Category Archives: Tuition

Colin MacLellan Resigns from the College of Piping

The College of Piping has announced the following:

‘The College of Piping announces that due to pressure of other commitments, Colin MacLellan has decided to step down from his position as Director of Piping with effect from the end of November 2017.

‘The College is very grateful to Colin for his hard work in the short time he was in the role and is pleased that Colin will remain associated as an adviser and friend of the College.

‘Stuart Letford, editor of the Piping Times, will carry on as Interim Manager at the College until March 31, 2018, while the board continues its strategic review of the College’s vision and activities.’

Read more about the College of Piping here. Colin MacLellan is pictured up top speaking at the Piobaireachd Society Conference in 2015. Colin Maclellan’s website has this bio: ‘In1999 Colin (58) and his wife Jenny Hazzard moved to Scotland, with Colin taking up a position as Head of Piping Studies, being responsible for educational initiatives at the National Piping Centre as well being instrumental in the creation of the BA Scottish Music – Piping degree which is jointly offered by the Centre and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

During this period he served as an external examiner for RSAMD. During 1999 Colin was appointed the Pipe Major of the Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band which during the previous season had lost its Grade One status for the first time in the Band’s storied history. To Colin fell the task of rebuilding, and within one season the band had secured the Champion of Champions title in the lesser grade and once more took its place in the top flight. He is the last Pipe Major of the Lothian and Borders Police Pipe Band to have lead the band to the finals of the World Pipe Band Championship.

Colin was appointed the President of Scotland’s Competing Pipers Association in 2000, and during his tenure CPA became an active and influential force. A circuit of six piobaireachd competitions were established at Scottish highland games, and the Duncan Johnstone Memorial competition was founded, an event run in tandem with the National Piping Centre which has become the pre-eminent competition was Scotland’s aspiring professionals. CPA during this time under Colin’s leadership initiated reform of the Joint Committee for Judging with a new structure and reassessment of procedure being established which lead to the return of Senior Adjudicators who had not judged for some years.

In 2001 Colin took up a position as Piping Teacher at The Edinburgh Academy, a post which he filled until December 2007. Colin MacLellan has sat two terms as Chairman of CPA’s Grading Committee as well as returning to international teaching and judging commitments, examining and reedmaking. Instrumental in the reformation of Edinburgh’s famous Eagle Pipers Society, he serves as its Honorary President and was appointed a Senior Judge of Scotland’s Joint Committee for Judging upon his retirement from competition in 2007. Colin also served a term as Chairman of The Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board starting in 2014. He is currently a member of the Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band, and has recently produced a book and CD of his father’s complete piobaireachd compositions..

A Canadian citizen as well as a UK national, Colin lives and works in Edinburgh with his wife Jenny Hazzard. He has a daughter, Emily Kate, who has played in the grade one 78th Highlanders Halifax Citadel and the grade one Toronto Police Pipe Band, and a son Iain, who plays with the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa Pipes and Drums.

In August of 2016, Colin was appointed Director of Piping at The College of Piping, Glasgow.

Stay tuned to Piping Press for more.

Northern Winter School in Germany Comes to a Successful Conclusion

So that is the third annual Northern Winter School over and we are now travelling home, writes the Editor. I think it would be fair to say it has been a success and Principal Ronnie Bromhead has already booked his premises for the next few years ahead. The picture above shows students and instructors.

Many of the students have expressed a wish to have a weekend refresher course a few months hence and that is something Ronnie says he will consider seriously.

The school is on the north German plain and only a few miles from the Bergen-Belsen camp memorial which unfortunately we had no time to see this time round.

The handsome attendance certificate presented to each student

We had a couple of successful students sitting PDQB exams and next year the NWS will be introducing its own series of small exam certificates.

There were a lot of views of instructor Brian Lamont’s playing at the ceilidh the other night (along with the other instructors) so this time we have Brian on his own playing his signature 2/4 march Bonnie Ann:Brian Lamont from Robert Wallace on Vimeo.

Barry lectures on setting up chanters

It was great to see Barry [Donaldson] back in action teaching once more in Germany. He was, as ever, an immediate hit with his students many of whom had been taught by him at various schools over the past ten years. His contribution to piping education in Germany is significant. Of that there is no doubt

Barry adjusts tape

Another instructor colleague was Craig Munro. Craig is a busy man. He heads to Chile on Tuesday for the South American Pipe Band Championships in Santiago, Chile. Amazing, isn’t it? Pipe bands are everywhere these days. Drumming judge is the well-known tenor maestro Tyler Fry.

