January 31, 2012

pipes|drums’ 2011 New Year’s Honours

2011 Pipe Band of the Year


Field Marshal Montgomery – what a year it was for the 2011 World Pipe Band Champions. In Pipe-Major Richard Parkes’s thirtieth anniversary year as leader of the Belfast-based FMM, the band won a rare clean sweep of the five RSPBA major championships, and, in the opinion of many who were there, turned in performances at the World’s that stand up as the best ever. Can a pipe band get better than what we heard from Field Marshal in 2011? Only time will tell, but FMM raised the standard to a stratospheric level, and received a large majority of the votes as Pipe Band of the Year with more than 80 per cent.

Panelists” comments:

  • “Clean sweep of championships, jaw-droppingly miles ahead at the Worlds, it can only be FMM.”
  • “By taking all the majors, there’s only one choice.”
  • “It shows that even a band with an average technical drum corps but one that focuses on creating music can produce exceptional winning pipe band performances.”
  • “Spine-tingling stuff.”
  • “In 2011 we probably heard from FMM the greatest sound and unison playing in history.”
  • “Perhaps the greatest pipe band achievement of all time – five straight majors in the most competitive environment in history.”

Also considered (in alphabetical order):

Dowco-Triumph Street – the band has emerged from the huge shadow of cross-town rivals Simon Fraser University did just that in 2011, turning in solid performances at the World’s and placing ahead of SFU  from several judges during its the past few seasons. Working from a relatively limited (but growing) pool of available talent in the Pacific Northwest, Dowco-Triumph Street is a model of perseverance and commitment and justly deserves acknowledgement for their achievements in 2011.

Inveraray & District – the meteoric rise of Inveraray continues apace, with the band placing fourth at the World’s and taking prizes at every major championship. Only three years into Grade 1, and the 2009 Pipe Band of the Year, Inveraray is proving that leadership and home-grown talent, combined with a solid strategy and game-plan and creative music can carve a route through a mountain of pipe band quality. We suspect that Inveraray & District will be nominees in this category for years to come.

ScottishPower – cracking the top-three at the World Pipe Band Championship was just one example of the great year that ScottishPower enjoyed in 2011. The band delivered a memorable “Energy” concert a few days before the World’s, and made a statement, once and for all, that it truly belongs more than ever with the pipe band elite. With P-M Chris Armstrong and L-D Barry Wilson guiding a youthful group, ScottishPower is riding a wave of musical momentum.

Simon Fraser University – the runners-up at the 2011 World’s yet again produced a terrific year and has extended what is certainly the longest sustained run of world-beating quality in its thirtieth year together. SFU showed once again how its teaching system, augmented with some of the world’s best pipers and drummers, is always a contender to be named the very best. The band delivered several exceptionally good concerts in 2011, including the successful show at the SECC just before the World’s.


  1. I’ll try that comment again, can’t you have a pipesdrums book of the year award (any book pipe/drum or pipe band related) and also a separate product award?

  2. While I can see this is rather novel and might interest some, I think it actually serves to do little else but highlight just how small the top of the pyramid is (and that our focus is always up there). With the very rare exception, it’s the ‘same olds’ year after year. Band of the year: FMM. How many ‘experts’ are required to deliberate and agree on that…? It would be better if the ‘panel’ had carte blanche to dissect the year that was and make some statements about what was good, bad or otherwise, and not restricted to the elite level. Some commentary about the grades around the globe – comparisons etc. Readers might benefit a bit more if the expert panel was engaged to express its views on the broader scene, not simply be polled or asked to recite results that we all know already.

  3. Thanks, @uilleannonlooker. If you look back at the awards over the years (see links at article end), you’ll see that some years there are enough books to warrant that. 2011 saw relatively few collections being released. @Lawrie – thanks for your, as usual, frank feedback. Similarly, you’ll see in past years it’s not so straightforward. I agree that a lively debate with a panel of experts on the good and the bad of the year would be fun and enlightening, but the awards are structured as such to make them relatively straightforward. Panelists did in fact mention people, bands, events and products that they thought merited nomination, and, interestingly, every band nominated had at least one vote, so the winner was not unanimous.



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