Category Archives: Tuition

Winter Storm Closing Concert and Weekend Review

With a sell out crowd achieved the day before, the venue was packed for the annual gala concert featuring celebrated soloists, mini bands, Highland dancers and all held together by Ken Eller, the long-standing master of ceremonies, writes our Special Correspondent.

In a nice touch, the students of St Thomas Episcopal, from Houston, Texas, kicked off proceedings, led by former World Champion Drum Major, Jason Paguio of the SFU organisation.

The playbill ran on at great pace as wave after wave of acts followed. The trio of Gold Medal winners, Calum Beaumont accompanying the first batch of dancers, and his pipe major Stuart Liddell followed. A very warm response for the man who has won the lot. The CV being read out was so lengthy that Stuart decided to take a seat.  There was even a cheer for his tuning. He played a Ross Ainslie piece (Durty B with ‘u’ I imagine) to start, and captivated a rapt audience. What more can be said – flying fingers and simply blinding. Entertainer with a capital E but grounded in the very best. Shock and awe!

Stuart Liddell on stage at WS

Stuart was given rousing applause and was then joined by his lead drummer Steven McWhirter. The musical chemistry between this duo is palpable. Top end stuff every time.

Perhaps the most poignant set was when 2017 Glenfiddich winner and Piping Press ‘Piper of the Year’ Jack Lee led a group from SFU, including his pipe major Alan Bevan, in a stunning tribute to the late Andrew ‘Boney’ Bonar. This was Winter Storm in its most sombre moment. They played the piobaireachd ‘I Got a Kiss of the King’s Hand’ in tribute to a piper, gentleman and devoted family man who lost his battle to cancer last year. Boney had asked Jack to play the piece at his Memorial. It was fitting in that Jack had taught it to Boney many years ago. There was a rousing ovation in respect of the playing and of course in memory of Andrew. [See pic up top.]

The mood changed and after the break with the drum faculty playing the classic Alex Duthart fanfare – ‘Salute to Max Rayne’. The drum line, led by eight-time world Champion, Steven McWhirter, was filled with Grade 1 lead tips, Creighton, Jørgensen and Gordon Brown of Boghall making his Winter Storm debut. In addition, young Kerr McQuillan of Boghall, the Grade 2 snare winner, joined some of the St Thomas teenagers in the line too. Surely a great memory for them to stand in amongst giants of the snare drumming and bass section world.

Gordon Brown remained and played a classic March, Strathspey and Reel set with piper Anne Gray and bass Steve Foley. Gordon remains one of the best in the business and it was great to see him at his first Winter Storm.

An Inveraray ‘mini band’ gave the audience a chance to hear a portion of that World Championship winning ensemble. The audience in Ballybriest, Northern Ireland, for whom the whole band will play in the spring, are in for a treat. This group blew the roof off.

Fred and dancers

Following that was no problem for the bold Fred Morrison. Kicking off with the great Highland bagpipe and surrounded by Highland dancers, he transitioned to a soulful piece on whistle, before closing out with his classic Hard Drive, last heard by many on Worlds day in the Field Marshal Montgomery medley. Fred had the audience going, and his stage presence and craft worked wonders. He has become a fixture in this concert and is hugely well liked.

Finally a parade of winners and what seems an ever-growing faculty took to the stage, received their ovation, and the 2018 Winter Storm concert was over. Into the night, sub-zero temperatures, up the hill to the hotel complex for the after party ‘Winter Steam’, and more fun.

Beth Wilson, the Mid West Highland Art Fund President, organisers and her team, including long-standing fixer Cliff Davis, run a wonderful event. Arguably the best of its kind in the world. It surely can’t be far away from being recognised as a pre-qualifier for more national and international competitions. For instance, with the World Solo Drumming event adding regional qualifiers to provide automatic semi final places, the Winter Storm Snare Gold Medal competition would be a strong candidate. As an aside, it was won by Grant Cassidy of SLoT, already a pre-qualifier for 2018.

There you have it, and there is no reason to believe that 2019 won’t be bigger as this event has momentum, the faculty, prizes and aura of one not to miss. They seem to freshen things up just enough whilst retaining the core. Well done MHAF – great job, as they say in these parts.

