’t have the budget for it. It would be nice to have them here, but it is unlikely to happen,” MacLeod said.

MacPherson with the 1986 Argyllshire Gathering Senior Piobaireachd trophy. The trophy is retained by the gathering, and not part of the auction.

Fraser MacInnes of the College of Piping said, “I know there was chat at the College that some items would be of interest to the College, although the impression I have is that the family want to sell the collection complete and not broken up. It’s certainly not on my agenda to spend money on the collection, whether the directors bid on them personally, I’m not sure.”

MacPherson died on April 21, 2012, at the age of 89. The pipes that he played for most of his life were auctioned by his estate only a few months later, purchased by Peter Anderson of Australia for £29,800 ($47,366).

MacPherson was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Honours. It is not known if the BEM will be included in the auction.

pipes|drums published an extensive interview with Donald MacPherson in 2004, republished here.

Ed Neigh’s life to be celebrated November 15th

Published: October 7, 2015

The late Ed Neigh

The sudden passing of Ed Neigh on August 8, 2015, greatly saddened the world piping and drumming community, particularly those more directly impacted by his contribution in and around his home in Ontario, and on Sunday, November 15th his life and times will be celebrated at “Ed Neigh: A Musical Tribute.”

Held at Bingeman’s Marshal Hall in Neigh’s hometown of Kitchener, Ontario, the 2-5 afternoon event will bring together likely hundreds of Neigh’s family and friends to share stories and appreciate Neigh’s memory through the piping of Ontario pipers Tyler Bridge, Michael Grey, Bill Livingstone, Jim McGillivray, Bob Worrall and Dylan Whittemore, and violin playing by Neigh accomplished son, David. The Steel City Rovers band will also perform.

Ken Eller will emcee the event, organized by Bridge, David Neigh and Darlene Carreiro, Ed Neigh’s partner for many years.

“The event came about because of the timing of Ed’s passing,” Carreiro said. “Many of his closest friends were in Scotland and the family received numerous messages asking if we were going to hold a memorial at a later date, so this is what we have come up with. I think there is a fantastic line up scheduled.”

Neigh’s contribution to piping and drumming in Ontario was profound. From the 1960s until his death he was a constant source of inspiration and wisdom to his dozens of pupils, and his leadership of the Grade 1 Guelph Pipe Band in the 1970s and ’80s helped to usher in the modern pipe band medley. Neigh is credited with being the first to recognize the potential of a chromatic metre for tuning pipes, prompting a revolution in pipe band tone quality that continues today.

Until the day he died Ed Neigh was in demand as an adjudicator, in fact judging at the North American Championships the previous weekend.

Neigh’s most successful pupil, Jim McGillivray, continued a moving tribute to his teacher and friend shortly after his passing.

Pick The Glenfiddich Five and win a custom £360 kilt!

Published: October 3, 2015

Hot on the heels of our ever-popular Pick The Six contest for readers to predict the Grade 1 prize-list at the World’s, pipes|drums brings back Pick The Glenfiddich Five, where you can submit your prediction for the final overall prize-list at this year’s Glenfiddich Invitational Solo Piping Championship.

At stake is something that will be appreciated by pipers, drummers, enthusiasts and anyone who relishes the garb of auld Gall – a custom made-to-measure heavy-weight handmade kilt generously provided by R.G. Hardie & Co. valued at £360 ($720) from your choice of tartan selected from any of the main UK tartan mills.


And how exactly might you win this glorious prize? Well, here are the rules, so please read carefully:

  • Readers must submit their entry via e-mail – click here. (Please use the template automatically generated.)
  • Entries must list the competitors in their aggregate order of finish – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th.
  • Only one entry per e-mail address and person (all multiple entries from the same e-mail address will be discarded; please don’t try to game the system).
  • In the event of aggregate ties between piping competitors, the Piobaireachd event determines the winner.
  • Submissions must include full postal address.
  • The winning entry must pick the 2015 Glenfiddich Champion – the overall winner of the first-prize.
  • Ideally, the winning entry will pick the exact prize-list in exact order of finish.
  • If more than one entry gets the list exactly right, a random draw will be made.
  • If no entry is completely correct, the submission that picks the first-prize winner and gains the most points from the following system will win: 3 points for choosing a piper in the right spot, and 1 point for including a piper who made the top-five aggregate prize list but not in the correct place.
  • Entries close at 18:00 GMT, Friday, October 23rd.
  • Glenfiddich adjudicators, competitors, officials, people named Bob Worrall, the Duke of Atholl and the duke’s dogs are not eligible to win.
  • The winner will be notified by e-mail and a story will be published soon after. The winner’s name will be withheld, if desired.

