Ken Stewart reports…….The annual Northern Ireland Piper of the Year competition took place on Saturday 14th October 2017 in the Adair Arms Hotel in Ballymena.
This is an invitation only competition and is promoted by the Northern Ireland Piping Society. Competitors are invited to play on merit and must have competed in both MSR and Piobaireachd competitions in Ireland during the current year.
The Piobaireachd event took place in the afternoon and each competitor was asked to play a tune of their own choice.
In the evening each player has to submit three competition Marches, Strathspeys and Reels in addition to one Hornpipe and Jig. This is an open competition so both Senior and Junior pipers compete against each other for the overall award of Piper of the Year. The only concession for junior players is that they have to submit only two MSRs. The Piper of the Year is Kris Coyle who is pictured above.
Writing on Facebook Kris said: ‘I am absolutely delighted to be crown NI Piper of the Year. A great event which thankfully was well attended. Congratulations to all the other prize winners, the standard in my opinion was superb yesterday. Lastly a word of thanks to the organisers for what was a very enjoyable day out and for hosting Northern Ireland’s premier solo event.
Runner up for the overall award this year was junior player Ryan Cupples-Menendes. This young man is only 16 years old and made a great impression on both adjudicators with his performances throughout the competition.
The adjudicator for the Piobaireachd competition was Angus MacColl and he was joined by David Caldwell for the MSR and Hornpipe & Jig.
It is expected that the adjudicator provides a short recital at the end of the competition and Angus gave an outstanding display on a beautiful instrument.
Results for the event are as follows:
1st William Rowe, Lament for Hugh
2nd Kris Coyle, Lament for the Viscount of Dundee
3rd John McElmurray, Lady Margaret MacDonald’s Salute
1st Kris Coyle
2nd Ryan Cupples-Menendes
3rd Ashley McMichael
4th Kevin Rogers
Hornpipe & Jig:
1st Kris Coyle
2nd Ryan Cupples-Menendes
World Solo Drumming & International Juvenile Tenor Solo Competition… Choking on his Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, MacStig was taken aback by the sheer volume of entrants for the Adult snare qualifiers as reported on PP.
The conclusion must be that snare drumming is in great health and the increased numbers in snare lines in the upper grades (10-12 is now normal), is well reflected in the sheer scale of entries for 2017.
It goes even further than that though, with the ‘pre-qualified’ drummers already lined up in the semi finals – if you were a finalist last year, you are already named in one of the two the semi finals. If you won one of the relatively new regional qualifiers, you are already in too. Those are already 19 top-notch drummers.
The arithmetic of it means that the 50 or so in the heats are chasing 18 available places in the semi finals, to join those already on the roster. Within that ’50’ are historical past finalists too, so the odds of making the semi final from three big qualifiers are small.
From those 37 semi finalists will emerge 12 finalists, who go through both March Strathspey & Reel and Hornpipe & Jig for a wider judging panel (four judges for each element).
A brief word on judging – there are many of them and they will be scattered over dozens of performances throughout the day. The management of that roster and arriving at the eight who will judge the blue ribbon final is a feat in itself. There are some former World Solo Champions on the bench of course. Also noted is Mr Joe Noble, one such former winner, who will take a seat as one of four to judge the H&J final, having retired as an Adjudicator for band competitions post the Worlds in August.
Many overseas arrivals are expected in Glasgow during the week, and we should warmly welcome competitors from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA across all the grades. A great effort in making the trip, incurring the expense and having a go.
Briefly looking into the Juvenile categories, there are plenty of overseas players and Grade 1 band names mentioned in these under 18, and lower, age groups too – again pointing to the burgeoning teaching programmes and development of young talent in the very top grades. For instance, in top Juvenile section, ‘5 MSR’, 16 of the 21 players are with Grade 1 bands.
Over in the Tenor solo competition, a very healthy field of entrants, approaching 50 or so Juvenile drummers, at different stages in their drumming careers.
A final word for the myriad of pipers who will be standing side by side to their drumming colleagues throughout the week, and on the day itself. The unsung heroes of the event of course. No pressure on them? Not a word of it, they have to be absolutely on the money.
We’ll have a report on the Championships in due course. Over and out.
• The World Solo Drumming takes place at Glasgow Caledonian University on Saturday, October 21 from 9am. The picture up top is of Craig Munro of Wallace Bagpipes playing for Grant Cassidy of St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band, Dublin.
The promoters of the Balmoral Classic weekend in the US have sent this: Two new events have been added to the 2017 Balmoral Classic schedule, to be held in Pittsburgh, USA, on the weekend of November 17-19. In an effort to attract more young drummers to the pipe band world, the Balmoral Classic will host its first ever Novice Snare Drumming Competition, for entrants 21 years of age or younger. APPLY BY OCTOBER 17 at:
On the following day, Sunday, November 19, from 10am to noon, the Balmoral School will offer a free workshop for pipers on the Silver Medal tunes, with Dr. Jack Taylor of St. Andrews, Scotland. Dr. Taylor is a winner of the Braemar Gold Medal, the Gold Medal in Inverness, the Gillies Cup and the Silver Chanter. He is president of the Piobaireachd Society of Scotland and is a senior judge for Piobaireachd.
Highlights of the Balmoral Classic weekend include a Friday night reception, the US Junior Solo Bagpiping and Solo Snare Drumming Championships on Saturday, and a Saturday night concert featuring Alasdair Fraser, long regarded as Scotland’s premier fiddle ambassador, and brilliant Californian cellist Natalie Haas. For additional information about the weekend events, please visit our website at balmoralclassic.org.
It is with real sadness that I report the passing of Andrew Bonar who has died after a three-year battle with brain cancer, writes the Editor. Andrew (51) was a brilliant piper with the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band and on the front rank during their glory years of five World Championship wins under P/M Terry Lee. Andrew is fourth from the left in there picture above.
Andrew was also an accomplished solo piper and later in his career took to studying piobaireachd where he was quickly successful winning the Silver Medal at Inverness in 2010.
I interviewed him after that success and I can honestly say that I have never met a more humble or grateful man. Yet within a few years fate struck and he was diagnosed with his last illness.
Andrew, an air traffic controller by profession, remained positive throughout his treatment and was buoyed by the many messages of support from throughout the piping and pipe band worlds.
None gave greater support than the pipers and drummers of the SFU Pipe Band. They were with him to the end and it is to their eternal credit that they did all they could to offer him and his family what comfort that was possible in such trying circumstances.
P/M Terry Lee has sent this tribute: ‘Andrew came to the band in 1980 (then City of Port Moody PB) as a lad of 14 years. He still stands as one of youngest to join our pipe corps through the years. Whether in solo or band performance, ‘Boney’ had a real zest and determination for the task at hand. He was always one to take on the biggest jobs – nothing really fazed him. But amid this determination Andrew had a warm personality and was always interested in others; he was a friend to all.
‘He was a gifted performer and feisty competitor. His mind is what set him apart though and he was about as comfortable switching hands, or even playing a tune in reverse (front to back) as he was playing it in conventional mode. These are things most of us cannot even comprehend. He was always pushing boundaries.
‘Being both naturally talented and a hard worker kept him ‘in the hunt’ for prizes for an extended period of time. As a composer and arranger he was of the first rank and the band played a number of his catchy tunes and transpositions through the years.
‘However his other main focus was his family. He was a very proud father with daughter Kate doing very well at Highland dancing and his son Cameron a new and promising young piper. Boney was ‘Captain Facebook’, often keeping others updated with quick wit and results. His mind was never blank – even after his diagnosis – and he was always thinking and working on the next thing to be done. We thank him for his unsurpassed contribution to the band and for the friendship and kindness he showed to all who knew him.’
Andrew is survived by his wife Jeanette and children Kate and Cameron to whom we offer sincere condolences. Andrew’s name will live on in competition and wherever and whenever bagpipes are played in British Columbia and in the wider world. RIP my friend.
The Northern Ireland Piper of the Year contest takes place in the Adair Arms Hotel, Ballymena, Co. Antrim, tomorrow. The piobaireachd starts at 12 noon and the MSR at 7pm. All are welcome. Judges are Angus MacColl and David Caldwell and the hosts Kenny Stewart and Chris Stewart.
In the PP archive picture above a youthful Angus is photographed through the window performing at the now unfortunately defunct John MacFadyen Memorial Trust Lecture. The lecture was a showpiece event and used to be held every spring in the historic surroundings of Stirling Castle.
Also in the picture are that year’s lecturer, history professor Allan MacInnes, Trust Chairman, the late Alasdair Milne, and Trust Secretary Neil Fraser, Head of BBC Radio Scotland from 1987 -1992 and a leading Gaelic activist. I think this must have been in the late 80s but perhaps someone can give me a more accurate date. Read about Alasdair, former Director General of the BBC, here.
More up to date, here are last year’s winners at the NI Piper of the Year:
Stay tuned for results when we get them.
