In Pittsburgh, PA, for the annual Balmoral Classic US Amateur Piping Championship. The judges are myself, Amy Garson and Lezlie Webster.
The 12 competitors and their tunes:
It should be a good competition. Lots of excellent prizes for the winners. I do a free workshop for all competitors on the Sunday. More details here.
Pittsburgh is of course the home of Carnegie Mellon University where Jimmy McIntosh established the first piping professorship. Present incumbent Andrew Carlisle is doing a remarkable job training new pipers and keeping Jimmy’s legacy alive.
A visit here is also tinged with sadness given that the city is associated with the demise of the great Alasdair Gillies, Andrew’s predecessor. This sad piping story is told in detail and with regret in Jimmy’s recent book.
Could we have done more to help Alasdair? I doubt it, but what a dreadful loss his passing was to piping and of course his family.
SPA President and solo judge Logan Tannock: ‘Last summer I was down in Dunedin, New Zealand visiting our son Murray who is the current P/M of City of Dunedin Pipe Band.
‘I brought out the pipe with me as Murray’s band were playing at the All Blacks v Ireland test in Dunedin on the 9th of July; it was a slightly different atmoshpere to playing at Murrayfield.
‘While I was there I also played at the Pipers Club in Temuka held at the South Canterbury Pipe Band Hall on the 8th. July, to an audience of around 50 folks and at the Pipers Club in Dunedin in the City of Dunedin Pipe Band Hall. Unfortunately the Dunedin event had to be postponed a week due to a covid outbreak and the crowd was very small, but it did make for an intimate recital which the folks there seemed to enjoy.
‘I have shared a link to a couple of hornpipes and a jig, which while not absolutely perfect, I hope you enjoy listening to it. It was nice just to play without the pressures of competing.
‘Re your 70s Tribute band performance at the Worlds, I have an interesting aside to that 1970 competition. It was my first ever competition. I went with the Alloa Collieries Pipe Band and, coming from Clackmannanshire, The Hills of Alva was one of the first tunes I learned.’
Have a listen to Logan. Who said judges can’t play?
Alistair Aitken OBE: It was with great sadness that I learned of the sudden passing of Florence Allan, former RSPBA National Councillor/Director, at home on Friday 4th November.
Florence represented the North of Scotland Branch of the Association on the governing body for many years. She was a committed supporter of the work of the RSPBA, serving on many of its sub-committees and regularly officiated at all the major championships and at local competitions in the north of Scotland.
She was also an active member of the former RSPBA Historical Research Group along with her husband Doug, the late Tony Harris, Kevin Reilly and myself.
Florence was also a member of the RSPBA Working Group which resulted in the Adjudicators’ Panel being accepted in 2004 as a formal committee within the Association’s constitution. On her retirement from the RSPBA, Florence became an Honorary Life Member of the Association.
Fife-based judge and former Scots Guards Pipe Major Jimmy Banks has made the local paper with a full story about his tune Willie, the Royal Fendersmith which was played at the Queen’s funeral. As well as the nice picture (below) there’s more detail on the tune than hitherto known.
Willie was Jimmy’s brother and for ten years was responsible for the 300 fireplaces at Windsor Castle. Jimmy (75) said: ‘Pipers from around the world have been in touch and one of my colleagues said it was now one of the most listened to pipe tunes ever.
‘My brother was a real character in the Scots Guards before he worked for the Queen. When he died I was feeling sad and wrote the tune for him and recorded it after his funeral.
‘The Queen liked the tune and asked for it often from her piper. I’m also reliably informed she would ask for it at events at Balmoral. I was shocked when it was played as the Queen was laid to rest. It is understood she requested the tune for her service.
‘It was played by her personal piper and he did a very good job. Sitting watching was quite a moment. It’s a tune that means so much to me.
‘It will be remembered from the Queen’s funeral but it was composed as a tribute to Willie and I hope people will come to know its background. I hope more bands around the world will take it up and play it.’
Tutor Books 1-3 (USA)
60 lessons in three outstanding tutor books taking the complete beginner to intermediate level and introducing the classical music of the pipes, piobaireachd. All books have free audio and/or video back-up fully explaining the exercises, tunes and the required expression. Since they first appeared in 2015 these books have sold hundreds of copies worldwide. Price includes mailing of £12.