Full results from Winter Storm here.

Winter Storm – Full Results with wins for Sarah Muir, Alastair Lee, Grant Cassidy and Andrew Elliot

Our Special Correspondent reports: Cool running in chilly Kansas. With a record number of competitors, the event ran for around 12 hours, using multiple rooms, venues and facilities in the Winter Storm Campus.

The judges were allocated across the lot and full marks to that crew for sticking at it through the day. They only have the Workshops and Gala Concert to worry about today.

The blue ribbon events were taken by some known names with new winners in other events. The overall coterie of new talent continues to surprise and please. Perhaps the Gold Medal snare drumming will get recognition as a pre-qualifier for the World Solos in due course, just as the piping light music Gold winner gets a run to the Metro Cup.

Prizes were considerable in money terms, travel stipends and pipes and drums. So those headline winners (full list of all event placings below):

Gold Medal Piobaireachd  – Alastair Lee (pictured top)
Ceol Beag Gold – Sarah Muir
Gold Medal Snare – Grant Cassidy
Silver Medal Piobaireachd – Zephan Knichel
Gold Medal Tenor – Andrew Elliot
Gold Medal Bass – (three- way tie; MSR pref.) – Andrew Elliot

Gold Medal winner Andrew Elliot who will teach bass and tenor at the South Florida Pipe & Drum Academy next month

Two other young Scots drummers picked up gold in Grade 2: Kerr McQuillan, Boghall, and in Grade 3, Caitlyn Malloy, Dollar.

The Midwest Highland Arts Fund (MHAF) Board of Directors later announced the full results. Awards were presented on Friday evening, January 12, 2018, at the Kansas City Marriott – Country Club Plaza Grand Ballroom.

R.G. Hardie & Co. Gold Medal Piobaireachd
1st Alastair Lee, Coquitlam, BC, Canada
2nd Andrew Donlon, Germantown, MD
3rd Derek Midgley, Tinton Falls, NJ
Judges: Callum Beaumont, Colin MacLellan

McCallum Bagpipes  Silver Medal Piobaireachd
1st Zephan Knichel, Surrey, BC, Canada
2nd Andy Wilson, Dromore, Co Down, Northern Ireland
3rd Kevin McLean, Maple Ridge, BC, Canada
4th Alastair Murray, Moon, PA
5th John Lee   Surrey, BC, Canada
Judges: Alan Bevan, Ann Gray

Tenor Drumming
1st Kathryn Byzewski, Minneapolis, MN
2nd Rylee Neil, Burlington, Ontario, Canada
3rd Annie Colquhoun, Kincardine, Ontario, Canada
Judges: Stevie McQuillan, Michael O’Neil, Jordan Bailie

1st Courtney Green, Gurnee, IL
2nd Seton Helwig, Seaside Park, NJ
3rd  Fiona McCall, Stirling, Scotland UK
Judges: Stevie McQuillan, Michael O’Neil, Jordan Bailie

Gold Medal
1st Andrew Elliott, Houston, TX
2nd Taylor Page, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
3rd Sam Johnson, Baltimore, MD
Judges:  Stevie McQuillan,  Michael O’Neil,  Jordan Bailie

Bass Drumming
1st Brianna McDonald, Dundee, IL
2nd Shanna McDonald, Dundee, IL
3rd Christian Vegors, Seattle, WA
Judges: Steve Foley, Steven Roberts

1st  Andrea Brennan-Doucette, Belleville, Ontario, Canada
2nd Jay Jolley, Omaha, NE
3rd Wendy Dowell, Atkinson, IL
Judges: Steve Foley, Steven Roberts

Gold Medal
1st  Andrew Elliott, Houston, TX
2nd  Ben Elkins, Falls Church, VA
3rd  Andrew Fowler, Parma Heights, OH
Judges: Steve Foley, Steven Roberts

Lee & Sons Bagpipes Amateur Ceol Beag
Grade 3
1st Gillian Blaney, Sackville, Nova Scotia, Canada
2nd  Kristopher Muse, Vacaville, CA
3rd  Jackson Herrscher, Houston, TX
Judge: Terry Lee

