Category Archives: Solo Piping

Another Successful Week in New England

The Editor writes: Another successful New England Pipe and Drum Academy has come to a close and I’d like to thank Tommy Johnston and Matt Pantaleoni for all their hard work during a rewarding week.

We didn’t have too many students to teach but those who did attended got the very best in piping and drumming instruction. Tommy’s reed making workshop was a real highlight and attracted a few outside visitors to the very pleasant surroundings of the Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Centre.

Tommy shows how it is done

It is run Episcopalian ladies and they know how to keep the likes of ourselves in order. They also feed us with the very best produce, some of it grown in their gardens at the centre situated in the Massachusetts woodlands north and east of Boston. We’ll be back next year, the object being to create a critical mass of well taught individuals who can go out and spread the word.

There are good teachers in New England make no mistake, but NEPADA provides the sort of immersion in piping and drumming which offers the unique benefits of joint music and making and learning. There is as much learned informally as there is formally.

Pipers are put through their paces

One of the lady pipers on the course Beverly Knapp is following in the footsteps of her grandfather in playing the pipes. Beverly has a snap of him in his uniform. His surname was Tyrie and he was from Forfar. Beverly is intrigued as to what British Army regiment it might represent. We think from the kilt and sporran that it is the Cameronians but this doesn’t chime with the Angus region. Any thoughts appreciated:

Our most promising piper was Jesse Fulton from Connecticut and drummer Patricia Edwards from New Hampshire. Jesse and Patricia are pictured below. Patricia received a set of drumsticks  and Jesse a practice chanter courtesy David Naill & Co.:

Patricia and Jesse

The dates for next year’s Academy are June 18 – 22.

Best wishes to Eric Ward wishing him a speedy recovery from his operation and also to Mike Nugent of the South Florida Pipe and Drum Academy after his recent bout of ill health.

Aberdeen Games Results (pix added)

Duncan Watson reports: The  weather  was  warm and dry and was good for piping but the extraneous noise of a funfair was overpowering at times and would have made it difficult for pipers in tuning and concentrating on their tunes.  Is there an answer to this when funfairs and such activities provide an attraction?  There was a big crowd of spectators in attendance.

The results were as follows;

1 Faye Henderson (pictured), Park Piobaireachd No 2
2 Sgt Ben Duncan, Battle of Waternish
3 Allan Russell, Mary’s Praise
4 Bruce MacDonald, Lament for Ronald MacDonald of Morar
5 Calum Brown, The Bicker
Judges : Norman Matheson , Duncan Watson

1 Brighde Chaimbeul
2 Calum Brown
3 Sgt Ben Duncan
4 Allan Russell

5 Alan Clark

Strathspey and Reel
1 Calum Brown
2 Sgt Ben Duncan
3 Brighde  Chaimbeul
4 Allan Russell

5 Alan Clark
MSR judges: Stuart Samson and James Hamilton

Brighde Chaimbeul winner of the march

1 Allan Russell
2 Calum Brown
3 Brighde Chaibeul
4 Alan Clark
5 Ben Duncan
Judge for the Jig and the juniors: Archie Maclean

Under 18 competition comprised one piper and of course he was awarded all the first prizes, the total  which incidentally would have eclipsed some of the senior prize winners booty.

March, Strathspey and Reel/ Jig
1 Liam Brown

US Piping Foundation Results

Mike Rogers reports: Congratulations to all the participants in the 31st annual United States Piping Foundation Amateur and Professional Piping Championships, held in memory of founder Maclean Macleod on 17 Jun 2017, in the Amy DuPont Music Building at the University of Delaware, Newark, DE.

In the Amateur events there were 8 pipers from throughout North America, and 14 in the Professional events. The adjudicators for the Amateur Competitions were James Bell, Batesville, AR; and Paula Glendinning, Ashton, MD. Adjudicators for the Professional Piobaireachd were: William Livingstone, Whitby, Ontario; and Jack Tayler, Aboyne, Scotland. Adjudicators for the Professional MSR were: Scot Walker, Middlebury Center, PA; and James Wilson, Washington, DC.

