Category Archives: Solo Piping

Review: The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Collection of Bagpipe Music

By Robert Wallace

What a year it has been for Argyll piping: Inveraray winning the Worlds, Alasdair Henderson taking the Northern Meeting Gold Medal – and now a superb collection of bagpipe music courtesy the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.

The book represents a 200 year long musical journey of one of the iconic Scottish regiments, perhaps no longer with the identify of yesteryear but with a corpus of pipe music which will ensure its name never dies.

In total the book has 237 pages of tunes, photographs and historical text. Much of the music has been published before but isn’t it right that we should have an Argylls compendium as we do for the Scots Guards and Queen’s Own? And in here we have all the great masterworks of Willie Lawrie, John MacLellan DCM, John MacColl – but with one exception: Lochanside! It’s just about the most famous of all the tunes to come out of the gifted county and through some oversight I gather it was missed out.

But look, have you ever seen a music collection without errors in its first edition? Lochanside will be there for sure next time round and this book is so exceptionally good that it won’t be long before the editors are getting together to sort out errata prior to publishing a second run.

I have a few small edits of my own which have probably been picked up already: the spelling of ‘controversial’ on p92; the story on Captain John Young (p123) doesn’t do his sacrifice justice – he gave his life for his men. He should have been awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross but got nothing; just a Glasgow boy doing his duty; Archie Kenneth (p146) was not one of the foremost exponents of piobaireachd, more a scholar of ceol mor and an editor of part of the Piobaireachd Society’s collection; the note on Andrew MacNeil (p25) should read that he was a gifted amateur piper; on some pages the margins are bit tight, especially at the spine; in the tune Argylls at Ferera (p77) there is an extra high G gracenote in the third part after the high As. Stating these, I am now concerned that you might think I am being overly negative so let’s move on.

This is a wonderful collection which reflects greatly on everyone involved in its production, in particular Major Gordon Rowan, Director of Army Bagpipe Music. How he managed to keep the editors, Walter Cowan, Ian McLellan, Jim Henderson and Jimmy Banks singing from the same hymn sheet is a notable achievement and the results speak for themselves. Charged with including not only tunes by members of the regiment but also tunes about those with a regimental connection cast the net much wider than any similar collection hitherto published. I am sure that is where a lot of the editing fun began and, having spoken to those involved, one which I know they thoroughly enjoyed.

1961 and P/M Andrew Pitkeathly, John Weatherston, John Smith (far left), Ronnie MacCallum and Bob Hill (far right) prepare for a Regimental Officer’s Dinner at Stirling Castle

Flicking through the pages, the depth of composing talent represented is astonishing. Apart from the three master composers named above, just look at tunes such as P/M John MacKenzie’s Tug Argan Gap and Allan Dodd’s Farewell to Scotland; Bengullion by Ron Fleming, Hazel Thompson by George MacIntyre, Ina MacKenzie by Ronald Lawrie and fine tunes from his cousin Angus Lawrie. I also enjoyed George Younger, named for the former Scottish Secretary of State, by Major Rowan himself, and also Echo Waltz by Pipe Corporal Smith. Believe me there are dozens of other catchy melodies covering all genres.

I could go on and on listing all my favourites and many other creditable tunes which this book puts before the public for the first time but that would prove tiresome. However I cannot leave you without commending the editors for their inclusion of a piobaireachd, P/M MacKenzie’s Salute to the Soldier, a tune of which I have written already. I will leave it up to the reader to decide whether he or she should have this book in their collection. I think you know where my sentiments lie.

At the front of the book there is a fine photograph (top) of Major Rowan and the editors and compilers with HM The Queen. A quote from her gracious introduction provides me with a suitable sign off: ‘In my 70th year as Colonel-in-Chief, I know that this unique and timeless collection of bagpipe music, composed by members of the regiment will be enjoyed by pipers of all ages, abilities, nationalities and generations. It is both a legacy and a celebration, telling stories of shared experiences, thoughts of home and of some of the characters who were proud to call themselves Argylls.’

The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Collection of Bagpipe Music is available here priced £35.

South East Asia Pipe Band Championships/ Chris Terry, South Africa

In a new development, Pipe Bands Australia (PBA) are to canvas support for creation of a South-East Asia Pipe Band Championship. The move follows discussion at the recent PBA biennial national conference.

Australia and New Zealand have promoted a South Pacific Championship for almost two decades, the event alternating between countries every three years in conjunction with national titles. The formal agreement ended with this year’s South Pacific and New Zealand Championships in Nelson, NZ.

