Tag Archives: robert wallace blog

Boney Invitational Results and Report

Robert MacNeill of the BC Pipers’ Association reports: The 2018 Boney Music Memorial Invitational Piping Competition and Recital was a great success, raising over $2170 [£1,228 approx.] for brain cancer research for the British Columbia Cancer Foundation, $828 [£468 approx.] of it from the livestreaming viewers.

The BC Pipers’ Association continued the event that Andrew Bonar began in 2016 to utilize piping to further advance charitable causes.

The players Kevin McLean, Andrew Lee, Alastair Lee, and Jori Chisholm put on significantly entertaining performances. Unfortunately, James P. Troy was not able to perform due to illness.

The results were

1. Alastair Lee

2. Jori Chisholm

3. Andrew Lee

4. Kevin McLean

The adjudicators were unknown to the audience and the players.

Skye Richendrfer, Celtic Arts Foundation President and long-time friend of Andrew and the Bonar family, handled the Master of Ceremonies duties and Fatima Hassam, Associate Vice President of Development at the British Columbia Cancer Foundation, spoke on the treatment advances being made at the BC Cancer Agency and how donations support this important research.

BCPA Board of Director member Thomas Budd handled the donations aspects of the event, while BCPA Chief Steward Lynn Bullis and BCPA Secretary Moira Mack handled the competition side.

The beautiful vertical banner for the event was designed by long time friend and graphics designer Melissa Maxwell, at the request of the Bonar family.

Overall, it was a wonderful evening that continues Andrew’s legacy of support for brain cancer research. ‘Inspiring Piping to Conquer Cancer’.

Picture left to right: Cameron, Jeanette, & Kate Bonar, Alastair Lee, Kevin McLean, Andrew Lee, Jori Chisholm.


PP Ed’s Blog: South Florida/ Darach & Finlay Hong Kong Trip/ Charles MacLeod Williamson

To the US for some sun at the South Florida Pipe & Drum Academy at Boca Raton. I should have something to report – all good I hope.

Around 50 students, 28 for piping with class sizes kept to five or six. This will be our fourth annual school and I think we are beginning to make an impression. Certainly standards improve year on year. Many thanks to our sponsors David Naill & Co and Pipe Dreams, RT Shepherd, and G1 Reeds.

Senior instructor Barry Donaldson and his class at the 2016  Academy

Also on their travels have been expert pipers Darach Urquhart and Finlay Johnston (Finlay’s dad Tommy is our drum instructor at Boca). Darach reports: ‘A group consisting of Finlay Johnston, Chris Johnston (drumming) and myself were invited to the Kowloon District of Hong Kong in mid-January this year to do a bit of teaching and performance. 

Finlay, Chris, Darach and students

‘Our hosts were the local Boys Brigade, whose hospitality was warm and generous at every point – particularly Man and Ringo who showed us the sights and chaperoned us around all the best eateries and bars! The classes consisted of a mixture of adults and youngsters who were all very keen. At the end of the week we performed a concert to a sell-out crowd and invited members of the class up to perform a finale which seemed to go down very well with the local audience. A thirst for piping it seems exists fairly prominently in this part of the Far East.’

Workshop staff and students

That’s good to hear Darach. At the time of the UK handover in 1997 many thought piping in the former colony would decline. Doubly good to hear that the BB are still going strong there too. Finlay is pictured up top performing at the recital.



Delighted to hear from correspondent Duncan Watson who is now on the mend after his recent spell in hospital. Very grateful to Duncan for this information following the recent letter on Charles MacLeod Williamson. Duncan writes: ‘Regarding Charlie MacLeod Williamson, I did not know the man but heard of him through people I knew who knew him from their Army service. As far as I remember, Charlie MacLeod Williamson was  in what was called the ITC [Infantry Training Corps] Pipe Band which was based, I think, in Edinburgh.

‘The Pipe Major was big Donald MacLean, Lewis, who was of course a Seaforth Highlander. Among those in that band were, as I understand, Willie MacDonald, Benbecula, who was seconded from the HLI, John Riach who was, I think, in the HLI for a time and was later re-badged to the Seaforth Highlanders, Andrew Pitkeathly, who was seconded from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Bob Brown, the son of RU Brown and maybe Alec MacDonald,  who was the station master for a while at Fort William.

The caption in ‘The Scottish Soldier’ reads , ‘Pipe Major Donald Maclean and Drum Major James Watson, King’s Guard Pipe Band at Balmoral Castle, 1947’

‘The Drum Major of the band was James Watson who hailed from Forres (no relation). James Watson spoke of the ITC band in glowing terms from what I could understand. With the amount of good players it had it was very accomplished. Again from memory, I think I can recall that everybody was in awe of Charlie MacLeod Williamson’s finger dexterity when playing his jigs – they were very difficult.

