December 31, 2006

pipes|drums 2006 New Year’s Honours

It’s time again to reflect over the past 12 months of piping and drumming, review archived news and reviews on pipes|drums, and assess the input of our elite and secret panel of experts who have provided their input on who and what are the best of 2006.

The year might be described best as somewhat non-descript; not in terms of quality, but for the fact that few people, bands or products stood far above their crowds of excellent competition. 2006 was a very good year; a year that may well be seen as a coming-of-age for piping and drumming, as the Scottish musical arts slouch toward mainstream industry status as a serious and viable professional market with an overall worth most certainly on the level of tens-of-millions-of-dollars.

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.


Piper of the Year

Donald Mackay, Glasgow. Donald Mackay, Glasgow – we like “all-rounders” – pipers who excel in the solos and bands, and who seem to give just a little bit more back to the game, and Donald Mackay had another great year in 2006. As pipe-major of the Strathclyde Police, he led the band to wins at both the European and Cowal championships, lifting the band to realistic reach of breaking the perennial “top three” gridlock of Field Marshal, Shotts and SFU. In the solos, Mackay competes with the best, with solid results around the highly competitive Scottish circuit and major gatherings. Mackay’s leadership also ensures that the band is involved with the Strathclyde community and various charitable causes, making the Strathclyde Police a vital part of the region.

Also considered :

  • Roddy MacLeod, Cumbernauld, Scotland – a terrific solo season, directorship of the National Piping Centre, and management of the Piping Live! Festival made MacLeod a serious contender for our Piper of the Year honour.
  • Stuart Cassells, Falkirk, Scotland – his CD Blown Away was well reviewed; his folk group, the Red Hot Chili Pipers, is in high demand around the UK; and he’s made time to compete with the Grade 1 Scottish Lion-78th Fraser Highlanders. Cassells is one of an emerging breed of pipers making his mark without winning big solo awards.
  • Jack Lee, Surrey, British Columbia – another all-rounder, Lee won the Bratach Gorm and helped lead the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band to the runner-up position at the 2006 World’s. He manages the SFU organization, without doubt the most productive pipe band machine in the world.Solo Competition Piper of the Year

    Angus MacColl, Benderloch, Scotland. Angus MacColl, Benderloch, Scotland – Angus MacColl enjoyed a stellar competitive year in 2006, finishing with a win at the Glenfiddich Championships, second in Clasp, the Springbank Invitational, the Uist & Barra, the Highlands & Islands, and a host of other awards over the year.

    Also considered:

    • Roddy MacLeod, Cumbernauld, Scotland – the usual numerous big awards over the year were given to MacLeod, who was in a virtual dead-heat with Angus MacColl to gain top-spot.
    • Willie McCallum, Bearsden, Scotland – once again, 2006 was an excellent year for McCallum, winner in 2004 and ’05 of this category.
    • Allan Russell, Kelty, Scotland – a stalwart around the Scottish games for two decades, the taciturn Russell let his playing do the talking, seemingly winning at least one first prize wherever he went. 2006 was Russell’s best year yet.

    Pipe Band of the Year

    Strahclyde Police Pipe Band.Strathclyde Police – under the leadership of 2006 pipes|drums Piper of the Year Donald Mackay (see above), “The Polis” may well be entering the band’s third era of competitive glory. Following in the huge footsteps of P-M John MacDonald of South Uist and P-M Iain MacLellan, Mackay and Leading-Drummer Eric Ward are on the verge of bringing the band into “Top Three” status at the World’s, having copped the European and Cowal championships in 2006. The band’s charitable and community work is noticed, too, as is Strathclyde Police’s emerged presence on the concert stage. To play with this band has quickly become a goal for many top pipers and drummers around the world.

