Category Archives: Comment

World’s Week: St Laurence O’Toole to Star at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band from Dublin under the leadership of P/M Alen Tully

Promoters Glasgow Skye Association Pipe Band have officially confirmed that St Laurence O’Toole Pipe Band from Dublin  will headline the 2018 ‘pre-Worlds’ concert at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Wednesday, 15th August 2017.

‘We are once again thrilled to host yet another of the world’s greatest pipe bands for the pre-Worlds concert,’ said Kurt Mackintosh (left) of the Glasgow Skye Association Pipe Band. ‘In addition to being one of the most entertaining and successful competing bands in recent times, St Laurence O’Toole are renowned for their concerts. It has been eight years since the band last took to the stage at our pre-Worlds concert and we have no doubt they will put on another fantastic show.’

The official concert poster

SLoT Pipe Major Alen Tully commented: ‘In 2010 we marked our 100 year anniversary by performing our much anticipated ‘Evolution’ concert to a sell-out crowd. We are delighted to have been asked back by the Glasgow Skye Association Pipe Band for the 2018 showcase.

‘The show is entitled ‘Turas Ceoil – Resume’ and it will take our audience on a journey through the ages, paying homage to where we have come from from a musical perspective right through to where we are today. We have a rich musical gene which runs both within the band’s own history and through our Irish roots and we believe our show will really bring that to life. We can’t wait to take to the GRCH stage once again.’

SLoT in concert

For updates on the show and all the latest band news, check out http://www.slotpb.com or on Facebook.

The Glasgow Skye Association Pipe Band has been proudly producing the ‘pre-Worlds’ concert since 1994. It aims to showcase the best pipe bands in the world and bring them to a local and international audience. The event is made even more special this year as it marks the Skye’s 50th anniversary.

Tickets are scheduled to go on sale go on sale later today, Saturday 17th February, and are available from the Royal Concert Hall box office online at www.glasgowconcerthalls.com or on (+44) 0141 353 8000 (Monday – Saturday 10am – 6pm). Tickets are £20.

From our earlier interview with Kurt Mackintosh….Without question the most important event in the week leading up to the World Pipe Band Championships is the major pipe band contest staged each year on the Wednesday by Glasgow Skye Association Pipe Band. The concert, now held in Glasgow’s prestigious Royal Concert Hall, has showcased the biggest names in bands and invariably attracts a sell out crowd of 2,000+. The hall provides a spectacular backdrop for the bands as shown in the picture above of Field Marshal Montgomery last year.

How many years has the band been running the Worlds Week concert? The band has been organising it since 1994, 23 years. The very first band to take part were the 78th Fraser Highlanders who presented their ‘Live in Scotland’ concert. This was at the Motherwell Civic Centre, our venue for the first five years. The aim at the time was to bring the prominent concert bands of the day to a wider audience and this first concert was a result of a friendship between our band’s previous Pipe Major, Kenny McLeod, and the then Pipe Sergeant of the 78th Frasers, Iain Donaldson. These early concerts were really successful and it became clear that there was a huge demand from the pipe band community to hear the best bands in the world showcasing their material. Later the band took the decision to change venue to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall which doubled the capacity and we have been there for the past 17 years. Read More here.


Young Pipers and Drummers Film/ Jack Joins South Florida Academy/ Balmoral Schools Schedule

Organisers of the European Pipe Band Championships ‘Piping at Forres’ are creating a short film featuring young pipers and drummers. The film will include interviews with the under 25s explaining how and why they got involved in a band. The documentary will be used to promote the European Pipe Band Championships which will be held in Forres for the last time in June 2018 after a six-year run in the Moray town.

Joanna Taylor of ‘Piping At Forres’, said: ‘We want to hear from bands, pipe majors or individuals who have something to say about young people, piping and its future. We know that there is a huge youth element within the piping community. At ‘Piping At Forres’ in 2017, we had more than 1,000 competitors under the age of 18. This documentary will not only explore why young people have joined bands and hopefully enthuse others to do the same.’

