December 31, 2007

pipes|drums’ 2007 New Year’s Honours

Is 2007 already over? Seems like just yesterday we were still debating the 2006 World’s result, celebrating the success of the Strathclyde Police and predicting trends for the next year. But, yes, it is time again for pipes|drums’ annual New Year’s Honours.

We have tapped a panel of 12 canny pipers and drummers around the world for their nominations in several categories for the people, bands, products and stories that made the most news, the biggest impact and the best contributions in the piping and drumming world in 2007. This year we include comments from panelists, which we hope provide insight into their thinking.

Congratulations to all winners of the pipes|drums New Year’s Honours. All nominees are to be congratulated, too. And to our panelists, we thank you for your input.

Here we go . . .

Piper of the Year

Stuart Liddell, 2007 pipes|drums Piper of the Year.Stuart Liddell, Inveraray, Scotland – they call it a “purple patch” when a piper really hits his stride and everything seems to fall into place, and no one in the piping world had a bigger patch of purple this year than the Wizard of Argyll. Competitively, he won the Clasp, the Lord Todd Challenge, competes with Simon Fraser University, wins the Glasgow Knockout competitions, and still finds time to lead his own Inveraray & District Pipe Band to a sweep of the RSPBA majors in the Novice Juvenile grade. He also released Inveroran, a well-reviewed and popularly brilliant disc (see below). Add to all that his teaching at summer schools, his eagerness to play, and play well, virtually any instrument at any party, and one of the most pleasant demeanors in all of the piping world, and our panel names Stuart Liddell as the clear recipient of pipes|drums’ Piper of the Year 2007 award.

Also considered:

  • Richard Parkes, Belfast – leading Field Marshal Montgomery to the 2007 World Pipe Band Championship, staging the annual Pre-World’s Concert in Glasgow, and delivering maybe the best pipes|drums interview of all time, Parkes was a strong contender for Piper of the Year honours.
  • Willie McCallum, Bearsden, Scotland – a terrific competition year, as usual, plus his development of the McC-Squared Pipe Chanter with McCallum Bagpipes, and his organizing of several Todd Bar events during Piping Live! resulted in McCallum being nominated several times.
  • Alastair Dunn, Glasgow – strongly considered by several panelists, Dunn had a great year as Field Marshal’s Pipe-Sergeant, did well in solo contests, and made several big developments at his business, R.G. Hardie & Co.

Solo Competition Piper of the Year

Willie McCallum, 2007 pipes|drums Solo Competition Piper of the Year.Willie McCallum, Bearsden, Scotland – yet again, no one had a better competitive year than Willie McCallum, whose trophy room was piled ever higher with gold and silver: the Donald MacLeod Memorial, the Highlands & Islands, the Lochaber Gathering (where he had straight firsts, the Piping Centre Masters, the Springbank Invitational, the Royal Mod, the MSR at the Glenfiddich – all prizes won by McCallum in 2007, many for the second, third, fourth or tenth time. In the words of one panelist: “No one wins this often and this well.”

Also considered:

  • Gordon Walker, Galston, Scotland – Walker had his usual robust year on the boards, capping it with his first win at the Glenfiddich Championships.
  • Stuart Liddell – see comments above. Liddell had a very good competition year, and his Clasp win made him a tempting choice for several panelists.
  • Jack Lee, Surrey, British Columbia – perhaps the fiercest competitor the piping world has ever known, Lee won the Silver Star at the Northern Meeting more than 20 years after he won it for the first time. Said one panelist: “The man has been a fixture in the upper-echelon for about 30 years.”
  • Alex Gandy, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia – in 2007 Gandy came into his own in solo piping, winning the Jig at the Argyllshire Gathering, the Duncan Johnstone, several other prominent solo prizes, and a World Pipe Band Championship with Field Marshal – all at the age of 18.
  • Gordon McCready, Renfrew, Scotland – McCready bolstered his expanding reputation as one of the fast-rising stars of the Scottish solo circuit with substantial early-season success around the games.
  • Margaret Dunn, Glasgow – she continues to make her mark in piping history, and, after adding an A-Grade March win, in 2008 Dunn will be the first female piper ever to compete in the Former Winners’ MSR at the Argyllshire Gathering, ironically the most old-boys, traditionalist event in the world. Do not underestimate Dunn’s ability as a solo piper.
  • Faye Henderson, Kirriemuir, Scotland – at age 15 and not yet able to play in Scottish “Senior” events, Henderson lost hardly a Junior event all year, and gained the Scottish Junior Championship along the way. But for a few slips in one event, she probably would have also won the George Sherriff Invitational.