Grade 2
1st Kayleigh Johnstone, Aurora, Ontario, Canada
2nd Eric den Ouden, Stayner, Ontorio, Canada
3rd Joel Hrncir, Houston, TX
Judge: Terry Lee

Grade 1
1st Filemon Tan, Bellaire, TX
2nd Joseph Horwath, Saginaw, MI
3rd Ben Peterson, Lombard, IL
Judge: William McCallum

Amateur Piobaireachd presented by The Tone Protector &
Grade 3
1st Weston Kennedy, Sammamish, WA
2nd Gillian Blaney, Sackville, Nova Scotia, Canada
3rd Kim Greeley, Honolulu, HI
Judge: William McCallum

Grade 2
1st Jennifer Westphal, New York, NY
2nd Evan Burlew, Pittsburgh, PA
3rd Linda Robertson, Bakersfield, CA
Judge: Jenny Hazzard

Grade 1
1st Filemon Tan, Bellaire, TX
2nd Charlie Morris, Agoura Hills, CA
3rd Nathan Wilds, Tolono, IL
Judge: Jenny Hazzard

Henderson’s Pipe and Drum Supply Professional Ceol Beag
1st Sarah Muir, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, UK
2nd Andrew Carlisle, Pittsburgh, PA
3rd Matt MacIsaac, Stayner, Ontorio, Canada
4th Derek Midgley, Tinton Falls, NJ
5th James Troy, Victoria, BC, Canada

Judges – Qualifiers: Ken Eller, Richard Parkes, Ian K McDonald, Fred Morrison; Final: Colin MacLellan, Stuart Liddell

Cameron Drumming Studios Amateur Drumming
Grade 3
1st  Caitlyn Malloy, Falkirk, Stirlingshire, UK
2nd  Terrance Cadiente   Westminster, BC, Canada
3rd  Andrew Jirsa   Forrest Park, IL
Judges: Stephen Creighton, Jake Jorgensen

Grade 2
1st  Kerr McQuillan   Glasgow, Scotland, UK
2nd  Sebastian Arguelles   Houston, TX
3rd  Raymond Marshall   Fort Collins, CO
Judges: Stephen Creighton, Jake Jorgensen

Grade 1
1st  Bryce Kreger   Shoreline, WA
2nd  Matthew Page   Everett, WA
3rd  Robert Graham   Shoreline, WA
Judges: Stephen Creighton, Jake Jorgensen

Henderson’s Pipe and Drum Supply Gold Medal Drumming
1st  Grant Cassidy   Uddington, Glasgow, UK
2nd  Grant Maxwell   Surrey, BC, Canada
3rd  Stephan Paynter   Coquitlam, BC, Canada
4th  Eli Fugate   San Diego, CA
5th  Derek Cooper   Warminster, PA
6th  Eric MacNeill   Dunedin, FL
Judges: Qualifier- John Fisher, Paul Turner, Jim Sim; Final- Gordon Brown, Steven Creighton, Jake Jørgensen

PP Academy: Three Experts Offer Advice on How to Play Reels

Piping Press is a free resource for all pipers and pipe bands. Our aim is to educate, inform and entertain. Our learning pages, under the banner of PP Academy, have lots of advice and knowledge on how to be a better piper or band and cover all aspects of performance and tuning. Click on the highlighted PP Academy link above or the Tuition tab at the top of this page for more.

Today we look at the playing of reels and are delighted to be able to draw on the knowledge and experience of three outstanding individuals in world piping: P/M Ian McLellan, Bob Worrall and Walter Cowan. Ian is a living legend in piping and pipe bands having won multiple World titles with Strathclyde Police PB. He was also renowned as a soloist winning March, Strathspey & Reel titles at Oban and Inverness.

Bob is well known as a judge of both piping and pipe bands and in his playing days was also a champion piper at the highest level. He is a noted composer and has produced three fine collections of music. Walter Cowan is in much demand as a solo adjudicator and has the distinction of winning both the March and Strathspey and Reel competitions at the Argyllshire Gathering on the same day. There is a suggestion that this was just after WW2 but Walter insists it was much more recent than that!

