Editor’s Notebook: Forres Thoughts/ Ian C Cameron/ Jim Dow/ Balmoral Concerts/ Gaelic Cash

Shotts at Forres

Not being able to travel to Forres for the British I had a listen to a few of the Grade 1 bands online. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

Of those I heard I thought third placed Shotts had the most complete MSR. The winners Boghall had an outstanding march…but then the strathspey. Inveraray, second, likewise.

Band drummers these days don’t play strathspeys in the traditional sense, four beats to the bar with strong, weak, medium, weak, pulsing.

They play what I call ‘band-straths’ or BS for short. As was amply demonstrated at Forres, we have pipe corps doing their best to keep to the tradition, playing in lockstep unison on sparkling instrument with precision technique.

Simultaneously we have drum corps doing just the same – but rhythmically miles away from the pipers. Not for them the clearly defined four beats in the bar and the ‘scotch snap’.

No, what we get instead is ‘four beat filler’, a lolloping bounce along, completely at odds with the sharp cuts of the pipers. It produces an effect about as far from good ensemble as you’re likely to get. We hit the reel and the relief from the conflicting oscillation is almost palpable.

Band adjudicators must surely do something about this. How can you win a drumming award when you don’t play with the pipers? How can you succeed in ensemble with this conflict going on?

There are a few strathspeys that more readily bring the two sections of the band together despite their different approaches. Cameronian Rant is one, Islay Ball and Inveraray Castle are others. Those runs mean drummers can just about get away with it and there’s less of a clash with the pipers.

That’s why Shotts get my vote from last Saturday. They took their march, Stirlingshire Militia, at a cracking pace. Then they played the Rant and, with Charlie’s Welcome, completed an MSR – the rest an MBSR.

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Following our recent mention of Ian C Cameron, Joanna Watt (nee Cameron) writes: ‘Captain Cameron was my grandfather. He was born 10th January 1909. He sadly passed away on 7th November 1990. I am his 45-year-old granddaughter. I remember going with my grandpa to piping competitions. I also have fond memories of pipers coming to the Cramond Brig Farm House on the Queensferry Road. 

Ian C Cameron

‘My father was Alasdair Lorne Cameron. Sadly, he passed away on 9th September 2001. My uncle Iain Cameron (father’s brother) has also passed away. My grandpa’s nephew, Richard Cameron [former Piping Convenor at the Northern Meeting], is still alive and I am visiting him in July. He has written a book about his life and talks about his uncle in great detail.’

I hear of the passing of piper Jim Dow, one of the stalwarts of the Muirheads five-in-a-row Worlds winners from the 1960s. After leaving Muirheads Jim resettled in the north and was, I believe, a member of Tain Pipe Band where he spent many years passing on his considerable knowledge. Jim is forth from the left, front rank in this picture of the victorious Muirheads band of 1966.

The Balmoral School of Piping & Drumming will present two free concerts this summer. They feature Bruce Gandy, Derek Midgley, Terry Tully, Andrew Carlisle and others. The first concert is at Kutztown University, PA, on July 11, at 7:30pm. The second concert is on July 18, at 7:30pm, in the Pogue Student Center, 405 Scotland Rd, Edinboro, PA 16444.

Balmoral staff instructor, Richmond Johnston, will be Master of Ceremonies for both concerts. Sean Regan (staff piping instructor) and Ian McLeod (staff drumming instructor) will perform in Edinboro, alongside guest instructors. More info at bagpiping.org. To inquire about scholarships, discounts, or financial aid, call (412) 323-2707.


The Scottish Crannog Centre, a historic site and museum near Aberfeldy, Perthshire, is holding a midsummer music festival on June 21. It features professional piper John Dew and Calum McIlroy, BBC Young Musician winner. Further info here.

Fèisean nan Gàidheal are administering two funds which may yield money for piping projects. The deadline for applications to Tasagh (‘Investing’) is next Friday, June 21. £36,500 is available to applicants with a proven track record in Scottish traditional dance, storytelling or music, including pipers.  Awards of between £250 and £1,000 are available and past successful projects include music classes and workshops. There will be two further rounds for applications: 25th October 2024 and 31st January 2025. The Gaelic Arts Fund has £75,000 to distribute and is also open for applications, with 28th June and 15th November the two deadlines. Further information at https://www.feisean.org/en/tasgadh/ and https://www.feisean.org/en/meg-en/.


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