The organisers are deeply indebted to the University of Delaware and to the gracious sponsors that make this event possible, including: Scottish Games Association of Delaware. Dunvegan Foundation of the Clan MacLeod Society, USA, St. Andrew’s Society of Baltimore, St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia, Lyon College,  Balmoral School of Piping & Drumming

Donald MacPherson Silver Quaich Amateur Piobaireachd Competition: Each competitor submitted four tunes of their own choice.
1. Ben Montross (Waterbury, VT), Lament for Captain MacDougall
2. Kenneth Garson (Ottawa, Ontario), Lament for the Iolaire
3. Stephen MacDonald (Winter Garden, FL), A Flame of Wrath for Patrick Caogach
4. Nels Yehnert (Richmond, VA), MacLeod of Raasay’s Salute
5. Colleen Poe (Pittsburgh, PA), MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart

The Seumas MacNeill Silver Quaich Amateur March, Strathspey, and Reel Competition: Each competitor submitted four of each type of tune, and played a set selected by the judges.

1. Nels Yehnert, The Knightswood Ceilidh, The Piper’s Bonnet, The Brown Haired Maid
2. Stephen MacDonald, Abercairney Highlanders, Tulloch Gorm, Cockerel in the Creel
3. Ben Montross, Duncan MacColl, Struan Robertson, Lt. Col. DJS Murray
4. Kenneth Garson, Donald MacLellan of Rothesay, Susan MacLeod, Broadford Bay
5. Jonathan McGregor (Clermont, FL), Miss Elspeth Campbell, John Roy Stewart, The Grey Bob

Overall Amateur results: The competitor with the highest point accumulation from the Piobaireachd and MS&R competitions receives the U.S.P.F. Silver Buckle and round trip airfare to Scotland and two weeks tuition at an approved venue in Scotland. The overall winner also received the USPF Silver Buckle. Scholarships were awarded to approved Piping Schools to overall rankings 2 through 5:

1. Ben Montross
2. Stephen MacDonald
3. Nels Yehnert
4. Kenneth Garson
5. Colleen Poe

The St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia Silver Quaich Professional Piobaireachd Competition: Each competitor submitted six tunes of their own choice. Prizes: 1st – $1000; 2nd – $800; 3rd – $600; 4th $400; & 5th – $200.

1. Nick Hudson (Houston, TX), Rory McLoude’s Lament
2. Derek Midgley (Tinton Falls, NJ), Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon
3. Andrew Carlisle (Pittsburgh, PA), The Park Piobaireachd No. 2
4. Ben McClamrock (Washington, DC), Scarce of Fishing
5. Bobby Durning (Peabody, MA), The Groat

The St. Andrew’s Society of Baltimore Silver Charger Professional March, Strathspey, & Reel Competition: Each competitor submitted six of each type of tune, and played a set twice through selected by the judges. Prizes: 1st – $1000; 2nd – $800; 3rd – $600; 4th $400; & 5th – $200.

1. Andrew Carlisle, Braes of Castle Grant, Inveraray Castle, Dr MacPhail’s Reel (pictured)
2. Ben McClamrock, MacLean of Pennycross, Dora MacLeod, Little Cascade
3. Alastair Murray, (Moon Township, PA) Dr. Ross, Dora MacLeod, Thompson’s Dirk
4. Andrew Hutton (Houghton, NY), MacLean of Pennycross, Piper’s Bonnet, Man from Glengarry
5. Derek Midgley, 74th’s Farewell to Edinburgh, MacBeth’s Strathspey, Dr. MacPhail’s Reel

Overall Professional Results: The competitor with the highest point accumulation from the Piobaireachd & MSR competitions receives the U.S.P.F. Silver Buckle. In addition to the prize monies noted above, the overall winner also receives trans-Atlantic airfare from the East Coast to Glasgow, Edinburgh, or London, UK, to compete at eligible senior competitions. In addition, the overall winner is also the North American qualifier for the MacCrimmon Trophy competition held at the Festival Interceltique in Lorient, Brittany, on 6 August 2017:

1. Andrew Carlisle 2. Ben McClamrock 3. Nick Hudson 4. Derek Midgley 5. Alastair Murray

Also competing in the Professional events but not in the prize list: Liz Cherry (Oakdale, PA), Amy Garson (Ottawa, Ontario), Teddy Krogh (Anchorage, AK), Dan Lyden (Timonium, MDAvens Ridgeway (Batesville, AR), Palmer Shonk (Pittsburgh, PA), and Peter Skae (Old Tappan, NJ).