Pipe Band of the Year

Field Marshal Montgomery, 2007 pipes|drums Pipe Band of the Year.Field Marshal Montgomery – the unanimous choice of every one of our 12 panelists, Field Marshal captured its sixth World Championship and another Champion of Champions title, while staging the Glasgow concert in August, cutting a live record, and setting yet another benchmark for pipe-section tone. In the off-season rumours were rampant that there was a sizable drum section chink in the FMM armour, giving other bands hope and excitement, but if there were any loss in drum corps quality the band made up for it with impeccable ensemble. A few comments for our panel: “Fantastic consistency, fantastic performance at the World’s and a great concert!” “The class of the World’s,” “Winning majors with ease. Sounded like a higher-grade band than other prize winners at British and European. Concert, sponsorship, new uniforms, CD and DVD, and that great, great bagpipe sound. Brilliant.” “Dominant!” “The best competing band, full stop.”

Also considered:

  • Triumph Street – TSPB again made headlines in 2007 and, even without attending the World’s, were probably the most talked about Grade 2 band in the world. Said one panelist: “Came back from near extinction to take the North American Championship in Grade 2, dominated the BCPA, straight firsts in every event.”
  • The Band Club Sydney – by many account this band should have been an easy winner of the Grade 2 event at the World’s, but kept their chins high and were promoted to Grade 1 in December. “Royally reamed at the Worlds, but still good natured folk about it.”
  • Scottish Lion-78th Fraser Highlanders – the “Frasers” backed up their off-season talk and produced a massive band, usually competing with 30 or more pipers. They won everything at home, and went on to one of their strongest finishes in a long time at the World’s, including the Best Drum Corps prize. But, if the big-band trend continues, their 2007 will be remembered most for making gargantuan sections a reality.

Drummer of the Year

Barry Wilson, 2007 pipes|drums Drummer of the Year.Barry Wilson, Glasgow – Wilson captured his first World Solo Drumming Championship and continued to lead the ScottishPower drum section to solid results. The former Jim Kilpatrick protégé is now well entrenched as a serious force at the very highest levels of pipe band drumming and is young enough potentially to gain many more big wins. “Finally got the big one and highly deserved”

Also considered:

  • Drew Duthart, Milton, Ontario – Duthart made history by taking his Scottish Lion-78th Fraser Highlanders corps to a win at the World’s. Said one panelist: ” Drew took a very average Grade 1 drum corps and in only a few years brought them to the top of the grade. He did this through the development of very creative scores, by the introduction of solid players that focused on strong execution and by harnessing and using to full advantage a talented yet aggressive bass section.”
  • Jim Kilpatrick, Ashgil, Scotland – although Kilpatrick missed the cut for the World Solos final, he continues to set the standard of excellence in playing, leadership and teaching. One panelist gave him serious consideration solely for “his gracious acknowledgement in pipes|drums after the event.”
  • Gordon Brown, Whitburn, Scotland – According to one panelist: “Consistent solo results, Boghall wins drumming championships and takes Champion of Champions. Great stuff with a young corps developed in the band.” For about two decades now, Brown has stealthily produced cracking corps in West Lothian, making the most of the Boghall & Bathgate organization’s state-of-the-art teaching program, proving that today’s top sections can be produced using something more than frequent flyer points.

Solo Piping Recording of the Year

'Inveroran,' Stuart Liddell, 2007 pipes|drums Solo Piping Recording of the Year.Inveroran, Stuart Liddell A near unanimous choice by our panel, Liddell’s first album, according to one person, “shows that you don’t need lots of other instruments to make a good piping CD.” Produced by Iain MacInnes, the disc showcases Liddell in top form, demonstrating his uncanny all-round ability to play piobaireachd as well as he can an MSR or the most creative and fast light music imaginable. While other pipers can move their hands just as quickly, no one in the world has the accuracy, musicality and good taste of Liddell, and this came through brilliantly on Inveroran. “Cracking playing, great pipes, fluid style that drips music, and a personal touch to all the tunes.” “Just magic!”

Also considered:

  • reEcho, The Finlay MacDonald Band – a summer release with pipes as the album’s central “voice,” among other accolades, reEcho received a five-gracenote review from Rob Menzies.
  • Piobaireachd, Volume 1, Roddy MacLeod – unveiled in August but not widely available until late in 2007, MacLeod’s excellent disc is a portent for a great series to come. “Beautiful pipe sound, great musical playing,” said one panelist. The CD also includes pdf files of the tunes, and links back to MacLeod’s new website where even more materials are available. With this project, MacLeod continues the trend toward value-added compact discs, pushing the project beyond entertainment and into a complete learning experience.
  • Just for Gordon, Gordon Duncan archival material from the late, great Pitlochry piper. This disc reminds us yet again of what a loss was Duncan’s untimely death, but also the prodigious contributions he made while he was with us.
  • A One-Off, John D. Burgess another tribute compendium of classic recordings from the much loved and much missed John D.