    Also considered:

Drummer of the Year

Steven McWhirter, Nortrhern Ireland – any 23-year-old drummer who comes out of almost nowhere to win the World Solo Drumming Championship, with three former-World Solo winners trailing him has achieved the almost-impossible, and deserves our nod as Drummer of the Year. McWhirter plays with one of the world’s elite drum corps in Simon Fraser University, and was the first non-leading-drummer ever to win the title.

Also considered:

  • Jim Kilpatrick, Ashgil, Scotland – always the odds-on favourite to capture both the World Solo and World Drum Corps titles, Kilpatrick narrowly missed both in 2006. What’s more, his teaching is nearing legendary status, and Kiltpatrick’s in high demand all year.
  • Stephen Creighton, Dublin – St. Laurence O’Toole surprised a lot of people when the band won the World Drumming award at the World Pipe Band Championship, but those who have been paying attention know that Creighton’s scores and style are a perfect match for the musical finesse and style for which SLOT has become renowned.
  • Reid Maxwell, British Columbia – there may be no better ensemble sound in the world than Simon Fraser University’s, and SFU’s performance at the 2006 World’s was no exception. Much of the credit can go, as always, to Leading-Drummer Reid Maxwell.


Solo Piping Recording of the Year

Blown Away, Stuart Cassells.Blown Away, Stuart Cassells – a blistering CD by one of the world’s emerging piping superstars. Cassells’ Blown Away includes a large dose of fun as the Falkirk-based piper and Gordon Duncan protégé lets loose.

Also considered:

  • Shimla Hum – Michael Grey – Grey’s third solo effort delved into Middle-Eastern and Asian rhythms and styles, once again capturing the attention and imaginations or listeners.
  • Piping Live! Masters Invitational Solo Piping Competition 2005 – okay, it’s a DVD, but this live Greentrax Recordings capture of Murray Henderson, Bruce Gandy, Angus MacColl, and Iain Speirs must be included in the year’s best for listening alone.
  • (Note: significant CDs by Andrew Douglas, Stuart Liddell, and a solo piping tribute to the late John D. Burgess were released too late in 2006 to be knowledgably considered by our panel, and they will be part of our 2007 awards process.)

Pipe Band Recording of the Year

Terra Incognita, Dysart & Dundonald.Terra Incognita – Dysart & Dundonald – although Dysart & Dundonald are yet to make the very top-tier in Grade 1, under the leadership of Pipe-Major Brian Lamond, continually garners attention for its music and its willingness to take risks. Terra Incognita is a wonderful showcase of that originality.

Also considered:

  • On Home Ground, Vol. 2– Simon Fraser University – taking up where Volume 1 left off, the SFU machine does it again with another top-flight recording.
  • Another Round – Alberta Caledonia – “Al-Cal” continues to chart its course to the very-upper-echelon of Grade 1, and its 2006 CD release helped the cause.Music Collection of the Year

     Contemporary and Traditional Music for the Highland Bagpipe - Volume Four, compiled by Bruce Gandy. Contemporary and Traditional Music for the Highland Bagpipe – Volume Four – Bruce Gandy – Bruce Gandy’s fourth book of music is most likely his best. Not a dud in the lot, the collection aims to assist pipers by providing a difficulty-rating for each tune. Gandy’s originality and affinity for the simple and memorable melodic line are hallmarks of his composing and arranging style.

    Also considered:

    • The Fred Morrison Collection– Fred Morrison – at last the great Glasgow piper makes his compositions available in a beautifully laid-out collection, complete with historical photographs.
    • (Note: significant collections by Michael Grey, Dr. William Donaldson and Allan MacDonald were released too late in 2006 to be knowledgably considered by our panel, and they will be part of our 2007 awards process.)