Gordon Hamill (pictured), chairman of the RSPBA, said: ‘We are more than happy to support this documentary. The Association is very proud of the fact that our biggest growth area in recent years is in Novice Juvenile and Juvenile bands. At the World Pipe Band Championships in 2017 a record number of 33 youth pipe bands competed. In addition, at the recent World Solo Drumming Championships a total of 130 Juvenile snare and tenor drummers competed. These young people are the future lifeline of pipe bands and the continuation of our promotion of our national music heritage.

‘In addition to our five major championships we organise and promote a further 45 local contests which encourages Juvenile bands to participate in their local area. We also encourage our juvenile members to test their ability and knowledge through our education programme that is approved by the SQA. We are delighted to be supporting Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018.’

If you are in a pipe band and want to get involved with the documentary contact Claire at Chit Chat PR & Digital, the company who will be creating the film, on 01309 641354 or email claire@chitchat.scot by March 7.


Professional grade piper Jack Williamson has joined the teaching faculty at the fully subscribed South Florida Pipe and Drum Academy. The school takes place in Boca Raton next week from February 26 till March 2.  Noah Morrissette, SFPDA organiser, said: ‘Such were our numbers that we had to bring another piping instructor on board and are very grateful to Jack for joining us at such short notice.’ Jack played with Bleary & District and is currently Pipe Major of the  Kansas City St Andrew Pipes & Drums.

Now turned professional, Jack is pictured as US Amateur Champion


The US’s Balmoral School of Piping and Drumming report: This summer, 2018, the Balmoral School will run an intensive summer program for pipers and drummers, in Indiana and Pennsylvania, over four separate weeks. Both beginners and accomplished musicians will immerse themselves in weeklong sessions with some of the best pipers and drummers in the world. During the fourth session, the school will offer ensemble music for students who play other instruments. Program Director Colin Bell will compose custom arrangements of Celtic traditional music and participating students in various ensembles will unveil their work in performances throughout the week.

June 14-June19: University of Indianapolis; Piping: Jimmy Bell, Duncan Bell; Drumming: Gordon Bell
July 8-13: Shady Side Academy, Fox Chapel, PA (5 minutes north of Pittsburgh); Piping: Robert Mathieson, Terry Tully; Drumming: Gordon Bell
July 15-20, East Stroudsburg University; Piping: Jimmy Bell, Robert Mathieson; Drumming: Gordon Bell
July 22-27, East Stroudsburg University; Piping: Jimmy Bell, Robert Mathieson; Drumming: Gordon Bell; Director of ensemble music: Colin Bell

Gordon Bell, Terry Tully and Robert Mathieson

Terry Tully: Former P/M of 2010 World Champion St Laurence O’Toole; Rob Mathieson: Led Shotts & Dykehead to over 30 major Grade One championships; five wins of the World Pipe Band Championships; published three books of his compositions. Jimmy Bell: Professional grade piper, EUSPBA, SUSPBA judges panels, director and principal instructor of the Scottish Heritage Program, P/M of Lyon College Pipe Band; Duncan Bell: Professional grade piper; Judges panel EUSPBA; P/S for Parlin and District. Founder of ’51 Ash’ Celtic Rock band; Gordon Bell: EUSPBA Overall Champion 1979-1987, over 30 years experience instructing, veteran of many top Grade One bands; Colin Bell: Music educator, percussionist and composer. The Balmoral Schools say: ‘Students, both individuals and pipe bands, will receive instruction on the great Highland pipes, smallpipes, snare, tenor drum and bass drum, in small classes of five or less, while making friendships that last a lifetime.’


PP Ed’s Blog: Alasdair at the Games/ MacDonald Mem./ Indian Lady Piper/ Masters of Piobaireachd/ Corby Change

Our Guide to the Games is proving very popular even after only one day. It gives me the opportunity of running the picture above from the collection of reader Duncan Watson. It is of a young Alasdair Gillies playing at Cawdor Castle games in the 1980s.

