November 22, 2009


They call it a purple patch when you happen upon a sustained streak of good fortune, and over the course of the last three months Stuart Liddell has had one of the greatest purple patches for solo pipers in recent memory.

Since August he’s won the Dunvegan Medal, the Clasp at the Northern Meeting, the Glenfiddich Championship and London’s Bratach Gorm and Gillies Cup. Those are four of the very biggest prizes there are in piping.

So hearing Stuart play, jet-lagged and all, this past Friday in Hamilton, anyone familiar with his record probably realized that here was a guy at the top of his form, just coming off a sustained streak of big wins. (That there were only 30 or so people there to hear him out of a metropolitan area of about 10-million is a post for another time).

Who knows? Stuart’s purple patch may even carry on through the next year or even decade. But that night hearing him play right now was a rare treat. He’s known as much for his pipe band leadership as he is for his piobaireachd as he is for his competition light music as he is for his creativity as he is for his blinding hands as he is for his great sense of humour.

Here’s a sample from the night. Ho-ho-ho, indeed.



  1. When I was watching the clip and listening to Stuart, in that piece at the end, towards the end of the piece- the image of a piano with the front off and the hammers hitting the strings came into my head, and towards the very end as the pace slowed, I remembered a child last week who I watched twanging a high violin string with the fast vibrations then the low G string with the slower vibration rate. I think Stuart’s experience with pianos certainly comes through hugely in his playing of bagpipes. I remember being sent by a music teacher, to watch a piano tuner working and the piano tuner telling me it would take seven years to train to tune pianos. I don’t know if thats the case today (that was some forty years ago). But with such a solid and ‘secure at the foundations’ experience of the workings of music, intervals, sound, and so on, it’s no surprise at all that Stuart is doing so incredibly well. Long may it continue. It really is incredibly inspiring, encouraging, and one of the greatest things is that he (with others) is passing on what he knows, to young people, who are clearly lapping it all up and being given a first rate opportunity to learn. Ahhhh- restores one’s belief in the bagpipe as a serious musical instrument and bagpipe players as serious musicians capable of mixing with the best of them. As people in Glasgow (and the signs at Prestwick Airport) say ‘Pure Dead Brilliant’.

  2. Love this. We all know Stuart is an awesome player but obviously one of the great things about him is his sense of humor and the ability to have fun with the music and instrument. Remember when Gordon Duncan used to do the How Much Is That Doggy In The Window routine? Classic. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Pipers (and drummers) would do well to listen to the musicality with which Stuart plays the first set of 4/4 marches. They are on the beat and played with verve and inspiration. Too many bands and soloists toss tunes like these off in pushed, haphazard fashion. Though Stuart presents the set with good humour, it’s obvious that this man takes his music very seriously.

    I was most impressed with Stuart at the Todd Bar event a couple of years ago, and not just by the playing. It was clear that he had thought about each of the 25 minutes he was up there. The performance interest didn’t lapse when he tuned, or because he stopped for a drink or to wipe his brow. Everything was timed and beautifully choreographed — elements rarely seen or appreciated in solo piping. Others may have played as well that night, but his showmanship was in a league of its own.

  4. In The PipeDrums Glenfiddoch competition I had Stuart as the overall winner (pity i wasn’t as accurate with 2nd 3rd 4th etc) such was his form this year that I knew he’d be there or thereabouts.
    I guess the greatest excitement for me is what he’ll do in the coming decade in terms of pipe band performance.
    He’s had one of those bi-atlantic masterclass educations that is manifesting itself with “inverary” and the signs look good that he’ll somehow re-raise the bar (like all great PM’s)
    I look forward with relish and delight at next years majors (solo’s and Band), … Angus MacColl won’t point to judging or tuning facilities or any other nonsense, he’ll grind out the winter and start again fresh and ready for 2010 … Stuart wouldn’t recognise a Laurel if it bit his butt … and I guess rest is something he’s unfamiliar with too.
    As to the Grade 1 band scene … Stuart knows what’s waiting for him … and if this year tells us anything, it’s that he won’t be unprepared.
    Stuart I think has learned one of the great funamentals of being a great PM from Bill Livingston … “Eye for Detail” and ” Big Picture” band management … he’s got quality support around him in both piping and drumming, and allows that support to do their job unhindered … That’s why he’s achieved so much this year in BOTH solo and band.
    Great Video …

  5. Had I received a proxy vote I would have filled it out and sent it in.

    Better yet I would have filled it out on-line using my PPBSO login account had that been possible.

    Had the conference bridge information been published I could have called in.

    I think the PPBSO should have a more inclusive approach that is optimized for the huge area that they purport to represent.




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