January 31, 2010

pipes|drums’ 2009 New Year’s Honours

The; year past has been witnessed. The votes are in. The choices have been made. The 2009 pipes|drums New Year’s Honours have been decided.
This year we took a slightly different tack to decide our awards. Using an anonymous online survey tool, where the voter cannot be identified, we asked 20 pipers and drummers – fairly dispersed throughout the world, one-third drummers, and most of whom are not actively competing – to make their choices.
Nominations were based on those people, bands and recordings that we felt made the most news, the biggest impact and the best contributions in the piping and drumming world in 2009. As usual, there are two Piper of the Year categories: one for Solo Competition Piper of the Year, the other for all-round Piper of the Year, taking into consideration of course their work with bands, teaching, festivals and other elements.
We have also again conducted Readers’ Choice Awards in four categories, and those results will follow in a separate article.

Congratulations to all winners of the pipes|drums 2009 New Year’s Honours. All nominees are to be congratulated, too. And to our panelists, we thank you for your input.

And the winners are . . .

Piper of the Year
Stuart LiddellStuart Liddell, Inveraray, Scotland – It’s hard to imagine a better year for any piper than Stuart Liddell had in 2009. As Pipe-Major of the undefeated Grade 2 Inveraray & District, leading the band into Grade 1, his nurturing of the talent in the band since its inception only six years ago, his solo wins of the Clasp, the Bratach Gorm and the Open Piobaireachd at London, and the Glenfiddich Championship, Liddell was a near-unanimous winner in the category, receiving all but one of the votes. Liddell was our 2007 Piper of the Year.
“Not really a close race. Stuart is way out in front given his solo and band achievements across the year,” said one panelist. “Apart from Stuart’s winnings this year, his approach to the instrument, and his audience, is relaxed and refreshing. Always unassuming, he will play the simplest of tunes, leaving you wondering how you’ve never ‘heard’ them before . . . and then break into something as complex as Thunderstruck,” said another, while another panelist commented, “Stuart’s success as a pipe-major so far is more than comparable with the like of Bob Shepherd, Ian Duncan and Richard Parkes in terms of bringing a band up through the grades, and to move through Grade 2 in one year with a clean sweep is an amazing accomplishment. Add to that Stuart’s 2009 solo success: Dunvegan Medal, NM Clasp, Bratach Gorm, Gillies Cup and Glenfiddich . . . and you’ve got a life-time of achievements in one year. Stu-pendous!”
Also considered (in alphabetical order):
Terry Lee, Vancouver – The Simon Fraser University pipe-major once again pushed his juggernaut band to victory at Glasgow Green, three days after staging a momentous concert at the Royal Glasgow Concert Hall and recording one of the best CDs of the year, Lee was an easy nominee.
Roddy MacLeod, Glasgow – For his leadership of Piping Live! alone, MacLeod gets the nod as a nominee. Add to that his running of the National Piping Centre and another successful year on the solo boards, and MacLeod – 2008 pipes|drums Piper of the Year – gets serious consideration once again.
Richard Parkes, Belfast – The Pipe-Major of Field Marshal Montgomery showed no signs of letting up the attack as he took his band to another significant season at the top of Grade 1 – in fact only missing a perfect season of major championships, finishing second at the World’s.
Terry Tully, Dublin – With St. Laurence O’Toole becoming the first band besides SFU, Field Marshal and Shotts to crack the top-three at the World Pipe Band Championships, Tully’s leadership is still on the ascent. Fresh of SLOT’s 2008 Champion of Champions award, Tully’s band finished second in the award in 2009.

Solo Competition Piper of the Year
Stuart LiddellStuart Liddell – Capturing the Dunvegan Medal, the Clasp, the Northern Meeting Hornpipe & Jig, the Bratach Gorm and Gillies Cup at London and the Glenfiddich Championship in less than three months is the stuff of legend, and 2009 was a legendary year for Liddell, who completes another “double,” by taking both pipes|drums’ Piper of the Year awards. In this category, Liddell all but two votes.
“It has definitely been Stuart’s year, and he shows no sign of letting up,” said one panelist, while another commented, “Stuart has been the most consistent prize winner this year. He’s an ‘all-rounder’!”
Also considered (in alphabetical order):
Glenn Brown, Glasgow – The 2009 Northern Meeting Gold Medallist narrowly missed the celebrated “Double” with a second-prize at the sister-contest at the Argyllshire Gathering. Brown has emerged as a player for the upper-echelons of the world solo scene.
Alastair Dunn, Glasgow – Dunn pinned down the other Gold Medal by winning the one from Oban. Always a threat on the boards, Dunn’s solo future remains strong, as one of the bright young stars on the world stage.
Bruce Gandy, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia – It’s not often when a string of second-prizes are remembered, but Gandy’s almost-wins of the Clasp, the Bratach Gorm, the Gillies Cup and the Glenfiddich Piobaireachd were undoubtedly hard prizes for him to accept, but nonetheless a substantial collective achievement that deserves notice.
Roddy MacLeod – A sixth Silver Chanter and a record eighth win of the Glenfiddich Piobaireachd event to go along with many other prizes made 2009 another memorable year for MacLeod.
Willie McCallum – Always in great form, McCallum’s 2009 campaign was no exception. He won the Silver Star MSR at Inverness for the third time and a fifth MSR at the Glenfiddich, among other awards over the year.