‘A few are available in publications, tunes such as Angus Sutherland and Granny MacLeod, but I was told that they were in simplified form! There was another tune that I heard which would turn your fingers into a knot and it was called the Ecclefechan Dance.  I heard it only once and have since tried to get a copy without success.

‘It appears that although very capable to play anything, he did not have much time for piobaireachd. I do not know  what he did for a living but at one time, the story goes, he  was met by an ex-Army colleague. It appears that Charlie was employed as a toilet  attendant and had his pipes with him. The place was freezing cold, but it did not seem to hamper him as he rattled out jigs – and jigs with the most intricate of fingering. I think he did teach a few about Edinburgh who will still be kicking around and accurate information could be had from them.  This is all from my memory as a young lad listening to stories from older pipers.’
Many thanks for that Duncan and readers may like to know that Granny MacLeod is in the Glasgow Collection along with other CMW tunes, Aonas Sutherland, a reel, named for a piper also in the ITC band, and the jig Myra Hatton.


 

Archie Kenneth Draw and Tunes/ RSPBA Summer School/ NPC Juniors

The Piobaireachd Society have announced the draw for the Archie Kenneth Quaich, their annual amateur ceol mor contest to be held next Saturday 3rd March. Start time is 9.30am in the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society rooms at 127 Rose Street Lane South, Edinburgh.

Two tunes are asked for. Pipers will be informed in the final tuning room which tune has been selected for them to play.

The draw:
1 Helen Thompson, Tulloch Ard/ Caber Feidh gu Brath
2 Allan Harper, Donald of Laggan/ Struan Robertson’s Sal.
3 John Forbes, Viscount of Dundee/ Too Long in this Condition
4 George Gordon, Corrienessan’s Sal./ Donald of Laggan
5 Stewart Gaudin, Gath. of MacDonald’s (DMcD)/ The Groat
6 Aaron Yeung, Donald of Laggan/ Gordon’s Sal.
7 David Hester, Finlay’s Lament/ Slanfuive (both CC)
8 Andrew Park, Isabel MacKay/ MacLeod’s Sal.
9 Gregor McCulloch, Mary MacLeod/ MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart
10 Robert Wilson, MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart/ Donald of Laggan
11 Evan Wraga, Catherine’s Lament/ Glengarry’s March

Tom Peterkin, 2015 winner of the Archie Kenneth Quaich. To Tom’s right is another former winner, John Frater

12 Leslie Barrett, C. Campbell’s Gath./ MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart
13 Graham Farr, Capt. MacDougall/ Lament for the Iolaire
14 Tom Peterkin, Flame of Wrath/ Bealach nam Brog
15 Con Houlihan, Viscount of Dundee/ Capt. MacDougall

Defending champion Bob Frater receives the AKQ from Mr James Burnet of the Royal Scottish Pipers’ Society

16 Ian Forbes, Donald Duaghal MacKay/ Lament for John Morrison
17 Robert Frater, Earl of Antrim/ Lord Lovat’s Lament
18 Janette Greenwood, Mary MacLeod/ Captain MacDougall
19 Stephen Anderson, Donald of Laggan/ His Father’s Lament
20 Ian Kirkwood, MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart/ Queen Elizabeth Sal.

Kirsteen MacDonald from Lincolnshire receives the Quaich in 2016 from Mrs Patricia Morrison, wife of judge Willie

21 Gordon Hislop, MacDougall’s Gathering./ MacLeod of Raasay
22 Dagmar Pesta, MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart/ Sir James
23 Walter Gray, Massacre of Glencoe/ Blue Ribbon
24 Marc Stoop, Big Spree/ Lord Lovat’s Lament
25 Andrea Jones, Captain MacDougall/ Massacre of Glencoe



The RSPBA’s annual summer school will be held in Glasgow Gaelic School from Monday 30th July until Friday 3rd August. The school is aimed at encouraging young pipers, snare and tenor drummers and drum majors to fulfil their potential in  pipe bands. Cost: £180 (pipes and snares). School for Tenor Drummers and Drum Majors takes place from Wednesday 1st August until Friday 3rd August at a cost of £120.

Pat Whelan, RSPBA Education Officer, said: ‘Our tutors look at the competition grades in which students are currently competing or would be competing, and identify the support required to raise competition standards. We encourage students to challenge themselves in their knowledge and in their performance.

‘We have a new element in the programme for this year. We are looking to attract adult pipers and snare drummers who, if competing, would be at Grade 4 competition level. However, if not competing, they would also be welcome. The adults will form a dedicated group or groups depending on numbers. The focus would be on improving piping and drumming skills and knowledge, with a view to playing or competing at a higher level.’