As reference, here in alphabetical order are the 10 pipers contending for the prizes at the 2015 Glenfiddich Championship. Readers are encouraged to browse pipes|drums for results from this year’s solo piping events from around the world.


So, be sure to research the players and check out our Big Prizes database for past success at the Glenfiddich and other major events.

Thanks to our sponsors, R.G. Hardie, and good luck to all readers who give our Pick The Glenfiddich Five contest a go – and best of luck to all competitors on October 24th at Blair Atholl Castle. Gi’e it laldy!

Glasgow Police: Nicholson steps down; MacPherson now P-M

Published: September 30, 2015

In a surprise move, the Greater Glasgow Police Scotland Pipe Band has changed pipe-majors, with Duncan Nicholson leaving the post, replaced by Pipe-Sergeant Iain MacPherson.

The move comes after Nicholson leading the band for five seasons, after being appointed to the job in 2010, succeeding Don Bradford, who had the role for two years following the abrupt departure of Donald Mackay in the middle of the 2008 competition season.

Under Nicholson the band had held its own at major championships, gaining several prizes along the way. The group under Nicholson held a steady seventh or eighth placing at the World Pipe Band Championships, and was eighth overall in 2015. The band has not won an RSPBA major since taking the 2007 Scottish Championship under Mackay.

Greater Glasgow Police Scotland Pipe Band leaving the arena in the 2015 World’s Final.

Perhaps the biggest playing achievement during Nicholson’s tenure was the band’s staging of its “Ceolry” concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in 2014, and the subsequent release of a commercial recording.

Nicholson also helped to guide the band with Bradford through what was certainly its most tumultuous period, when its very existence was in jeapordy during a particularly rough patch in 2010 and then Scotland’s 2012 transition to a national police force. The band had been on the brink of being shut down altogether due to funding cuts and strategic realignment of the force.

Duncan Nicholson

Nicholson, a serving police officer, will reportedly remain with the band as pipe-sergeant. MacPherson, a native of Benbecula and also a police officer, has been a member of the band for many years, dating back to the band’s glory days under Pipe-Major Iain MacLellan.

“I’ll still be heavily involved with the band as pipe sergeant,” Nicholson said. “[We’re] looking to build a strong team for the future. I have enjoyed being pipe-major and want to thank everyone for there efforts [over] the last five years”

In a media statement, band manager and bass drummer Niall West, said, “Duncan has been an extremely committed and influential pipe-major whose musical and personal attributes have been deservedly recognised not only across the wider pipe band scene and beyond, but also, significantly, by his peers in Grade 1. Current circumstances create an opportunity for the band to take further steps forward through Iain’s leadership. His vast experience, eye for detail and personal drive will assist him greatly in this. Significant musical and technical developments are already ongoing involving Iain, Eric, Duncan and others and we are all looking forward to enhancing the band’s long standing reputation.”

West added that Nicholson suggested the change himself without any prompting.

Top 10 gearing up for 33rd Nicol-Brown Invitational

Published: September 28, 2015

The Nicol-Brown Chalice, awarded to the winner of the Piobaireachd event.

The 33rd Nicol Brown Amateur Invitational Solo Piping Competition is less than two weeks away as 10 of North America’s top not-yet-Professionals go at it hammer and tongs on October 10th at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Albany, New York, before judge Callum Beaumont.

The contest comprises players from across the continent, put forward by their home association as informed by their competition success over the year.

Competitors at this year’s Nicol-Brown:

  • Maeghan Bielski, Middleboro, Massachusetts, EUSPBA)
  • Tyler Bridge, Guelph, Ontario (PPBSO)
  • Allyson Crowley-Duncan, Latham, New York (EUSPBA)
  • James Dyson, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia (ACPBA)
  • Andrew Hutton, Brantford, Ontario (PPBSO)
  • Kevin McLean, Maple Ridge, British Columbia (BCPA)
  • Christian Rhoads, St. Louis (MWPBA)
  • Blaise Theriault, Halifax, Nova Scotia (ACPBA)
  • Laureano Thomas-Sanchez, Cleveland (EUSPBA)
  • Jack Toohey, Newberg, Oregon (BCPA)

Dylan Chrismer, Alta Loma, California (WUSPBA) and Sean Regan, Woodstock, Virginia (EUSPBA) were invited but are not able to attend.

The weekend will feature various other events, including a free recital by the 25-year-old Callum Beaumont on Friday, October 9th, and a Celebration Dinner on October 10th, and concluding with a master class with Beaumont on Sunday, October 11th.