Craig’s stories about the incredible success of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers left us all very impressed. He is a regular performer with them though due to business and family commitments he no longer takes part in the big eight-week long international tours (who can blame him). The band must have introduced thousands of people to the bagpipe even if you think their music is too pop scene. They sell out major concert halls wherever they go and have a fully professional team of management and light and sound engineers to back them up. The only time the ‘After the Worlds’ concert has been sold out is when the Chillis have taken the stage at the Fruitmarket in 2011 and the Glasgow ABC in 2016.

Before going I want to mention instructor Jim Semple, a six time Worlds winner with Strathclyde Police and now a respected adjudicator for the RSPBA. Jim was great company on the outward and inward journeys and such was the gratitude of his class that they presented him with a lovely glass covered group photograph. Thanks for making the travel arrangements Jim.

Anyway, that’s it from Germany and thanks to the students and teaching comrades for making it such an enjoyable week.

New Chairman for Solo Judges’ Association Announced – Comment from the Editor

Jack Taylor, Secretary of the Solo Piping Judges’ Association, has sent this…..

At the SPJA AGM today Andrew Wright stood down after four years as chair. Colin MacLellan was elected to succeed him, and Jack Taylor and Euan Anderson were returned as secretary and treasurer. 

In his remarks Andrew Wright referred to it having been a busy year with four committee meetings and much email traffic. He used the phrase ‘victims to emails’ which brought wry nods from those present. He also said ‘piobaireachd is a worldwide art form, and competition promotes the playing of it. Things have to be seen to be right’. He also mentioned his concern about what information is made public.

Colin MacLellan was not at the meeting but in a statement read out said:If elected as Chairman of the SPJA, I would aim to be open and inclusive, encouraging input and opinions from everyone within the association. However, I would remain consistent with views which I have previously clearly expressed and which are well known. I also am firmly a believer in the majority view being respected. 

‘Debate, transparency, and open expression of views is to be encouraged, but decisions made with clear majority support must be held, and respected even by the minority who may disagree.  Another of my principal aspirations would be to move on from the lengthy and tiresome arguments about teachers judging pupils. The debate is and has been important and has been hashed out at great length. A decision was made one year ago at this meeting regarding the three major meetings.  That decision has been successfully implemented, and it should be respected going forward and we should move on. This association needs to be about much more;  learning, sharing knowledge, musical interpretation, judging methodologies, analysis, improvement, and development.  Allowing the association to be mired in a single issue is detrimental and if elected as Chairman I would strive to ensure that was not allowed to happen.’

There will be no change in the code of conduct at present. Feedback from the CPA and competition organisers after the first year of operation of the ‘no pupils’ rule is awaited at next week’s meeting of the committee for solo piping competitions. The meeting voted in favour of a resolution to adopt proxy voting for previously notified written resolutions, giving all members the chance to vote on these in future.

It was also announced that the Association’s complaints procedure will be reviewed. Allan MacDonald has been added to the list as a senior judge in piobaireachd and light music, and Alan Forbes has been made a senior judge in piobaireachd.

The Meeting was followed by a successful seminar on the 2018 Gold Medal tunes. Informative presentations were given, including recordings illustrating different settings.

Editor Robert Wallace writes: ‘Mr MacLellan has his work cut out. Apart from a matter about which, for the moment, I cannot write, he has the unholy mess left him by his predecessor to sort out. The piping world may not be aware of it but the past four years have seen spurious allegations of dishonesty upheld by kangaroo courts and others, more legitimate, conveniently ignored because they didn’t suit the political zeitgeist.

We have, and have had, private SPJA correspondence and decisions displayed on the web for the world to see, one judge threatened with a verbal ‘I’m watching you’ comment by the Chairman, and disgruntled competitors allowed to hijack the association for their own nefarious ends. A judge had his 40 year association with a Highland games ended all because he declined to renew his membership of the SPJA union. Are we moving to some sort of closed shop in piping where judges will not be allowed to exercise their personal beliefs and independent thought?

Apart from all of that we have had rulings which effectively allow the Association to censor articles (guess who that was aimed at) and the widely discredited decision to ban judges from judging pupils at Oban, Inverness and London – even when there is a three-man bench and personal integrity at stake. This last, rail roaded through in the most undemocratic manner possible, has of course achieved absolutely nothing, with pupils now refusing to reveal their teachers, judges being more coy than ever about who they are teaching and some giving up on it altogether.
We have had a resignation from the SPJA committee and others on it voicing their concern at having to be involved in witch hunts against their comrades behind the pencil.