Participants can now register online. More information at pat.whelan@rspba.org


The National Piping Centre hold their annual junior competition tomorrow. There’s a Junior Championship, a Novice Championship and a Chanter contest. All events start at 9am in the Piping Centre or in the nearby Holiday Inn (chanter).


PP Ed’s Blog: Two New Books Reviewed/ Northern Winter School/ South Florida

I am always struck by the gratitude of students. At last year’s Northern Winter School Horst Krauss  presented me with this fine book ‘The Bagpipe – The History of a European Folk Instrument in Pictures’ by Fritz Schneider. The well-written text is in four languages, including English, and is graced with  beautifully reproduced photographs. It says this about the GHB:

‘The British brought the Scottish bagpipe to the once worldwide British Empire. That is why the ‘Great Highland Bagpipe’ became the generally most famous of all bagpipes. It is still played in the army and police of several countries that have been independent for many years. The fact that the instrument is played in bands, the members of which are dressed in eye-catching costumes [see pic up top the book uses to illustrate this point], contributed to its fame….The instrument differs from other types… in its sound quality. That it is sometimes disliked is caused by the fact that its scale degrees differ slightly (a quarter tone) from the usual scale…which renders its music suitable for leading troops into battle, but sounds off tune to the ear trained to listen to more conventual [sic] music…’



Our instrument’s popularity probably has as much to do with the quality of the music and striking nature of its delivery than anything else, and this off-key explanation is always overstated in my view. Usually the writer has only ever heard street pipers – those we still encounter destroying our music and our instrument’s image on the streets of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The book also peddles the music hall myths surrounding the GHB and has this cartoon from the now defunct ‘Punch’ satirical magazine. The soldier has survived the rigours of the Crimean War only to be knocked on his back by a piper: 

It features these super reproductions, the first of artist David Wilkie’s painting (1813) of  a lowland piper, well-known to all elbow pipers:  

and this one of from a steel engraving c.1840 by Edwin Tyrell after a painting by Thomas Sword Good, 1822: The book, 170 pages full colour, is a high quality publication. It comes highly recommended and is available online at www.spielleute.de. Many thanks to Horst for his kindness. The book is now safely ensconced in the PP reference library.

• Registrations for the 2018 Northern Winter School (Nov 2 – 9) open mid-March.


Whilst on the book review kick, another new volume of 46 compositions ‘inspired by the landscape and nature of Scotland that bring a fresh voice to the world of pipe music’ has come my way from Munlochy -based composer Hilary de Vries. It comes with this glowing tribute from Allan MacDonald, Glenuig now Edinburgh: ‘I found myself after only a quick surmise of the book, humming The Barley Skimmers without me knowing it until I re-discovered it written on the page in front of me. This is the ultimate test of a good tune – the old grey whistle test, or worm that you cannot rid of until you play it! There are more within……’

Allan also plays the music on an accompanying CD on smallpipes. Here’s the track he mentions ‘The Barley Skimmers’, also the title track of the book:

The ‘Barley Skimmers’ is available for £15 + P&P from Boarstone Publishing.


This letter from me has been sent to all our students: ‘Only a few days to go until we all get together for the fourth South Florida Pipe & Drum Academy. Your instructors are looking forward to meeting you all and to spending some really valuable time with you: teaching, listening and learning. We will combine the very highest quality world-­‐class instruction with an understanding that it cannot be all work and no play.

‘We will be with you throughout the day, and during that time we will have plenty of down time when we can socialize and share our common interest in piping and drumming. If we don’t enjoy this then what’s the point!! That said, our and your enjoyment will be that much more if we can make some good progress with your piping and drumming. This is of paramount importance to your tutors.

The South Florida class of ’15

‘We want you to leave the school a better piper or drummer than when you joined. So hard work will be required -­‐ but after we can let our hair down (assuming that unlike me that you have any) and have a good time in each other’s company. Please remember to bring your instruments, chanters, drum pads, cameras, phones, recorders, tuners, pencils, notebooks and any other equipment that will help you enjoy your experience at SFPDA 2018.

‘You should feel free to record all lessons and performances, the better to have something to refer to in the weeks and months following the school. Finally, can I thank you for your support for the Academy. Our long-­term aim is to effect a serious improvement in piping and drumming in South Florida. To that extent you are all pioneers and I hope that in years to come you will be able to pass on the knowledge you have gained at the Academy to future generation of Floridian pipers and drummers.’