Ian: ‘When I was first taught how to play reels by P/M Alex MacIver in the 214 Boys Brigade his main idea was always to think of making a rhythmic figure of eight. If you followed that pattern you wouldn’t go far wrong:

‘I am always a little bit suspicious of rounder reels because I don’t think you ever get the best out of them playing them that way. They can become  a little bit ‘hurdy-gurdy’ as far as I am concerned. In Strathclyde Police we were quite pointed with our reels. If you are playing in a band and you are trying to get everyone playing exactly the same you must pick notes that you can anchor on. If you don’t do that you’ll find that unison can get a shaky at times.’

Solo competitions? Six parts or four? ‘I always remember a story from years ago at Inverness. I was tuning up for the Former Winners MSR and Donald MacPherson was in the same room as me. I was playing something like John MacKechnie and he says ‘why are you playing a big tune like that?’ I said, ‘Well it goes down well with the judges.’

‘Said Donald, ‘I never ever play more than four parts in any tune because remember you are playing twice through and if you keep adding parts you can, instead of playing three tunes, end up playing the equivalent of four.’ After that I said to myself ‘well Donald does pretty well so I think I’ll go down the same road.’

Bob Worrall: ‘With reels there is quite a wide interpretive range. You can have a more dot/cut style and also a slightly rounded style – but even the rounded reels still have a subtle bit of pointing to them. I am talking about the Highland reels, tunes such as Broadford Bay and Cockerel in the Creel. They still have that same subtle, two-bar phrase, ‘question and answer’ concept within them.

‘For example in bar 1 you would just give a little nudge on both of the ‘on’ beat accents and then more of an equal ‘on – off’ accent in bar 2 and then give back to the second ‘on’ beat accent to anchor the end of the phrase. I find that a lot of players lose control and poise when they don’t anchor at the end of the two-bar phrase.

The well-known reel Thomson’s Dirk with ‘on’ beats marked 1 and 2 and ‘off’ beats marked with an ‘o’. This is taken from Bagpipe Tutor Book 2 where readers will find a complete set of lessons on reel playing

‘Off’ beats in reels are so, so important, as is short note treatment. The player who waits a little too long on the ‘on’ beat accent ends up clipping the note to the ‘off’ beat and you get this clippy style. In other words the short notes stop ‘breathing’. There’s a kind of a roll that you want to achieve with a reel, whether it is dot/cut or a little rounder in style.

‘It would be fair to say that I am looking for something slightly different in the solos than I am from the bands. Bands have had to, for the sake of unison, go towards the dot/cut reel in terms of choice and also in terms of interpretation. John Morrison, Assynt House played by a pipe band is going to be even more dot/cut than you would expect to hear it on the solo boards.’

Walter: ‘As far as reel playing is concerned Iain Morrison [pictured top playing at Oban] was one of the finest exponents I ever heard – perhaps due to the fact that he was taught by Donald MacLeod. When I compare Iain’s playing with what we hear today I think it is becoming too march like maybe because a lot of the solo pipers are playing in pipe bands. There is a difference. I think Bob’s mentioned that. Over controlled playing is what we hear as a result. Instead, the piper should be letting loose a little.’

Did he think some of the tunes we were hearing in professional competition were a bit light? ‘They are light but you can get more music out of them because they are not as difficult to finger, not as heavy. Bands feel they have to play the six-parters in Grade 1 if they are to make an impression, but they sometimes end up playing them like a march when reels were made to dance to.

‘Having said that about the heavy reels, I used to play the Sheepwife a lot and hearing the Little Cascade played properly, especially in the fourth part, is a real pleasure though some pipers get the emphasis all wrong and it can be difficult to listen to!

‘We have so many good young players coming through now, but they are playing in bands so they must remember to divorce themselves from that style of playing when they go on to the boards.’

PP Ed’s Blog: Reflections on NZ/ Silver Medal Tunes/ SPA AGM/ Schools Trust Job

Reflecting on my recent visit to New Zealand I really must doff the bonnet to all those pipers who, over many years, have made the long trek to the Northern Hemisphere to compete at Oban and Inverness (and bands who get the cash and time together to do the same to compete at the Worlds).