From Piper Press of May 1999: ‘The Scottish Pipers Association proved once again that open piping competitions are not impossible to run if they are properly graded and organised. Their 1999 event was an object lesson in how to carry this difficult task off. The contest began at 10am and finished at 6.30pm. There were 58 pipers entered, 36 in the ‘B’ grade piobaireachd. The number of young professionals recently out of the amateur ranks who seized this opportunity of making their mark among the big boys was significant. Innes Smith took the ‘B’ Piobaireachd and March, and Simon McKerral the Strathspey and Reel.
‘Other notables among the ‘B’ list were Niall Stewart, Andrew Hall, Allan MacColl, James Johnston and John MacPhee. In the senior events William McCallum won the overall and the member’s trophy with Greg Wilson taking the Former Winners MSR and the Strathspey and Reel. Stuart Shedden continued his good form with second in the ‘A’ Piobaireachd, and Leslie Hutt must surely now be given his place in the Gold Medal list following his third prize.
‘Competition chairman was Dr Leslie Craig and the judges were Ronald Morrison, James Young, Donald MacPherson, Angus J MacLellan, Hugh MacInnes and Joe Henderson. Congratulations are due to Glasgow Academy for providing the SPA with premises free of charge, the Competing Pipers Association for helping with the stewarding and to the SPA themselves for continuing to provide an open platform for the aspiring professional.
‘A’ Piob: 1 William McCallum, Lachlan MacNeill Campbell of Kintarbert’s Fancy 2 Stuart Shedden, Lament for Captain MacDougall 3 Leslie Hutt, Rory McLoude’s Lament 4 Brian Donaldson, MacDougall’s Gathering Former Winners MSR: 1 Greg Wilson 2 Brian Donaldson 3 William McCallum March ‘A’: 1 Gordon Walker 2 Michael Gray 3 Peter Hunt S&R ‘A’: 1 Greg Wilson 2 Iain Speirs 3 Michael Gray ‘B’ Piob: 1 Innes Smith, Corrienessan’s Salute 2 Niall Stewart, Wee Spree 3 Andrew Hall, Donald of Laggan 4 Donald Campbell, The Groat March ‘B’: 1 Innes Smith 2 James Johnston 3 Allan MacColl 4 John MacPhee S&R ‘B’: 1 Simon McKerral 2 Allan MacColl 3 James Johnston 4 Innes Smith
All of the judges on the benches that day have now, sadly, passed on, but memory serves well. Donald MacPherson would quietly mention when his pupils were playing, and thus, rather than relegate himself to the lower contests, was able to give the top players the benefit of his expertise and knowledge – and the contest the status it deserved.
Pipe Bands Australia have confirmed the following as office bearers for the next two years:
President Chris Earl (re-elected unopposed)
Secretary Steve Patterson (re-elected unopposed)
Treasurer Tim Bodey (re-elected unopposed)
Committee: College representative Tony Bidgood (re-elected unopposed) and James Cowie
College principals Tony Bidgood (drill and dress), Dean Hall (drumming) and Jamie Forysth (rules and administration) were re-elected unopposed and Brett Tidswell was re-elected principal piping.
There is great work being done for piping and drumming by the South West Scotland Piping and Drumming Academy. Building on a tradition established by John Cowan, Walter Cowan (pictured instructing above), Alfie Geddes, Ian Clowe, Jim McConnachie and the late Tony MacDonald, the South West Scotland Piping & Drumming Academy is forging ahead with a programme of tuition which is sure to produce many top-level players if not champions in their own right. Here is the latest from the Academy Chairman Andrew McCartney:
We are now teaching in 10 schools throughout Dumfries and Galloway, plus we have an invitation to address pupils and parents at the new high school in Dalbeattie when it opens next month. This involves the school itself and four attached primary schools.
We have a working weekend planned for both pipers and drummers from Friday 12th until Sunday 14th January 2018, in conjunction with the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland. This will culminate with a concert in the local parish church in Kirkcudbright on the Sunday afternoon, and will feature the NYPBofS and some of our own young students.
The weekend will be mainly for residential students, but local students will be able to attend on a daily basis as accommodation is limited. The concert in Kirkcudbright on the Sunday will be open to anyone and admission will be free.
Our 2018 Summer School is scheduled to be held, once again, at SRUC Barony Campus near Dumfries from Sunday 8th until Friday 13th July. This is for both resident students and local students attending on a daily basis.
The South West of Scotland Piping & Drumming Academy Juvenile Competition for piping and drumming is scheduled to be held in Locharbriggs Primary School (venue to be confirmed) on Saturday 29th September 2018.
Monthly piobaireachd workshops are scheduled to re-commence later this month and will be held in the classrooms at Barfil Farm, Crocketford, by kind permission of Bob Lee and Maggie Gordon.