Winners of Original Piobaireachd Composing Competition Announced

Jori Chisholm, Seattle, is the winner of the Original Piobaireachd Composing Competition sponsored by the California-based Shasta Piping Society and the Burley Bagpipe Company, British Columbia.

Under anonymous cover, Jori’s tune was the unanimous choice of the judges Mike Cusack, Texas, Bill Livingstone, Ontario, and Robert Wallace, Glasgow (Chairman). Jori receives £500 ($650). He is pictured above.

Runner up was Dave Mason of South Africa who receives £250 ($325) with John Bottomley, Director of Piping at the US Military Academy at West Point, third, receiving £100 ($130).

Listen to the winning tune here. Here is a the urlar (theme):And a copy of the full tune: Untitled Piobaireachd by Jori Chisholm

Jori Chisholm is an active piping competitor in North American and Scotland. He’s a four-time winner of the U.S. Gold Medal for Piobaireachd and has placed in the top three in the Gold Medal in Scotland.  He played with the SFU Pipe Band for 19 years and won the World Pipe Band Championships with the band three times.  He’s the founder of BagpipeLessons.com and the creator of the Bagpipe Gauge and the Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker.

His compositions and arrangements have been performed and recorded by pipers and pipe bands around the world.  He lives in Seattle with his wife and two sons.

A delighted Jori said: ‘I haven’t settled on a name for my tune yet but as I continue to explore the composition, the title might reveal itself to me with greater clarity in time. Sometimes when I compose, the name comes to me first and serves for inspiration for the tune.  Other times, the tune comes to me first and the name comes later, if ever.

‘I get inspiration from many sources: my family and friends, from great pipe tunes and great piping performances, and from the great composers and players of all types of music — including Donald MacLeod, Lennon & McCartney, Mozart, Scott Joplin, and countless others.’

The competition called for copies of original piobaireachd to be submitted by composers to a panel of qualified judges. The piobaireachd submissions had to be original to the composer but could be  of any style.



In the end there were 26 entries from around the world though most from the US:

Submission Total
USA 15
Scotland 5
Germany 2
France  1
Denmark 1
New Zealand 1
Australia 1
Male 25
Female 1
Single composer 25
Multi composers 1
Solo players 25
Multi players 1
Gold Medalists 4

Shasta Piping Society issued the following statement: ‘The sponsors of this event would very much like to express their appreciation and give special thanks to the three judges who provided the expert panel for the selection of the eventual winners.

‘Michael Cusack, William Livingstone, and Robert Wallace (Chairman) have all donated their time and effort gratis to keenly judge each of the 26 entries from seven countries.  This is no mean feat, as the written scores and audio file entries were made available to them through unlabeled folders with no names or titles that would expose the composer’s identity or intent.

‘It is only piobaireachd players with long years of experience who can compare the score with the audio to consider the musical intent of the composer, sift through these submissions at a long sitting, and determine the most outstanding of the lot.  Once the field of top entries was narrowed to six, the work began in earnest to scrutinize the nuanced merits of each entry until the top three were finally identified.

‘We can all agree that this effort, and their generous donation of it, was what made this event happen.  Without these judges, and like-minded players who pass the art from generations, piobaireachd would not be the blossoming community of so many players it has recently become.’

Shasta Piping Society

The mission of the Shasta Piping Society is to foster interest and proficiency in the traditional music of Scotland.  Originally started as a charitable arm of the Rooklidge Family Trust in memory of Leta Rooklidge, an earnest folk dancer between the world wars, the SPS was soon changed to a simple philanthropic group of members and friends.  Leta’s husband, CAPT Chester Rooklidge, served in the North Atlantic from 1939 to 1943 before being transferred to the Sicily invasion and had a great appreciation for the music and traditions of the sailors and soldiers of Scotland and Canada with whom he served.  The SPS survives through the generosity of their children, grandchildren, and friends.

The main function of the SPS is to provide a program that enables disadvantaged youth to receive refurbished instruments, so the financial burden of bagpipe purchase does not prevent them from becoming active musicians.  Another goal of the SPS is to encourage existing players to expand their repertoire to include musical scores not often heard by players or audiences.  Sponsorship of the piobaireachd contest is meant to reward in a small way the toil many composers endure while trying to express their creativity through an ancient art form.

Burley Bagpipe Company

Graham Burley produces high quality bagpipes in Penticton, British Columbia.  He has also refurbished pipes gifted through the Shasta Piping Society scholarship program.  Graham started learning to play the Great Highland Bagpipe at the age of seven, and currently serves as the Pipe Major of Summerland Pipes & Drums.  He started producing Scottish and Irish Instruments in 2003 during his machinist apprenticeship under the guidance of his father, a retired machinist.  Burley Bagpipe Company began full time production in 2013 to provide pipes with quality of tone, stability of sound, and beauty of craftsmanship.  He has also repaired, restored, and manufactured parts for antique bagpipes, and continues to provide bands and soloists with fine custom-made instruments.  Graham joined with the SPS in this endeavor because of his interest in hearing new compositions that may enhance the appreciation of piobaireachd and bring it to a wider audience.

We’ll have more on this competition later.


3 thoughts on “Winners of Original Piobaireachd Composing Competition Announced

  1. Congratulations to the three winners in the Shasta Piping Society Piobaireachd Composing Competition. What a fantastic number of entries from all around the world. l love Jori’s winning tune, especially those ‘run downs’ (what’s the proper name for them again –the something run down???) and the high A’s but altogether very interesting and a joy to listen to. I think you can hear the seasoned piobaireachd player in the composition and so it begs the question, can someone who isn’t, ever really compose a REAL piobaireachd (whatever that is!!). The score is also beautifully written and notated. The Shasta Piping Society and Burley Bagpipe Company as well as the judges, deserve hearty thanks for making such creative effort possible. Without this kind of organised event, I’m sure many wouldn’t get round to writing a finished and polished piece.

    1. Thank you Janet. I enjoyed writing my tune and simply thrilled that you and others enjoy it. Like many composers, I think, I have lots of little bits and pieces of unfinished tunes. This competition definitely motivated me to put all of the finishing touches on the tune.

      p.s. I’ve always heard it called the “Donald Mor Run down.” As seen in MacLeod’s Salute and some other tunes.

      1. Donald Mor Run Down—that’s it! Nice to see Dave Mason’s tune too as Runner Up. I don’t think we’ve seen the third winner yet unless I’ve missed it, but I’m beginning to see why mine didn’t make it!! It’s really quite different to what the judges seem to have been looking for. I hope to have the video up on YouTube within the week and although not a winner here, I hope many people enjoy it nevertheless. Certainly on the playing side, it would be incredibly hard to beat! But again, kudos to all for running the competition as it gives composers something to write for and indicates that somebody out there somewhere is encouraging new writing. Otherwise it can be terribly soul destroying when people write off composers efforts almost before they’re born!!!

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