In the year just ending I was paying most attention to Grade 2 with Juvenile and Novice bands and their wider organisations. As everyone will know, most of these competitions happen earlier in the day and are well worth following. They are often led by big names in the upper grades.
In Juvenile, Matt Wilson’s (FMM) Dollar Academy Juvenile Band (pictured top) had the lot – sound, tightness, musicality and maturity beyond the years of the young players. Ian Simpson’s George Watson’s Juvenile band similarly assured. Tributes though to West Lothian Schools and their exited P/M Gordon Bruce, now heading to Kilmacolm. David Ross (Glasgow Police) is the drumming tutor and this band will have to reset after Gordon’s departure.
Similarly at Heriot’s, the Novice band P/M Ally Henderson (Inveraray) departed for pastures new. North Lanarkshire has an excellent teaching programme, as does Preston Lodge High School, and then there is Oban, Kintyre and the others coming along in leaps and bounds.
That feeder system works for Simon Fraser University too, with Robert Malcolm Memorial in the midst. How long will Juvenile remain though? – a bigger question for another day. On SFU – what about Jack Lee and his excellent solo wins at the back end of the summer/autumn? A true scholar of his craft and still there as Pipe Sergeant in the band that his soul connects with.
The history books will record a blindingly good year for the men and women of Inveraray and District as they marched to the World title in August, pushed hard by Field Marshal Montgomery, but prevailing. The ‘Ray march on to what will be a sell out concert in Northern Ireland in 2018, and managed to pick up the Trad Awards ‘Pipe Band of the Year’ as the glittering celebration in Paisley – in a dry swimming pool. Now there is something I never thought I would be writing.
No major solo success for Pipe Major Liddell this past year and and a sacrifice perhaps in the name of the team. There were other solo successes from within his piping ranks of course, and the sublime Steven McWhirter taking his seventh straight, and eighth overall, solo drumming title at the Andante sponsored World Championship in October. More than that, a good few ‘Ray snare drummers made the final and semi-finals.
To close the Old Year and open the New, Stuart will lead his pipes and drums on the BBC Hogmanay show in a few days time. It was their year, crafted from all those hours back in the start from Juvenile, to Grade 1 Champions – congratulations on a wonderful journey.
Whatever happens, I hope we can all be there next season and enjoy some of the finest music ever given to the world. Over and out – slainte.
• Stay tuned to PP for our panel’s exclusive, no holds barred, 2017 awards. Read yesterday’s review from MacStig here.