Pipe Band Recording of the Year

'RE:CHARGED,' Field Marshal Montgomery, 2007 pipes|drums Pipe Band Recording of the Year.RE:CHARGED, Field Marshal Montgomery – FMM laid it down at the band’s concert at the Royal Glasgow Concert Hall, and the late-2007 release of RE:CHARGED made for a happy Christmas for many a recipient of this gift from the pipe band world. Richard Parkes continues to raise the bar, refusing to succumb to trends while showing that unison, tuning and expression rule the day. But the band also shows the world that it can play fun and fast stuff with the best bands, and shows off some of its solo piping talent on the CD. And to think that the likes of Donald MacPhee and Alex Gandy didn’t get solo spots at the event and on the recording tells you a bit about the depth of talent this band possesses.

Also considered:

  • Spirit of the Glen, Royal Scots Dragoon Guards – While probably not appealing to competition-focused pipers and drummers, this CD rose to #13 on the UK charts, backed by a huge deal from Universal Music. Spirit also set the pipe band world into a debate about what can and can’t, should and shouldn’t be done to attract bigger audiences. “Being Top 100 on UK Charts speaks for itself. They are great ambassadors of the pipe band world and continuing their efforts to bring this great music to everyone.”

Of note were a few panelists who specifically said that the World Championships recordings not be named to the list. Said one panelist: “[This is] a rip-off for the bands and players and has significant sound issues.” “Given that it was a crappy day and there are a ton of squeals, chirps and bad notes, this is likely not the best World’s CD.”

Music Collection of the Year

'Gordon Duncan's Tunes,' 2007 pipes|drums Music Collection of the Year.Gordon Duncan’s Tunes, Gordon Duncan – the unanimous choice by our panel, and nothing seemed to come close to this compilation of the late genius’s original work. Lovingly compiled by Gordon’s brother, Ian, all proceeds from sales of the book go to the Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust. “Long-awaited, full of already classic tunes,” said a panelist. “Finally! Every tune is good, many are classics. Some of the photos are great.”

Also considered:

  • Notes Frae Ma Heid 2, Chris Armstrong – more original thinking from the complex musical mind of Chris Armstrong.
  • Music For Everyone: The Fifth Collection of Tunes for the Highland Bagpipe, Michael Grey – five books now from the prolific Canadian composer, and this one did not disappoint.
  • From Broadside to Broadband, Willie Donaldson – Dr. Donaldson’s CD-ROM only project uncovered numerous gems, many from his own hand.New Product of the Year

    Willie McCallum testing a new McC-Squared pipe chanter, the pipes|drums 2007 New Product of the Year.The McCallum McC-Squared Pipe Chanter the debut in August of the new Willie McCallum-designed pipe chanter was met with excitement, especially after it was revealed that McCallum had already been playing and winning with the new product around the Scottish games, which he of course won handily. Modern techniques and technology have quickly expanded the two-product solo chanter market to at least a half-dozen realistic options for top pipers.

    Also considered:

    • Jim McGillivray’s website for downloading pipe music scores has quickly caught on as a valuable new resource for pipers of all abilities.

    News Stories of the Year

    Two of the hundreds of news stories that appeared first on pipes|drums were named more than any others as being most significant:

    “Scottish Lion-78th Fraser Highlanders to compete with ’28-30′ pipers” way back in January Bill Livingstone stated that it was his intention to compete with as many as 30 pipers, and throughout the 2007 campaign his band did just that – and, at times, more. The issue of size was a topic of contentious discussion throughout the year, and continues to be debated now. Even at a drenched World’s, Livingstone trotted out 30 pipers from his roster of 40. Of note, he has stated that he intends to reduce the size of the band’s contest circle to a more FMM-like number. Said one panelist: “Bill knows how to keep the pot boiling, too. The band was a newsmaker in many ways, and the talk of band size that drew comment in May and crowds in August may have also got the band a higher placing than the recordings seem to justify. If a hand slips off the chanter in a forest, will anyone know?”

    “Wilson pipes sell for $13,000 in as-is condition” Troy Guindon plunked down a large wad of cash for the historic John Wilson pipes, then spent another bundle on their restoration to pristine condition. Commented a panelist: “An unusual story providing interest to anyone, given how rare it is for such a big-name set of pipes to be sold.”

    Also considered:




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