The Association has now introduced proxy voting so that those who can’t get to AGMs or special meetings can have a voice, but that won’t extend, as far as I am aware, to the election of office bearers. However it is a start, as is the long overdue review of the complaints procedure.

Mr MacLellan has promised a new dawn now let’s see if he can deliver.

The picture up top is from 1993 and shows adjudicators Captain Andrew Pitkeathly, Ronald Morrison and Kenny MacDonald presiding at the Argyllshire Gathering.

PP Ed’s Blog: Schools/ Queensland/ Argylls Book/ Folk Awards

The Northern Winter School starts today in Lohheide, Lower Saxony, Germany, and not far from Fallingbostel the former British Army base. A great team of teachers brought together by Principal Ronnie Bromhead and at the last count there were around 50 students. There will be classes on all branches of piping and drumming, a concert, exams and evening ceilidhs. Report and pix to follow.

Talking of schools, Jack Williamson, P/M of the Kansas City St Andrews Pipe Band, is joining the teaching faculty at the South Florida Pipe & Drum Academy. Jack will be a valued addition to the team of myself, Barry Donaldson, Donald McBride, Matt Pantaleoni, Tommy Johnston and Andrew Elliot. 

Jack is only 20 and spent three summers in Northern Ireland as a member of Bleary & District winning numerous Grade 2 competitions including five major championships and two second place finishes at the Worlds.

After a successful amateur solo career he has now started in the professionals. Among his teachers Jack lists Donald McBride, Jack Taylor, Brian Donaldson, Nigel Davison, and Harry Stevenson.

The Queensland Highland Pipers report: ‘About 150 people squeezed themselves into the Walrus Bar at the Regatta Hotel for our International Recital. This would have to be one of our best crowds in a long time. With the ever energetic Tyler Fry as the compere, it was certainly a night to remember…..

‘The first recitalist was Kyle Warren, who is now a resident of Melbourne and a great acquisition to the Australian piping scene, with a great playing background and academic qualifications to match. He started with an air and then into some jigs…..

‘Next to play was Finlay Johnston who is currently cutting a swathe through solo contests in Scotland. He started out with some 3/4s. Next was an air followed by jigs and after a quick re tune an MSR. Next bracket was a number of tunes in 4/4 time and he finished up with strathspeys and reels.

‘Finally we heard from the master, Stuart Liddell, fresh from Inveraray’s first win in the World Pipe Band Championships. He marched in playing to great applause. His selected tunes were many and varied from all parts of the repertoire and he held the crowd transfixed throughout. Some of his tunes were Fair Maid of Barra, Donald MacLennan’s Tuning Phrase, the Little Cascade, and the ground of the piobaireachd In Praise of Morag.’

The editors of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders collection met yesterday to plan a possible Book 2 and the next edition of Book 1. I am reliably informed that Lochanside will be included in the Book 1 reprint in its original setting (the usual C grip in the first part is replaced by a C – high A – high G – F run. Book 1 has sold very well and whilst on the train to London well-known judge Bob Worrall interrupted the fun to get Walter Cowan, one of the distinguished editors, to sign his copy:

Walter puts a big X on Bob’s book

Bob tells me that his own three books of ceol beag continue to sell well and are to be reprinted with spiral binding for greater ease of use.

Bands forward for the Scottish Traditional Music Pipe Band of the Year Award (sponsored by Glenturret Single Malt Whisky) are Inveraray & District, Royal Burgh of Annan, Lochalsh Juniors
and Dollar Academy.

All these bands have had very successful  seasons. What more can be said about Inveraray? Annan, with sterling help from home boy Ross Cowan, won the Worlds in Grade 3b, but my vote would be going to either of the two kids’ bands, Lochalsh Juniors (pictured top), the Novice B World Champions, or Dollar the Juvenile Worlds winners. Maybe, given his scant resources, Niall Stewart, pipe major and teacher at Lochalsh, would get the final verdict.

Pictured at the games, Brighde Chaimbeul

Young piper Brighde Chaimbeul is nominated in the ‘Up Coming Artist’ category. All success to Brighde but I hope she doesn’t give up on her serious piping in favour of the folky stuff. She has too much talent for that. She can do both.