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History: P/M William Fergusson, Dornie Ferry and Loch Duich – Part 2

John Don MacKenzie

Solo adjudicator John Don MacKenzie concludes his interesting feature on the great composer Willie Fergusson and some of his tunes…….

There were a number of pipers from Dornie who joined the Scots Guards under P/M Willie Ross – one being my granny’s brother Christopher MacRae, Lag.

Another was Kenny MacKay, who after the war became keeper at Pait Lodge in the remote Loch Monar area north of Strathfarrar. He had a brother Farquhar (‘Fachie’) who in those days was thought of as ‘simple’ and remained at home in Dornie. They were both accomplished pipers and composers, Kenny of Gaelic song as well. I have a number of their hand-written compositions which were  given to me by Kenny’s son Iain – and they are musical indeed.

Kenny MacKay, Dornie and Pait

My grandmother said that the brothers would compose tunes and send them of to Glasgow for, on occasion, a fee of up to ten shillings (50p  in today’s money). Specific details are not known. It has been told to me by older folk from the area, pipers among them, that Fachie MacKay was the composer of Dornie Ferry! None of these people had any knowledge of P/M Willie Fergusson or his book.

Christopher MacRae, Lag

The slow air Loch Duich has been around in Kintail for many years and a Murdo MacRae, who lived in a hamlet known as Carn at the end of Loch Duich all his life, informed me it was a melody his mother sung in her younger days i.e. the turn of the last century. Murdie Carn  as he was known locally was an accomplished accordion player and played his box well into his late 80s. He died three years ago at the age of 92.

It may have been Willie Fergusson who gave Loch Duich its name for  inclusion in his book, but as I mentioned in Part 1 of this article, he doesn’t accredit a composer to Loch Duich or to Dornie Ferry or indeed any of the tunes in it. It is taken for granted that he composed them because they appear in his book alongside his other acknowledged compositions.

I’d like to emphasis at this point that this piece is in no way an attempt to take anything away from Willie Fergusson’s reputation or ability as a player or composer. As previously stated he was by all accounts a top class gentleman with an impeccable character .

The tune Loch Duich is in fact a much, much older melody than we realise having been composed in 1804 either as a pipe lament or song melody. Here is its story  from the now rare 1899 book ‘History of the Clan MacRae’: There was a Christopher MacRae, whose father lived in Torlishy [about two miles from Shiel Bridge]. He was a Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion of the 78th Highlanders which was raised in 1804. 

‘He quickly came through the ranks and he returned to Kintail as a recruiting officer. Lieutenant MacRae, using his local knowledge and influence, brought 22 young men back to his battalion all from Kintail. In recognition of this feat he obtained an Ensign’s Commission for his younger brother Farquhar.

‘The departure of these men was commemorated (or mourned) by the air Loch Duich. The haunting melody expresses the sadness felt by the Kintail people as the Memory of Sherriffmuir and Culloden and its aftermath were still in their memory. The sadness was indeed well founded as Lieutenant MacRae and seven of the Kintail boys were killed at the Battle of El Hamet in 1807.’

Here follows an account of the battle from the memoirs of a General Stewart, CO of the 78th Highlanders: ‘Sergeant John MacRae, a young man about 22 years of age but of great size and strength of arm, showed that the Highland Broadsword, in a firm hand, is as good a weapon in close combat as the bayonet. MacRae, killing six men, cutting them down with his broadsword (of the kind usually worn by Sergeants of Highland Corps.), when at last made a dash out of the Ranks at a Turk whom he cut down; but as he was returning to the square he was killed by a blow from behind, his head being nearly split in two by the stroke of a Sabre.