Alasdair was a supporter of the games even after he achieved what you might call piping’s equivalent of superstar status. Too many of our top professional shun the smaller games today. Not Alasdair; nothing he enjoyed more than having a tune and some crack in the outdoors. With the Gold Medals, Clasps etc comes a responsibility to support piping in every way possible and that includes getting out to Ceres, to Blair, to Pitlochry, to Morar and to Arisaig.

So come on you big boys, make a pledge for this summer not to confine your fresh air activity to Inveraray. If the games were good enough for the great P/M Alasdair Gillies they are good enough for you.

Read more about Alasdair in our ‘Famous Pipers’ column here and here he is performing at Luss:


If any reader has old piping or pipe band pix they’d like to share with the rest of our community please forward them on to the usual address. Having these pictures published is a rewarding way of re-kindling memories. And the pictures needn’t be from the top end of our endeavour. Everyone makes their contribution, therefore we are interested in snaps from all levels of the piping and pipe band spectrum.



MacDonald Mem

Northern Ireland correspondent John Kelly: McDonald Memorial Pipe Band and McDonald Academy Pipe Band hosted a great evening of food and craic at a Quiz and Social Night in Dromore Rugby Club on Friday 2ndFebruary.  The quizmaster was Gary McDonald.  The McDonald Academy Pipe Band hope to make their debut appearance in pipe band competitions in the second half of the season, possibly at the Ulster Championships at Newcastle on Saturday 21st July.


Indian piper Archy Jay has sent this from Delhi: ‘It’s a great honour for me that the Indian government has presented me with a National Award and Recognition at the President’s House for being India’s first Professional Female Bagpiper. This event was organized to honour about 112 ladies from India who are the first to excel in their field and the first to do what they do. In a country where people don’t even know what a bagpipe is very well. I was chosen for that instrument and officially bagpipes has now come under an award category which makes me immensely proud! I would love to share this news with the piping community.  I play the semi electronic bagpipes called red pipes. I play the medieval bagpipe model of the red pipe.’Well done Archy on getting the instrument recognised and on your award.


Received the latest royalty statement from Greentrax Recordings re sales of the Masters of Piobaireachd CDs. Still trickling out the door after many years and I think the benefit is being heard on the boards – though some could do with re-referring. The great thing about these CDs is that they represent traditional teaching, the carrying stream of knowledge. It is very easy in piping to drift off the timing you thought you were applying to a given piece. A quick listen to Messrs Brown and Nicol and you realise where you were going wrong.

Norman Matheson MBE, on whose collection these CDs were based, deserves enormous thanks from the piobaireachd loving community worldwide. He has been recognised by HRH Prince Charles for his service to piping on Deeside (below) but it is time the wider piping community acknowledged his contribution to our music.
By the way the royalties referred to go to a very deserving Highland games charity.

Prince Charles and Norman

The RSPBA have announced a change to their Diary: Corby will be on July 15 not July 8 as advertised. Get other band dates here.


Guide to the Games/ Pipe Band Drum Corps Recordings from 1970

The  Piping Press Guide to the Games 2018 is published today. It is based on that of the Scottish Highland Games Association and we are grateful to them for the information. Apart from the dates, this list does not profess to be complete or totally accurate. We have done our best with the available information. 

The list has been published as early as possible to allow pipers and enthusiasts to plan their summer and to encourage them to get out and have a tune in the outdoors among Scotland’s celebrated scenery. Many of the smaller games have been suffering from lack of attendance with the larger graded games attracting big numbers. But the small games are important too and they will only survive if pipers make the effort to support them. Rain and midges aside there is nothing quite like the Highland Games circuit in Scotland as those who have experienced the camaraderie and musical fun will affirm. Don’t let it die!

