It was the year when we finally shook off the fear and loathing of the pandemic and the brutal authoritarianism of lockdown, now thoroughly discredited. Piping came back with a bang – but only just in time.
We lost many potentially good young players, and bands and societies have all suffered a fall off in interest (and on the writing front the ever-popular MacStig is no more).
By the Editor
Otherwise our great movement proved its resilience. Mysteriously dormant during the shutdown were the RSPBA. No online stuff at all through the covid years that I could see.
But come the spring they regained their confidence and put on a superb season of music thanks in no small part to one of the finest summers any of us can remember, and to their devoted ex-Chief Exec Ian Embelton.
I was not alone in traipsing down to Gourock last May to hear the first drum roll for almost three years. It was a poignant scene seeing the out-of-practice stewards twisting and un-twisting the guy ropes of the judge’s tents.
From then on the bands never looked back. Had standards fallen? Well there may have been ring-rusty nerves around but it wasn’t long before the bands rediscovered their mojo. Across the grades the standard soon attained the heights of old.
On the solo front we missed the Uist & Barra and the pro contest at the Highlands and Islands. And yes, a few games failed to re-appear during the summer.
But again, once the bags started filling the flame of competition roared into view. We had an excellent season round the games with pipers turning out in good numbers. They sent a message to promoters: ‘Put on the contest and we’ll be there to support you.’ Well done to all concerned.
Let’s now look at those bands, individuals and piping bodies deserving of special mention for their work or success over the past 12 months.
Our Pipe Band of the Year has to be Field Marshal Montgomery. Pipe Major Richard Parkes became the most successful in history overtaking Ian McLellan’s 12 World titles with a splended performance at Glasgow Green in August – all the more deserving given that it required a consistency over four performances in front of no less than 16 judges.
Who would now bet against FMM becoming the premier band of all time? They need just another four Worlds wins to surpass the mighty Shotts & Dykehead on 16. And remember, FMM’s total has been garnered in just 30 years; Shotts’ first Worlds was in 1948 – more than double that time.
Runner-up in this category? Why, none other than the ’70s Tribute band who, thanks to P/M David Caldwell and Secretary Ken Stewart, brought together a bunch of old crocks to play with some style the Shotts winning medley of 1970, thus marking the first time this format had been tried at World level. The roar from the crowd when the Tribute band finished had us all crying into our bus passes.
Those we have lost…..
Our Piper of the Year can only go to one man and that is Angus MacColl. In August he won the Senior Piobaireachd at the Argyllshire Gathering and then headed north a week later to grasp the Clasp at the Northern Meeting. To those who are unaware, these are the two most prestigious awards in the world for the playting of ceòl mòr.
It was a considerable feat and a tribute to Angus’s knowledge and ability. And that is the point; he won in fine style. As our reviwer Dr Jack Taylor put it, ‘He played the entire tune [Nameless, Cherede darievea] with crispness and onward drive, never allowing it to sag, yet showing due musical nuance…..captivating.’
Second place must go a piper who is not seen on the competitive stage: P/M Paul Burns, Sovereign’s Piper, and the man who played so beautifully at Her Majesty The Queen’s funeral. As billions around the world watched and listened, P/M Burns gave immaculate performances of Sleep, Dearie Sleep and The Royal Fendersmith, this last written by Jimmy Banks for his late brother William. It must have been nerve-wracking but P/M Burns did not let his instrument or our music down.
Piping organisation of the year is the Piobaireachd Society for their work throughout the pandemic and beyond in teaching and raising the money to enable them to donate close on £15,000 in grants for the promotion of the music. Yes, I know I am biased but the facts speak for themselves. The Society’s cash helped many organisations bounce back from difficulty.
Close behind would be the PPBSO in Canada. They have been rejuvenated under their new President Michael Grey. Super stuff on history, membership drives and an all round positive attitude sets Mike and his team apart.
Downsides….our Lochgelly tawse is poised to give six of the worst to the BBC for their threats to ‘Pipeline’ and possibly ‘Crunluath’; to Inverness council for dropping the bands in it with their reneging over the Euros; to those Scottish (yes Scottish) politicians who are relentlessly cutting funding for piping and drumming in our state schools; to everyone who thinks tartan golf trousers are a substitute for the kilt, and to every airport security guy who gives pipers a hard time, especially that one in Philadephia.
- We wish all our readers, subscribers and advertisers a very Happy New Year. PP will return on January 3.