Only when you’ve done it do you really appreciate the commitment required – and it is that commitment that has led to NZ having such a proliferation Gold and Silver Medallists. But not only that. Listening and judging over a couple of days at Waipu showed that there is a real depth of knowledge among kiwi pipers – a critical mass of individuals who have studied the music at length, sought out the best teachers, absorbed what they have been shown and put it into practice. New Zealand is no ‘hick-town’ piping centre. They know their stuff down there, make no mistake.

Bain MacGregor and Stuart Easton. Bain made the trek to Scotland in the late 70s/ early 80s, paving the way for modern-day champions such as Stuart Easton. Stuart is pictured holding the piobaireachd trophy he won at Waipu

The picture up top is of P/M Stewart MacKenzie of the Grade 1 Manawatu Scottish Pipe Band. Stewart is playing in the kitchen piping event held before the main games at Waipu.

Get up to speed for the Silver Medal! Each tune is played in full, uninterrupted, on the practice chanter. The piper can play along and learn how to time and link phrases and variations as the music progresses.

Katie MacKenzie of the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust: The SSPDT is offering a paid internship for a piper from February to August/ September 2018. The role will be tailored individually and will offer opportunities to teach in schools, to develop pipe band programmes and to advance personal instrumental skills.  The intern will also have the option to gain experience of charity administration. Full details can be found here:  Closing date 29th January 2018. Interviews will take place at Preston Lodge High School on Wednesday 31st January.

I forgot to include this tune, The Piper’s Polka, in last week’s profile of P/M Donald MacLeod taken from the ‘Piping World’ magazine of September 1967. Donald must have given permission for pre-publication as I think it subsequently appeared in his yet to appear Book 4:A very pleasant four-parted tune, charming in its simplicity, and eminently suitable for a beginner I think.

Tom Johnstone, President of the Scottish Pipers’ Association: The AGM of the SPA will be held on 2/2/18. One issue that came up during last year is that fact that a lot of juvenile contests are now awarding monetary prizes. It is therefore proposed that the constitution is changed and this will be discussed/voted upon at the AGM. All Current Life and Annual Members are eligible to attend and vote and we would like to welcome you all to the meeting. Non-members can join on the evening. We will also be having our regular ‘Club Night’ on that evening. Look forward to seeing you all.
Events following the AGM will be :•  Regular Club Evening on Friday 2/3/18
•  Adult Amateur and Veterans Contest on 24/3/18
•  Regular Club Evening on 6/4/18
•  Annual Professional Piping Competition on 14/4/18
•  Annual Juvenile Contest on 8/9/18

All of the above at the College of Piping.

European Pipe Band Champs Promo/ South Africa Soloists End of Year Meeting

Need a reminder of the summer’s pipe band contests? Below is the link to a promo video put out by the sponsors of the European Pipe Band Championships, Piping at Forres. It is ostensibly a plug for their commercial side but there are some good shots of bands, drum corps, RSPBA officials and adjudicators. The picture above shows Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia marching to the line at Forres last summer.

The press release reads: Piping At Forres, the European Pipe Band Championships, will take place in the Moray town for the last time on 30 June 2018 after a six-year run, and organisers of the one day event want to make sure it is bigger and better than ever before. In January, Forres Events Limited will host an event at the distillery of title sponsor Benromach Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

Joanna Taylor, a director of Forres Events Limited which organises Piping At Forres, said the sponsors event will showcase why investing in the one day celebration makes good business sense: ‘The event attracts people from all over the world. Grant Park will be filled with thousands of pipers and drummers along with many thousands more spectators.  What better place to showcase your business?’

The event has been supported by title sponsor Benromach Speyside Single Malt since it began in 2013. Marketing director Ian Chapman said: ‘It was a very strong event from the start. Those who have attended it have been very impressed with the infrastructure and the layout in the park and its location within the town and I think that contributes to the success of the event.

If you are keen to find out more about becoming a sponsor at Piping At Forres or attending the event at Benromach in Forres on January 18th email Joanna at’