    Special Product Award

    The 2006 Naill Pipe Band Chanter.Naill Pipe Band Chanter – the David Naill Company has been trying to crack the band chanter market for years, and it made more headway than ever in 2006 with the introduction of the new stick-for-bands. Designed in partnership with SFU’s Terry and Jack Lee, the chanter was played by the now-defunct Robert Malcolm Memorial II Pipe Band to win the Grade 2 event at the World’s. Despite SFU dropping the chanter after a sixth-prize at the British Championship, this instrument might be a few small tweaks away from joining McCallum, Sinclair, and Shepherd in the Grade 1 winner’s circle at the World’s. Times have changed since the days when every band played one of only two chanters even considered for top bands.

    News Story of the Year

    Robert Malcolm Memorial II is dissolved after winning the Grade 2 event at the 2006 World’s, RMM2 was promoted to Grade 1 by both the British Columbia Pipers Association and the RSPBA, only to have the promotion met with consternation by the SFU parent organization. After an appeal to move back to Grade 1, apparently initiated by SFU, Pipe-Major David Hilder and Leading-Drummer Andre Tessier resigned. RMM2 no longer exists, and the Grade 2 Maple Ridge Pipe Band taking its place in the SFU feeder system. For these extraordinary turns of events, the RMM2 / SFU / Maple Ridge affair is the 2006 pipes|drums News Story of the Year – and it’s not over yet.

    Other top stories of 2006:

    • Performers’ rights and the World’s recordings our research uncovered the fact that the CDs and DVDs or the World Pipe Band Championships – and any contest recordings made without legal consent of every performer on them – are subject to legal action. How the RSPBA meets its legal responsibility could prove to be a major story of 2007.
    • Clan Gregor Pipe-Major suspended – an extraordinary story when George Shepherd is suspended by the RSPBA for an alleged impropriety that occurred in a pub. The suspension was subsequently reduced by the Association.
    • The ongoing demise of Grade 2 and lower-tier Grade 1 bands – 2006 saw several Grade 1 and 2 bands suffer, not compete or bite the dust altogether: Glasgow Pipes & Drums, Royal Burgh of Stirling, Prince Charles, Polkemmet, and David Urquhart Travel were a few examples. Some contend that the pressure on Grade 1 and 2 bands to field large pipe- and drum-sections is resulting in other bands struggling for members and, at times, their very survival. Watch for more stories like these in 2007 as supply can’t keep up with demand.
    • Piping Live!Now in its third year, Glasgow’s festival is on the verge of over-shadowing the World Pipe Band Championships itself as the marquee piping extravaganza of the year – and some say it already has.
    • SLOT returns to sheepskin and cane don’t under-estimate the importance of this wholesale move by this top-tier Grade 1 band. Alberta Caledonia has also done the same, and others will most certianly follow.
    • Toronto Police unveil very new side-drums Leading-Drummer Doug Stronach and Hugh Cameron have modified HTS700 to create a radically lighter and potentially more resilient instrument that has been well received by judges, and gained the attention of major manufacturers.
    • Torphichen & Bathgate puts sponsorship up for bids on eBayokay, so it didn’t snare a sponsor, but that wasn’t the point. The venerable Torphichen & Bathgate understands that eBay can be a great marketing tool, and the band garnered stories in major media outlets about its eBay offer. That’s smart, and this band is ascending quickly.
    • The launch of pipes|drums – Okay, we’re blowing our own New Year’s horn here, but the debut of pipes|drums as the piping and drumming world’s first online-only magazine is a milestone. Subscriptions have exceeded expectations, and funds from the not-for-profit media outlet are already being channeled into good piping and drumming causes. Readers can now be part of the story through pipes|drums interactive Comments feature on almost all articles.The piping and drumming world saw several unfortunate and sad deaths in 2006, including those of Gordon Meldrum, Bob Dunsire, Matt McConnell, Rufus Harley and Harry Denyer. We are much the better for their presence, and much the worse for their absence. We thank and miss them all.

      Stay tuned for our expert panel’s fearless predictions for 2007!


  1. Love this stuff. Mackay’s a good man, but I would have given it to Roddy MacLeod. Guy does alot for piping every year. But I suppose he has a gong to show for it too!!!



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