“The Nicol-Brown committee is thrilled to be hosting this year’s Clasp winner, Callum Beaumont, as the judge for our contest,” said organizer Paula Glendinning. “The contest will be a challenging day for our competitors, with outstanding prizes at stake, thanks to a host of generous people. Our 10 competitors from across the continent, and everyone in the piping community who is able to make the trip to Albany will also have the privilege of hearing Callum in concert on the Friday night, and the rare chance to attend a Master Class led by Callum on the Sunday morning. The Master Class format involves advanced students learning specifics of improving their musical performances from a premier teacher, with pipers of every level invited to listen and learn.”

The competition is named in honour of Robert Nicol and Robert Brown of Scotland, whose teaching heavily influenced much of the piping in the eastern United States primarily via two of their pupils, Donald Lindsay and James McIntosh.

As with the George Sherriff Memorial Amateur Invitational on November 21st in Hamilton, Ontario, the event is made up of three events, with significant donated prizes for each: a 6/8 March; Piobaireachd; and March, Strathspey & Reel. The champion is determined from the aggregate results, and the winner receives airfare to compete at the Scottish Piping Society of London’s competitions in 2016 and a McC2 pipe chanter with a custom-designed sole from McCallum Bagpipes. Second-prize-winner is awarded a Peter Henderson Blackwood Pipe Chanter donated by Henderson’s Ltd.

Liam Hilder of Coquitlam, British Columbia, was the winner of the 2014 competition. For a complete list of Nicol-Brown Invitational first-prize winners, check out pipes|drums’ Big Prizes database.

The non-profit pipes|drums Magazine has made a financial contribution to the 2015 Nicol-Brown.

Steuber appointed LA Scots Leading-Drummer

Published: September 25, 2015

LAScotslogo_2015Quickly after pipes|drums reported on the departure of Bryce Parker as leading-drummer, the Los Angeles Scots announced the appointment of Molly Steuber to the position.

Steuber has been a member of the band for several years, and filled as lead-tip in Parker’s absence, which was not infrequent due to his residence in far-off Las Vegas. Steuber led the drum section most recently at the Pleasanton games.

Of note, Steuber is now the only female leading-drummer of the world’s current 32 Grade 1 bands.

Molly Steuber

The LA Scots also said that two former leading-drummers, Duncan McPherson and Richard Baughman, who will re-join the band, and band President Scott MacDonald said that all current snare and tenor drummers have committed to staying for 2016.

“Molly expects more commitments soon,” said MacDonald. “This will be the first time for many years that the majority of the drum corps will be from California.”

He added that the band expects to add “several players” to the pipe section, but did not provide details.

Being one of only two Grade 1 bands in the United States, it is difficult for the LA Scots to travel to competitions and still get to the World Pipe Band Championships, but the band hopes to compete in 2016 at the local Queen Mary event; Victoria Highland Games; Costa Mesa; and Pleasanton, in addition to the World’s.

LA Scots again looking for L-D after Parker walks


LAScots_logo_2015The Grade 1 Los Angeles Scots Pipe Band are once again looking for a leading-drummer after Bryce Parker resigned from the band to play with the Grade 2 St. Thomas Alumni Pipe Band of Houston after one season in the role.

According to sources, the move appears to be a mutual split, since Parker is in line for a work promotion that would take him further away from the Los Angeles area. Parker reportedly had been successful in attracting new drumming talent to the LA Scots, and these drummers by accounts are expected to remain with the band.

Bryce Parker (third from left) with the LA Scots at the 2015 World Championships at Glasgow Green, Glasgow.

“The LA Scots want to extend a big thank you to Bryce Parker for all of his years playing in the band and for last year as Lead-Drummer,” said band President Scott MacDonald. “Numbers weredown last year for our band but we played well and had a great year. We understand that work commitments and the reality of being an out of town lead drummer are difficult. The band supports his decision and we will be announcing soon the direction of our drum corps plans for next year.”

Parker’s move to St. Thomas Alumni further bolsters that band, following the announcement that Graham Brown would become its leading-drummer. Parker is Brown’s brother-in-law, further enhancing the shift.

“I’m very excited to have my brother in-law playing with me at St. Thomas,” Brown said. “He’s a strong player with years of Grade 1 experience, which will be very valuable to the corps.”
Brown said that Parker will be his flank drummer.

The change is the latest in a series of leading-drummer moves by LA Scots. The band has had no fewer than four lead-tips in 10 years. LA Scots competed at the 2015 World Pipe Band Championships, but did not qualify for the Grade 1 Final.

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