A Look Back at the 2023 Northern Winter School

A superb set of pictures issued yesterday perfectly captures the atmosphere and success of last week’s Northern Winter School.

It is held at a youth hostel at Müden/Örtze on Germany’s northern plain. Set among vast fields, woods and streams there’s nowhere to go. You have to get along. We do.

By the Editor

Fifty-two students, mostly pipers, worked to a curriculum and system we established at the first College of Piping Winter School at Brüggen in 2007.

A volunteer pipes Reveille at 7. Assembly is at 9. Here Principal Ronnie Bromhead and the instructors rally everyone to their learning day. Classes are graded and largely restricted to eight per teacher.

We work hard. Technique is central. We impress that speed is not important but accuracy is. We get their pipes sounding better than ever and show them how to blow steady. Tunes are never too difficult.

The drummers have maestro Stephen Creighton to guide them. None better. Stephen’s mantra is hard work with humour. When you see the way he engages at the pads you realise why he is so successful with the O’Tooles.

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The very popular competition

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Niklas in full flight

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Dirk receives his framed winning tune from Ronnie

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Barry hard at work

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Concert massed bands

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Mighty Creighton receives the crowd’s applause with a little help from a friend

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Bill Geddes in full concentration mode

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Stephen and Endeavour Award winner Tobi

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Harry and tune and poppy

At 4pm we all come together for band. Work done (for the moment), tutors retire for a refreshment. We discuss our day and iron out any issues.

After supper I run a Piobaireachd Club. Barry, Bill and Brian do other stuff. Classes finally over we gather round the fire for smallpipes and songs and if we are lucky Brian gets out the guitar and serenades us.

He has a wonderful voice and sympathetic chords. He leaves us close to tears with ‘Jock o’ Hazeldean’, ‘Sweet 16’, the ‘Green Fields of France’.


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Another night student Harry stands up and reminds everyone it’s close to Armistice Day and the need to remember the fallen. He reads a eulogy and plays a tune and sports his poppy with pride. Harry is German.

Wednesday evening our concert brought 400 locals to a nearby hall. No admission charge, just a donation on departure.

Each class did its bit then the instructors and a rattling drum salute before the Amazing Grade finale and a march off to the Black Bear and Scotland the Brave, the audience cheering and clapping along.

The last day there is the competition. It takes all day such are the entries. There’s a composing contest too.

That evening it’s certificates of achievement and the Jim Semple Award for Endeavour. How nice of Jim, a former NWS tutor, to donate this cup. How nice to see Tobi the drummer receive it from Stephen.

Then the winners play their winning tunes and we try a Strip the Willow to the super piping of young Niklas (what a prospect is this 15 year old).

The 2024 NWS is probably from November 15. Be quick.

  • The Northern Winter School, Germany, 2023, November 3 – 10. Principal Ronnie Bromhead; instructors John Bruce, Stephen Creighton, Barry Donaldson, William Geddes, Brian Lamond, Robert Wallace. Were you there? Any comments please post below.

3 thoughts on “A Look Back at the 2023 Northern Winter School

  1. Thank you Robert for this fabulous review. You summed up superbly a week full of hard work and emotions. It was my first time at the Winterschool but definitely not the last. All the instructors were so nice, easy to talk to and passionate in what they did. The evenings filled with your playing and especially Brian’s singing will still echo in my heart even when all the hard work is forgotten. Thanks a lot and see you again.
    Kirsten

  2. Thanks Robert for this article.

    The memories are still so close that reading them warms my heart and tears well up in my eyes when I think about Brian’s music.

    It was a wonderful week and nice to have been there for my very first time.

    See ya next year.

    Dani

  3. Such a wonderful review Robert.
    Thank you and the other instructors for your hard work, your 24/7 service, the constructive talks and the other happy moments we shared together.
    Cheers from Germany

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