Winner of the Jigs, Brian Lamond, Fife, playing at Pitlochry Games 2017

We welcome any further information and corrections; please forward these to pipingpress@gmail.com and we will update the list as soon as possible. Some of the secretaries listed may be for the general games with other individuals responsible for the piping. We would be obliged if those involved could let us have this additional information if available.

Please check before entering or travelling. Get the 2018 PP Guide to the Games here. Entries for the prestigious Braemar Gold Medal are now open. Click here. The picture up top is of the 2017 winner Anna Kummerlöw, Germany.

If any games would like to advertise their event on Piping Press please download the Advertising Booking Form here. Cost is £50 for one month with a guaranteed readership of 10,000+ per week.


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Steve Rooklidge (left), who featured in yesterday’s story about a new piping radio show, has kindly forwarded an interesting pipe band recording from his collection. Steve writes: ‘I found something that may interest you. I have a cassette tape that was recorded at the Cowal Games in 1970.

‘It was recorded by Bill Wendeborn; he was my first drumming instructor and owned a specialty shop in Portland, Oregon, called British Imports Ltd.  Some veteran pipers and drummers still around may remember Bill and his wife ‘Granny’ Clarke when they hosted many of the regimental bands that passed through the Pacific Northwest in the 1960s to early 1980s.
Alex Duthart and his Shotts corps rom the late 1950s

‘When Bill would travel to Scotland he would wander about the games recording drum corps especially, and this audio file shows that meandering on/off recording he did.  Strange and delightful things pop up.  There is Duthart running his corps through the paces of the famous Hills of Alva medley, and others with no names.

‘I’d be greatly interested if some old timers can pick out their bands in the background. There is great elegance in the simplicity of some of these drum scores, and I think some modern bands, particularly of lower grades, should listen carefully.  Great stuff is timeless!’

Check out the recording here. If anyone can identify the relevant drum corps please email us with the approximate time from the recording. That way we will be able to build up a list of who is actually playing on the tape.


New Internet Piping & Pipe Band Radio Show/ Worlds 2017 Final Gallery of Pix

A new internet radio piping programme, The Piping Hour, has been launched in the US. The host is piper Steve Rooklidge, the man behind the Shasta Piping Society in California, sponsors of the popular piobaireachd composing competition.

The show is available here on KKRN with tomorrow (14/2/18) the first run. One of the first tunes to be heard is Hugh MacCallum playing the Lament for Mary MacLeod.

The station’s mission statement reads: ‘KKRN FM, is a volunteer-based, listener-supported radio station fostering positive social change and healthy communities by entertaining, informing and educating through diverse music, culture, news, and public affairs programming.’

New piping broadcaster Steve Rooklidge

Steve writes: ‘The first show can be streamed at http://kkrn.org/ Just scroll down to The Piping Hour. I want to make an effort to air music from the post-war period to today.  Main focus is on piobaireachd, with 2 – 4 played during the hour, but also air the Gaelic song recordings from the last 30 years that are rarely heard, including some archive materials that may not have the best sound quality but certainly should inform any player of the music.  I am very thankful for the chance to bring some of the more obscure artists to the airwaves.

‘I’m trying for an eclectic mix that will keep the listener guessing and hopefully pleasantly surprised. Michael Cusack’s Park Piobaireachd in a Mary O’Hara sandwich! I hope this show adds to the offerings of great programs by Gary West, Rab Lennox, Mark Wilson, and now Catriona MacNeil [BBC Gaelic Radio’s piping programme ‘Crunluath’].  I will be reserving a segment of the hour where pipers around the world can submit their work for play on the air.  On schedule already are some of the original pieces submitted for last year’s piobaireachd composer contest, and we hope to have many more available for broadcast after April 1st!’



Pipe band people, we know the weather is dreich; we know you are struggling with all that new band music but remember it will all be worth it in the end and spring is just around the corner!

Please note some of these dates are liable to change. Check with the RSPBA before travelling

Download the above guide to the 2018 band season here – all the majors and the minor contests too. To get you in the mood for the new season here is our final gallery of pictures from the 2017 Worlds: