Australians Dominate the 2020 Balmoral Classic, US Junior Solo Piping & Drumming Championships

November 14-15, 2020: The 14th Annual Balmoral Classic, featuring the US Junior Solo Piping & Drumming Championships, began on Saturday morning with piobaireachd contests streaming via YouTube starting at 8:30am EST. 

This was the first Balmoral Classic that was online, remote and virtual. Scheduling and logistics were intensive and very competently organized and executed by Sean Patrick Regan, Co-ordinator of Online Programs; Leslie Clark, Balmoral’s Associate Director; Elaine Lee, Marketing Director; & Arthur McAra, Master of Ceremonies. Clark and Regan also served respectively as Registrar and Chief Steward for the Classic.

By George Balderose, Executive Director Balmoral Schools

Fifteen pipers were invited to participate in the contest: eleven from eight US states, two from Canada, one from Australia, and one from Scotland. Four drummers were invited to compete in the contest: two from the US, one from Canada, and one from Australia.

Competitors submitted one video for each of two events in their discipline: an MSR and Piobaireachd for pipers, and an MSR and Hornpipe & Jig for snare drummers.

PIPING CONTESTANTS: Sebastian Benedetto, Cape Neddick, Maine, Gillian Blaney, Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, Canada, Alexandra Knox, Woodbine, Maryland, Elizabeth Knox, Woodbine, Maryland, Harrison Little, Fergus Falls, Ontario, Hugh MacKay, Redmond, Washington, Calum MacNeil, Dearborn, Michigan, Thomas McCollum, Deerton, Michigan, Alexandra Miller, Safety Harbor, Florida, Katherine Miller, Safety Harbor, Florida, Rhys O’Higgins, Madison, Wisconsin, Jacob Shelton, Golden, Colorado,David Stulpner, Swanbourne, Perth, Australia,Colin Swett, West Chester, Pennsylvania, Duncan Winters, Grand Junction, Colorado & Dollar, Scotland

DRUMMING CONTESTANTS: Rowan Brown, Middle Island, New York, Thomas Carruthers, Melba, Canberra, Australia, Alec Flansburg, Rotterdam, New York, Cameron MacDonald, Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Piobaireachd: The Balmoral Award
1. David Stulpner, Corrienessen’s Salute
2. Gillian Blaney, Battle of Waternish
3. Katherine Miller, Lament for Captain MacDougall
4. Hugo MacKay, Beloved Scotland
5. Sebastian Benedetto, Black Donald’s March

March, Strathspey, Reel: E.W. Littlefield, Jr. Award
1. David Stulpner, Inveran, Inveraray Castle, Bessie MacIntyre
2. Katherine Miller, The Braes of Castle Grant, Lady Mackenzie of Gairloch, The Smith of Chilliechassie
3. Alexandra Knox, MacNeil’s March, Lady Louden, Roddy MacDonald’s Fancy
4. Rhys O’Higgins, John MacColl’s March to Kilbowie Cottage, John Roy Stewart, Thompson’s Dirk
5. Harrison Little, Balmoral Highlanders, Susan Macleod, Willie Murray

Overall: 1st prize Ralph & Patricia Murray Memorial Award and a set of MacRae Bagpipes by McCallum
1. David Stulpner
2. Katherine Miller
3. Gillian Blaney
4. Alexandra Knox
5. Hugo MacKay
Judges: Rob Wallace, Jim McGillivray, Scot Walker

The Overall piping winner was David Stulpner of Swanbourne, Perth, Australia, who took first place in both the MSR and the Piobaireachd. As Overall Winner he won a set of blackwood Duncan MacRae Bagpipes donated by McCallum Bagpipes, and the Ralph and Patricia Murray award for two weeks at a 2021 Balmoral Summer session of his choice. David also won the E.W. Littlefield, Jr. Award for the MSR event and a handcrafted “Mac 1” blackwood pipe chanter donated by MacLellan Bagpipes, and the Balmoral Award for the MSR event and a ‘Piper’s Choice’ set of smallpipes donated by Scott’s Highland Services of London, Ontario.

Prizes for 3rd  to 5th place pipers included an Antique Thistle Faux Seal Sporran donated by Celtic Croft, and additional prizes donated by Duncans Highland Supply, Pipers Hut, McGillivray Piping Inc, Temple Records, and the Balmoral School. The 2nd to 5th place Overall Winners receive tuition for one week at any of the 2021 Balmoral School summer sessions.

Piping Champion David Stulpner, Western Australia

March, Strathspey, and Reel: St. Andrew’s Society of Pittsburgh Award
1. Thomas Carruthers, Highland Wedding, Susan MacLeod, The Smith of Chillichassie
2. Cameron MacDonald, Highland Wedding, Bogan Lochan, John MacKechnie
3. Alec Flansburg, Hugh Kennedy, Cabar Feidh, Major David Manson
4. Rowan Brown, Hugh Kennedy, Maggie Cameron, Alick C. McGregor

Hornpipe and Jig: Pittsburgh Firefighters Memorial Pipe Band Award
1. Thomas Carruthers, Boxhill Bandit, The Trip to Modera
2. Rowan Brown, Scots Air Hornpipe, Donald Cameron’s Powder Horn
3. Cameron MacDonald, Lucy Cassidy, The Mermaid
4. Alec Flansburg, Chasing Shadows, The Kitchen Maid

Overall: David L. Peet Memorial Award
1. Thomas Carruthers
2. Cameron MacDonald
3. Rowan Brown
4. Alec Flansburg
Drumming Judges: Jim Kilpatrick, Steven Shedden, Gordon Bell

Andrew Dye for Thomas Carruthers
Ian K. MacDonald for Cameron MacDonald
Kegan Sheehan for Alec Flansburg
Thomas Stapleton for Rowan Brown

The Overall drumming winner, Thomas Carruthers from Melba, Canberra, Australia, who also took first place in both drumming contests. He was awarded a Premier HTS-800 Premier Snare Drum donated by Henderson Imports of Traverse City, Michigan, the David Peet Memorial Award for the Overall Winner, and the Henry Matthews Scholarship for two weeks at the 2021 Balmoral Summer session of his choice.

Thomas also won the St. Andrew’s Society of Pittsburgh Award for his first in the MSR and The Pittsburgh Firefighters Memorial Award his first in the Hornpipe & Jig. Prizes for the 2nd place overall drumming winner included a Leather Hunting Sporran with Antique Celtic design donated by Celtic Croft and tuition for one week at any of the 2021 Balmoral School summer sessions.

3rd Overall received a copy of Massed Band Drum Scores for Pipe Band Drummers, by Hugh Cameron and Doug Stronach, and 4th Overall Winner received a World Pipe Band Championship DVD. The Overall Winners 2nd-4th receive tuition for one week at any of the 2021 Balmoral School summer sessions.

After the Saturday contests, there was a Live awards ceremony, attended by the competitors, their families, our judges and staff, and Classic supporters. After a break, we were treated to an outstanding solo virtual concert with Scottish fiddle virtuoso Alasdair Fraser, followed by a LIVE Q & A session with Alasdair. The concert and Q and A was also streamed on Sunday afternoon.

At the start of the second concert set the Overall Winners’ videos were streamed: Piper David Stulpner’s winning MSR video, and Drummer Thomas Carruthers’ winning Hornpipe & Jig video, accompanied by piper Andrew Dye.

The weekend event finished on Sunday morning with two workshops, free for the contestants: a Piobaireachd workshop with Robert Wallace, and a Drumming workshop with Jim Kilpatrick, both excellent sessions by masters of their art.

The Balmoral Classic was made possible by grants and donations from the Sage Foundation, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Ralph & Patricia Murray Family, McCallum Bagpipes, Henderson Imports, the St. Andrew’s Society of Pittsburgh, The Pittsburgh Firefighters Memorial Pipe Band, MacLellan Bagpipes, The Pipers’ Hut, Celtic Croft, Duncans Highland Supply, Scott’s Highland Services, McGillivray Piping Inc., Temple Records, Pittsburgh Trophy, and many individual donations.

Many thanks to the 2020 Balmoral Classic contestants, judges, musicians, sponsors, donors, the Balmoral School staff, the online publications and platforms, and the many volunteers, who helped to make the first VIRTUAL Balmoral Classic an outstanding success!

  • Read the Editor’s report on this competition here.

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