The awards ceremony is on Saturday 2nd December at Paisley’s Lagoon Centre. Cast your votes here.


History: Pipers, Piping and Pipe Music in the Seaforth Highlanders 1778 -1924, Part 2

Today we continue with our abridged excerpts from the above book by Ian Hamilton Mackay Scobie. The book was published in 1924 and is now out of print. This excerpt talks of regimental dress and has an interesting take on piobaireachd, with the suggestion that it can only be played properly by pipers from the ‘North’. Above is a picture of Seaforth militia pipers in 1880 under P/M Ronald MacKenzie…. 

From earliest times, as we have seen, the Pipe Major carried the Regimental Banner, which was that of the Colonel’s, on great occasions, the other pipers carrying those of their captains. The banners always bore the badge of the regiment on one side  and, latterly, the private crest of the officer on the other, the Colonel’s banner, in addition having the Union [Jack] in the top inside corner.

In the 72nd however, the custom of embroidering the officers’ own crest on their banners appears to be of comparative recent origin, certainly not dating further back than the 70s of last century. The Colonel’s banner has not always borne the Union flag.

In matters of dress, the pipers of the 72nd ( as in other Highland corps) wore the same uniform as the rank and file, although armed with the broadsword up to 1809. During the period 1808 to 1823, when the regiment lost the Highland garb, the pipers, who were retained, wore ordinary line uniform….. On the 72nd resuming the Highland dress, but with trews, in 1824, the pipers wore the kilt and plaid of Stuart tartan, red and white (soon change to Stuart tartan) hose and buckled shoes…They had a black leather shoulder belt, broadsword, sporran and red hackle in the feather bonnet. To these appointments were added a waist belt, dirk and a shoulder brooch, circa. 1840.

In about 1850, a green doublet and blue glengarry bonnet were taken into wear. This dress lasted, with few alterations or additions, until 1822 when the regiment became the 1st Seaforth Highlanders. The tartan was then changed to MacKenzie and the pattern of the badges worn altered to suit the new title of the regiment.

Kenneth MacKenzie, 7th Earl of Seaforth 1744 -1781. He raised, and was first Colonel of, the 1st Seaforth Highlanders, the old 72nd Regiment

In regard to music, until about 1850, the ‘Ceol Mòr’ (Big Music), or Piobaireachd, was the only music permitted to be played, except when on the march, when the ‘Ceol Aotrum’ (Small Music), i.e. marches and quicksteps were allowed, or, for dancing, reels, strathspeys and jigs. After the above date the ‘small music’ supplanted the longer and more difficult ceol mòr, the later, however, still being played on guest nights in the Officers’ Mess and on certain other occasions either by the Pipe Major or a selected piper.

All pipers do not now learn piobaireachd, although no piper is a finished performer until he can play and has a fair knowledge of the classical or ‘big’ music. The word ‘piobaireachd’ in English, is ‘piping’ simply, but in time it has come to mean the Big Music (Ceol Mòr). This word has sometimes been shortened to ‘piobrach’ but  it is now more commonly (phonetically) spelt in English as ‘pibroch’. To Sir Walter Scott we owe this style of spelling which he adopted for his English readers.

Piobaireachd is usually of five different kinds: The Cruiuneachadd (Gathering), Failte (Salute), Cumha (Lament), Caismeachd (War Tune) and Spaidsearachd (March).

Besides these there are numerous descriptive pieces, especially those commemorative of battles. A Piobaireachd, a lengthy piece of music, may be defined as a theme with variations and is the symphony of bagpipe music. To a person, however musical, who has not heard this species of music before, it may seem, with its strange and peculiar passages, to be devoid of meaning or musical interest.

On being accustomed to hear it, however, he will soon appreciate its worth and genius when well played. To properly understand piobaireachd one must be of the North and familiar with the circumstances under which the tunes were composed.

A piobaireachd is divided into parts, the first being the ‘urlar’ (the groundwork, adagio or simple melody), followed by its variations which are termed the ‘suibhal’ [shoo – al] and the taorluath and their doublings. These become more complex and intricate until the piece concludes with the crunluath, the final or closing part, with its quick and open movements and, in the larger pieces its tripling (i.e. crunluath breabach, crunluath fosgailte and crunluath a mach). A crunluath is properly finished by repeating the urlar and thus is similar to what is known among musicians as a ‘rondeau’, i.e. a piece of music ending with the repetition of the first part.

To be continued. Read the first instalment of this feature here.