Pipe Band Judges Conferring Set to be Approved at RSPBA AGM

By Robert Wallace

The AGM of the RSPBA will be held in Glasgow on March 10 with proposals allowing judges to discuss band performances with their colleagues and a revamp of the Association’s College the major changes up for agreement. There is also an important proposal that Grade 4 band leading drummers should also be allowed to register with another band. At the moment this dispensation only covers the Pipe Major.

The re-vamp of the Association’s College will see the appointment of Principals for Drumming and Piping and for the RSPBA Summer School.

Re judges conferring, the AGM Order Paper reads: ‘To allow the adjudicators to confer / pass comment during the contest after each band has played. The Conferring Pilot Scheme used in 2017 was agreed to be a success by the Adjudicators Panel; there was no negative feedback received; this proposal is to formally adopt this change into the Adjudication rules.’

Old rule: Adjudicators shall not discuss a band performance with colleague adjudicators before deciding their results at the end of the contest, and shall not at any time influence others in the adjudicating team during the course of the competition.

New rule: Adjudicators have an option to confer with colleague adjudicators at the end of a band performance but not while the band is playing. However, adjudicators shall not discuss their placing decisions with colleague adjudicators before all official result sheets have been collected by a designated RSPBA official.

This is a major change for the judging of bands. Hitherto the biggest source of disquiet in beer tent and band hall has come from summary sheets which show widely disparate markings by piping adjudicators or when ensemble judges vary wildly from those doing the drumming. With piping it is not the norm, but neither is it uncommon for one to have a band in the top half of the contest and the other near the bottom. There are three main reasons for this:

1 Subjective preference.
2 Huge bands making it difficult for judges to hear what is being played on the opposite side of the circle.
3 The habit of some adjudicators of relentlessly walking round the band in a different pattern and at different times from their colleagues. It should therefore be no surprise that they hear different things be these in technique, blowing, note errors and the like.

The outdated circle formation

I have long advocated static judging positions but this new rule, which I believe will eventually lead to conferring becoming the norm, is a step forward make no mistake. It is common practice in the solo world where all decisions are arrived at by consensus. Where it falls down is in horse trading and when a particularly dominant personality pushes his/her preference without due regard to the opinion of others on the bench. The RSPBA’s rule barring the discussion of placings before marking sheets have been collected should assuage any worries on that score.



If approved, the Association’s Pipe Band College will be established by restructuring the Education Management Group over a 12 month transition period following the 2018 AGM. It would be a major step forward in piping and drumming education and certification. The Association would appoint a Principal of Piping, Drumming and a Principal of the popular RSPBA Summer School.

Mr Pat Whelan, RSPBA Education Officer

The Order Paper notes that ‘this Pipe Band College will be responsible to the Board of Directors and the members for:

  1. RSPBA input to the syllabus and examination of certificated Piping and Drumming qualifications;
  2. The Curriculum (Theory and Practice) for RSPBA courses leading to certificated qualifications;
  3. The Compilation of RSPBA textbooks and tutors for certificated qualifications;
  4. Managing the RSPBA Examination Centre for certificated qualifications;
  5. Maintaining a panel of qualified instructors (subject to the approval by the board of Directors);
  6. Facilitating the running of courses (for example the Summer School).
  7. Supporting the training and development of Adjudicators.

‘The Education Officer [Mr Pat Whelan, pictured] will be the convener of the Pipe Band College. Each role within the Pipe Band College will have a specification against which applications from members of The RSPBA will be invited, as each post comes up for election. The current post holder can submit an application for consideration against all applications received.

  1. Education Officer, appointed by Board of Directors.
  2. Internal SQA/PDQB/ RSPBA Verifiers.
  3. Piping Principal.
  4. Drumming Principal.
  5. Summer School Principal.
  6. Geographical Piping / Drumming Representatives.
  7. Judges.
  8. Music Board representation.

‘All members of the Pipe Band Collage selected based on their application shall serve for a period from one to three years as agreed by the Board of Directors. The Education Officer shall have the power to co-opt members as required to achieve specific objectives set subject to the approval of the Board of Directors. The duration of the co-option shall not exceed the duration of the objective or one year, whichever is the less.’

The proposal regarding leading drummers registering with another band comes from the MacDonald Memorial Pipe Band in Ulster. At the moment the rule on this reads:  The Pipe Major of a Grade 4 Band, may be registered with one other band.

If approved this rule will now read: Pipe Major of a Grade 4 Band, may be registered with one other band. The Leading Drummer of a Grade 4 band may be registered with one other band.

An RSPBA AGM resolution is successful where it is passed by a majority vote – those votes cast in favour as compared with those votes against and takes no account of abstentions or Members absent from the meeting. Read the full Order Paper here.