Northern Ireland News: James Frazer is Piper of the Year/ NI Pipers’ Solo Success/ New Band for Dromara

James Frazer, Field Marshal Montgomery, NI Piper of the Year

The annual NI Piper of the Year solo piping competition took place recently at the Adair Arms, Ballymena, and was organised by the Northern Ireland Piping Society.

The Society has been in existence since 1978 it promotes the ‘Piper of the Year’ title through an open competition in which senior and junior players compete together. Originally a three-legged competition it changed to a single event with a Piobaireachd section being added in later years.

By Gilbert Cromie, Northern Ireland Correspondent

This year’s winner was James Frazer from Rathfriland, while the Junior NI Piper of the Year was Marc Warnock who, according to the experts, gave some senior players ‘a run for their money’.

The piobaireachds played by the top three competitors were as follows: James Frazer – Nameless, Hiharin Dro O Dro, Marc Warnock – Flame of Wrath for Patrick Coagach, and Scott Wallace – King’s Taxes.

Competition organiser Ken Stweart provided me with the results. He commented on Marc’s performance as follows: ‘It is pleasing to note that Marc Warnock is classified as a junior competitor yet he has a grasp of ceol mor way beyond his years.

‘It is really encouraging to have younger players with the passion to study Piobaireachd and perform it at this level.’

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Ken also paid tribute to Mike Egan the organisation’s resident Reader who travels from Limerick to fulfil this role and has not missed a piobaireachd event, both competing and reading, since its inception in 1995.

For clarification, the role of the Reader in the Piobaireachd event is to ensure that the tune is played accurately. Some piobaireachd can last as long as 12-15 minutes and the performer must reproduce the tune without any note errors. The adjudicator has to concentrate on the musical interpretation whilst the Reader will check for accuracy.

Results: Piobaireachd (10 competitors): 1st James Fraser, 2nd Marc Warnock, 3rd Scott Wallace.
March, Strathspey & Reel (14 competitors): 1st James Frazer, 2nd Scott Wallace, 3rd James Stone, 4th Marc Warnock. Hornpipe & Jig: 1st James Stone, 2nd James Frazer. The adjudicators were Donald MacPhee and John Reville.

Other Solos

The 10th Annual Captain John A MacLellan MBE Memorial Piping Championship was held at the Army School of Piping & Drumming at Inchdrewer House, Edinburgh, on Saturday, October 7th.
Ashley McMichael was 2nd in the March, Strathspey & Reel and 5th in the B Grade Piobaireachd. Bradley Parker placed 3rd in B Grade Piobaireachd and 2nd in the B March Strathspey & Reel. John McElmurry came in 2nd in the C Grade MSR with Scott McKay in 3rd place.

Ashley McMichael

A week later was the Royal National Mòd held in Paisley Town Hall and organised by the Competing Pipers Association. Ashley McMichael placed 3rd in the A Grade March Strathspey & Reel and 2nd in the B Grade Piobaireachd in which Bradley Parker was placed 5th. Bradley placed 1st in the B Grade March Strathspey & Reel.

Meanwhile at the Scottish Piping Society of London competition held in the Caledonian Club, Belgravia, on November 4th, Bradley won the B Grade with a win in the MSR and a 3rd in the Piobaireachd. Alistair Donaghy was placed 3rd in the Hornpipe / Jig section in the B Grade. Other pipers with an Northern Ireland connection who competed were Andrew Carlisle, Kris Coyle, Jonathan Greenlees, Andrew Hall, Ashley McMichael, Dr Peter McCalister and John McElmurry. 

New Dromara Band

Domara Pipe Band in 1983

A group of pipe band enthusiasts have got together with a view to forming a non-contesting pipe band in Dromara, County Down. They are currently seeking experienced pipers and drummers as well as learners who will be made very welcome and who will be taught by qualified tutors.

The band practices each Monday under tutors Allen Crozier (pipes) and Sandy Steele (drumming) in Dromara Orange Hall at 24 Hillsborough Road. I understand that the band is working under the title ‘Dromara & District Pipe Band,’ and I know that many in the area will be glad to hear the sound of the pipes in the village once again.

The former Dromara Highland Pipe Band and its officials were at the forefront of the initiative by NI bands to seek membership of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association in the late 1940s. The band itself was the first from Northern Ireland to win the All-Ireland Senior Championships, a competition that was pioneered by them and the Fintan Lalor band from Dublin.

  • If you have any news from the piping and pipe band scene you’d like to pass on to Gilbert please email him here.

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