‘Lieutenant Christopher MacRae, whom I have already mentioned as having brought 18 men of his own name to the Regiment as part of his quota for as Ensigncy, was killed in this affair with six of his followers and namesakes, besides the Sergeant.

‘On the passage to Lisbon in 1805, the same Sergeant came to me one evening crying like a child and complaining that the ship’s Cook had called him English names which he did not understand and thrown some fat in his face. Thus, a Lad who in 1805 was so soft and childish, displayed in 1807 a courage and vigour worthy of Ossian.’

I’m sure these words were poor comfort to the families of the soldiers killed and the pipe tune composed for their departure would then have taken on an even more poignant role .

There are two graveyards in Kintail, Clachan Duich at the Glenshiel end of Loch Duich and Ard Dearg on Loch Duich’s south shore. The normal practice is at funerals for the piper to play ‘Theid mi Dhachaidh Crodh Kintail’ (loosely translated as ‘I will go home to Kintail’ at Clachan Duich and Loch Duich at Ard Dearg. Why? I don’t really know.

Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust Summer School

Lee Moore writes: SSPDT are holding a five-day piping and drumming workshop from Mon 24 – Fri 28 July 10 am – 3pm each day. The summer school is open to all young pipers/chanter players, snare drummers and bass and tenor drummers in East Lothian, writes Lee Moore. 

The venue is Port Seton Community Centre. Please note the change of venue which offers us great facilities to run our school. The cost of the summer school is £75 for the week. Tutors for the workshop will be the Preston Lodge team of tutors, Lee Moore and Eilidh Alexander (Pipes), Simon Grant (Snare Drum) and Jordan Bailie (Tenor and Bass Drums)

SSPDT will consider helping those in financial need and applications for help will be treated in the strictest of confidence. Please contact Jenny Charalambous on to enquire about financial help. There will be a short performance on the Friday at 4pm for friends and family when the pupils will be able to show off their skills.

Refreshments will be provided for break times and pupils should bring a packed lunch. Please return both the booking slip and permissions slip with a deposit of £15, cheques made payable to Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust to:

The Administrator, SSPDT, 14 Albany Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3QB Early booking is advised as places are limited. Closing date – 17 July 2017. The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust and/or SSPDT names are the commonly used names for The Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Charitable Trust. This is a charitable trust registered in Scotland (No. SC037980).
Lee Moore is on T: 07720261306; E:

Download the Booking Form: SSPDT Summer School Booking Form

Piobaireachd by the Sea/ New England Pipe & Drum Academy Workshop

The organisers of the ‘Pibroch by the Sea’ event have announced a masterclass by Jimmy McIntosh and Herve Le Floc’h.

Other details: This will be the 13th year of the popular event held at the Breton seaside. Dates are September 16 and 17. The Saturday Masterclass begins at 9.30 and costs €30. Venue is the Ecole de mer Hériot – Port-Mer (direction camping municipal). Lunch included in fee. Cheques to Christian VILLEJIQUEL – 4, rue jean Savéant 35400 SAINT-MALO.

The picture above shows Breton piper Patrick Molard playing whilst afloat off St Malo. Check out this video of the 2016 gathering to get a flavour of the weekend:

On the Sunday the tunes begin at 9.30 and run to 6pm with a break for lunch. Email  for more info.

Pipers who took part in the 2015 ‘Piobaireachd by the Sea’ event

The New England Pipe & Drum Academy begins on Friday but Tommy and I have flown in a couple of days early to acclimatise and are enjoying the country and the weather down in Cape Cod.

Yesterday we took in the special John F Kennedy Centennial Exhibition in Hyannis near the family compound and summer retreat. No references to the bagpipe to report nor does the exhibition give the full Camelot story but worthwhile nevertheless. Our feature on the Black Watch playing on the White House lawn only days before tragedy in Dallas and subsequently at the great president’s funeral still draws a lot of readers. Check it out here.  