PBA councillors meeting in Melbourne believe it is time to consider expanding connections in the Southern Hemisphere to build engagement and interaction between bands and players in countries beyond Australia and New Zealand. Competitions conducted in Singapore observe the contest rules of Pipe Bands Australia and members of the Australian Pipe Band College regularly conduct examinations in Hong Kong.

A PBA spokesman said: ‘Pipe Bands Australia will continue its strong links with the Royal New Zealand Pipe Bands Association and discuss formalising bonds with an agreement that may include ongoing adjudicator exchange for major championships. The National Management Committee will investigate the South-East Asia concept, speaking with stakeholders across the region and co-operating closely in development of any proposal with the RNZPBA.’

Pipe Bands Australia is an affiliate member of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association and signatories to an accord with the Alliance of North American Pipe Band Associations.

By Chris Terry, South Africa

Still in the southern hemisphere, Chris Terry, one of the judges in the Shasta Piping Society’s composing competition is very well known to pipers of previous generations. However the current solo piping world may not know too much about him so we thought it would be interesting to run this CV:

Began piping at the age of 13, at St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, South Africa.

Taught by his elder brother Patrick.

Pipe Major of the school band 1964 and 1965.

Attended Rhodes University, Grahamstown, 1966 to 1970

Taught English and History at Queen’s College, Queenstown, from 1971 to June 1974.

Married Alison at the end of 1971. They have two daughters, Marianne, who lives in California, and Catherine, who is a graphic designer in Cape Town. They have one eight year old granddaughter in the USA, and a grandson of 20 months in Cape Town.

Received tuition in piping from John MacFadyen, one of the world’s most successful solo pipers, from October 1974 to December 1975, while in Scotland. Competed extensively in Scotland during this period, culminating in a third place in the London Open Piobaireachd.

Chris’s teacher John MacFadyen leading the march to the games at Glenfinnan

Returned to South Africa to teach English and History at St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown, in 1976.

Master-in-charge of the school’s pipe band from 1977 until retirement at the end of 2007.

Returned to compete in Scotland a further 15 times between 1976 and 1994.

Competitive solo successes include winning the SA national title 15 times (between 1973 and 1995), and a number of significant successes in Scotland, including eight places in the prestigious Gold Medal competitions at Oban and Inverness, winning the Braemar Gold Medal (1985) and winning a number of other piobaireachd competitions over the years.

He stopped competing in 1995 but he is currently still teaching piping at St Andrew’s and also plays as a guest piper with 1 Medical Battalion Pipe Band (based in Durban) for the three South African pipe band championship events each year.

After a 22 year absence from solo competition he entered the ‘100 Guineas’ competition, the top South African competition, this year, and won this for the 16th time (see picture up top). This followed prompting by a friend to play once more before he turned 70!

He has done the music typesetting for three collections of music, including the Glasgow Collection (Robert Wallace). Chris has also typeset three collections of music for his own use, totalling nearly 1000 tunes.

He has produced a piobaireachd tutor containing 10 tunes, with accompanying CD with musical illustrations. The tunes are aimed primarily at the set list of tunes for the top South African Junior solo competition, the ‘Junior Hundred Guineas’.

In about 1979 he began making bagpipes as a hobby, starting initially with cheap practice chanters (as a substitute for poor quality imports), and then moving onto bagpipes.

The pipes are modelled on an old MacDougall set that he had been loaned by John MacFadyen for a couple of contests. He has used his own set (the second one he made) exclusively ever since making it.

Other woodworking includes occasional reproduction type furniture.

Northern Ireland Piper of the Year 2017

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.

Ryan Cupples-Menendes

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

Best Junior Piper: Ryan Cupples-Menendes

World Solo Drumming Preview and New Events at Balmoral Classic

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.

Multiple World Solo Drumming Champion Steven McWhirter of Inveraray & District will be defending his title and aiming to cap a wonderful year for himself and his band. Last August Steven won the Grade 1 Corps Championship at the Worlds and his band were crowned Grade 1 World Champions
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.

Dr Jack Taylor will conduct a class in the 2018 Silver Medal tunes

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

National Mod Lochaber Senior & Junior Piping

All competition held in Fort William on October 14.

Adult Ceol Mor
1 Charles Macdonald
2 Joinathan Greenlees
3 Sandy Cameron

Adults MSR
1 Sandy Cameron
2 Jonathan Greenlees
3 Angus MacColl Jnr.

Adult H&J
1 Angus MacColl
2 Charles Macdonald
3 Sandy Cameron