Pipe Band of the Year
Inveraray and DistrictInveraray & District – With a solid 50 per cent of the votes, Inveraray & District gains the distinction of being our 2009 Pipe Band of the Year, the first non-Grade 1 band ever to gain the award. Inveraray’s run of success was the year’s major discussion topic throughout the year, as the six-year-old band was catapulted into Grade 1 under the leadership of Stuart Liddell and Lead-Drummer Steven McWhirter. The band’s competitive success is matched only by its community spirit and drive to learn – and have fun all along the way.
Panelists’ comments:
“They lived up to all of the hubbub we heard about them from across the ocean. Wow, wow, wow!”
“A no-brainer even though SFU were outstanding!”
“This band’s rise through the ranks is unprecedented. Especially considering the fact that the large majority of its members are under the age of 20 and are from Inveraray and the surrounding area.”
“Hard to choose between SFU and Inveraray, but I’m going with the ‘wow’ factor . . . this band’s performance level and five wins in the majors edged out another great World’s win by SFU, at least for me.”
Also considered (in alphabetical order):
Field Marshal Montgomery – Four Grade 1 major championship wins and another Champion of Champions title ensured strong consideration for FMM.
Simon Fraser University – What a year it was for SFU, with its sixth World’s win and usual dominance on home ground, the band earned 30 per cent of the votes. In taking its second consecutive World title, many did not notice the substantial changes in personnel, with Terry and Lead-Drummer Reid Maxwell achieving great stability.
St. Laurence O’Toole – One of only two few non-Canadian bands to give Field Marshal Montgomery a serious run for its money in the results, many feel that SLOT will be a fixture in the World’s top-three for years, and that its eventual taking of the crown will come sooner than many think.
Strathclyde Police – Perhaps the year’s most newsworthy band, said one panelist, the Police turned out strong throughout the 2009 campaign despite incredible distractions from its sponsoring police force. The world’s longest-running civilian pipe band, the Strathclyde Police were a sentimental favourite with many this summer past, with quality music to match.

Pipe Band Drummer of the Year
Reid MaxwellBarry WilsonReid Maxwell, Vancouver, and Barry Wilson, Glasgow (tie) – our panelists were divided equally between SFU’s Maxwell and Wilson, the 2009 World Solo Champion and ScottishPower lead-drummer. Each drummer received 10 votes, so for the first time a deadlock resulted.
The strength of Maxwell – our 2008 Pipe Band Drummer of the Year – is undeniable. He led SFU to another World Drumming prize at Glasgow Green, and has won the coveted Sash in four decades and could well make it five. Many contend that it is Maxwell who is most responsible for SFU’s ensemble quality.
“While Reid hasn’t been able to capture the top solo prize, his incredible work as a leading drummer of SFU puts him head and shoulders above the rest,” said one panelist. “Winning back-to-back World Championships and World Drum Corps Championships as a L-D hasn’t been done for 50 years,” said another.
Barry Wilson has quickly made his mark in drumming history, winning his third consecutive World Solo Drumming title in the face of probably the strongest competition ever seen. His ScottishPower corps is on the ascent, and some observers feel that it’s only a matter of time when the band puts gets the nod from judges to start taking major championships.
“You can’t ignore the successful defense of his title,” commented a panelist on Wilson. “A fantastic achievement with three-in-a-row solo championships,” another added.
Also considered (in alphabetical order):
Tyler Fry, Kincardine, Ontario – Fry’s contributions as a tireless teacher of tenor-drumming around the world and his work with the House of Edgar-Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band earn him another nomination. Love or loathe what he does, there is no denying that he continues to make a massive mark on the art of mid-sections.
Jim Kilpatrick, Ashgil, Scotland – Always a contender for our award, Kilpatrick led his Shotts corps to yet another Champion of Champions title, yet by winning only one major all year. Kilpatrick’s work on the design and manufacturing side also gains him marks as a nominee.

2009 Recording of the Year
On The DayOn The Day, John McDonald – The DVD documentary by Hollywood producer and director, John McDonald, got the nod from our panel, the first non-CD to gain the award. The story of the Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band’s creation and run-up to the 2008 World Championships was a first of its kind for full-length piping-related videos, and the quality and professionalism of the final product were recognized worldwide.
Panelists’ comments about On The Day: “All the way on the day!” “Very close call. All great candidates but the Spirit story went beyond piping and generally had a positive impact on our art.” “A unique story and a unique level of professionalism.”
Also considered (in alphabetical order):
Affirmation, Simon Fraser University – Released very late in 2009, the live recording from the 2009 World Champions’ Pre-World’s Glasgow concert was quickly seen as a highlight recording of the year.
Hinterlands – Wendy Stewart & Gary West – A CD that quietly caught the attention of Celtic music and piping aficionados worldwide, West and Stewart’s project gained critical acclaim, and the host of BBC Radio Scotland’s “Pipeline” program showed he has more than one set of great pipes.
Northern Man, Bill Livingstone – The long-awaited personal project from Livingstone did not disappoint, and demonstrated that, even after 40 years in the game, there’s plenty of fuel in the musical tank.
Twelve-Thousand Miles, Manawatu Scottish Pipe Band – One of few studio-made pipe band recordings, Twelve-Thousand Miles captured Manawatu’s technical and tonal precision, as well as the band’s willingness to chart new musical territory.
Congratulations to all winners and nominees, and thanks to our panel of experts for providing their input. There are many more pipers, drummers, bands and recordings from 2009 with great merit and achievement. These are those that we felt deserved special recognition.
Stay tuned to pipes|drums for our 2009 Readers’ Choice Awards and our fearless predictions for 2010!


  1. As a non-voting observer, there is not much disagreement on any of the final choices. However, I would suggest you consider it might be time to offer two drumming awards similar to what you do for piping.



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