If you are in the area don’t forget Tommy’s workshop on Sunday. Details in this blurb: ‘Your pipe reeds should enhance your confidence and playing – not be a source of frustration.  It’s time to get this sorted! Come out to Adelynrood Retreat and Conference Center in Newbury, MA (30 minutes north of Boston) for a 90-minute Pipe Reed Workshop for 7-9 p.m. on Sunday June 18 led by Tommy Johnston of Pipe Dreams Reeds (makers of Ezeedrone and Ezeepc reeds).’


PP Ed’s Blog: Old Pipes v New/ Gordon McCready/ Strathallan School/ Drumlough PB

I read the other day that according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences an extensive study has shown that audiences actually prefer the sound of newer violins over those made by master craftsmen such as Antonio Stradivari.

Violin acoustics expert Professor Claudia Fritz, of the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, asked seven world famous soloists to play at concert halls in Paris and New York in a blind test in which neither the performers nor audience knew which instrument was being played.

Old violins included two by Guarneri del Gesu (both made after 1740), six by Stradivari, and one by another well-known 18th century Italian master. On every occasion, the public preferred music played on newer violins.

I think it would be interesting to have a similar road test for bagpipes. I look around the solo professional platform and there are just as many top players competing on new or newish instruments as there are on old Henderson, Lawries etc. Certainly the fashion for the quieter, though rock steady, MacDougall bagpipe, has all but disappeared and attempts at copying this so-called (and surely misnamed) ‘Stradivarius of the bagpipe’ have all met with eventual disapproval despite early enthusiasm.

Of course there are beautiful sets of old pipes doing the rounds (see the PP Online Advertising pages) and they can raise an awful lot of moolah. How much was paid for Donald MacPherson’s German silver Lawries when they sold at auction to that chap in Australia a couple of years ago? Was it £35,000?

Donald MacPherson and P/M Terry Tully at the launch of Donald’s ‘Living Legend’ CD in 2006. The album  features his Lawrie bagpipe
Modern production methods have contributed to the excellence of the bagpipes now available to the fresh off the lathe customer. No longer are the bores anything less than concentric. Lengths of joints are exact to precise tolerances. Reed seats accurate and consistent. Wood is seasoned and carefully selected.

The result is an ease of set up and tuning that you do not find in many old sets. They can be a real trial to get going. My advice to prospective buyers has always been that unless the instrument has a proven pedigree – played in Grade 1 or on the professional board, or you’re getting it for a song – it may be as well to consider the modern set before plunging for the old Lawries or Hendersons of your dreams. You could be buying someone else’s trouble and there ain’t no comeback if you’re not happy.

Patricia Grant reports that Gordon McCready currently tops the John Milne Fine Arts Grampian Games Piping League though this doesn’t include last weekend’s Strathmore Games. Gordon is followed by Eddie Gaul, Calum Brown and Alan Clark. After the Fochabers Games Gordon was spotted entertaining motorists on the road home:

Strathallan School have sent this: ‘Our pipe band has been transformed under the direction of Craig Muirhead and Chris Armstrong – both accomplished pipers – and between them, they’ve brought our piping into the 21st century. Our pupils have performed alongside world famous Red Hot Chilli Pipers, played at Scotland’s international football match against Canada, Tartan Day in New York, closed T in the Park music festival, taken part in Beating Retreat at Holyrood Palace and played at the welcoming ceremony of the European Eventing Championship in Blair Atholl.

Ben Muir of Strathallan School and Scottish Power
‘Most recently, two of our pupils – Robbie MacIsaac and Ben Muir – competed at the British Pipe Band Championship as part of the Scottish Power Pipe Band. This was their first Grade 1 event and was quite an achievement for ones so young.’

John Kelly has sent this nice picture of the Drumlough Pipe Band from Northern Ireland. He writes: ‘Drumlough Pipe Band under the direction of Pipe Major Stephen Burrows have scooped their second win of the 2017 pipe band season.  The band won in Grade 3A at the Mid-Ulster Pipe Band Championships at Cookstown on Saturday 3rd June and the Co Fermanagh Pipe Band Championships at Enniskillen on Saturday 27th May.’