Stuart Liddell continued his stellar competitive 2009 year by winning the BratachGorm. Held in London, the BratachGorm competition is organized by the Scottish Piping Society of London and is a qualifier for the 2010 Glenfiddich.
Stuart Liddell has long been one of my favorite pipers. His relaxed, yet deadly accurate execution and tasteful musical arrangements and interpretations coupled with a flawless, sweet pipe has always been a standard by which I have only dreamed of aspiring to. Although Stuart has often been better known for his "kitchenpiping" style of playing, his knowlege and ability of the more traditional disciplines of piobaireachd and MSR playing rank up there with the repected masters of our generation.
Stuart accomplished yet another milestone in his stellar piping career by winning the 2009 Glenfiddich Champion at the Glenfiddich Invitational Solo Piping Championships held at Blair Castle. His first time winning the prize, Liddell concluded an amazing year that included the Northern Meeting Clasp and sweeping every grade two event with the Inveraray & District Pipe Band as Pipe-Major, assuring the bands promotion to grade 1.
Roddy MacLeod of Glasgow won the Piobaireachd event for an record eighth time, with Bruce Gandy of Canada as runner up. Willie McCallum of Bearsden, Scotland, took home the MSR and narrowly missed winning a ninth overall title.
This past weekend pipers from Utah and Idaho were treated to two days of insightful instruction from world renowned pipers, composers, adjudicators, and educators Bob Worrall and Ann Gray.
Bob is respected around the piping world for his knowledge of the music and is one of the few North Americans to have judged such competitions as the Northern Meeting, Oban, and the BratachGorm. Most recently, pipers may recognise Bob as the voice of the BBC piping commentary during the World Championship broadcast.
Those in attendance were treated with a rare opportunity to gain some insight into a higher level of playing, appreciation, and understanding of the great music we are fortunate to play.
Thanks to the organizers of this great event. I hope there are many similar events in the future.
Just days after playing for a packed house at the Royal Glasgow Concert Hall and recording a live CD, SFU took their masterful playing and wicked tone to the competition circle where they won both events at the World Pipe Band Championships on Saturday. This is the second year in a row that SFU has taken home the title and the 6th time in 14 years.
I immensely enjoyed staying up all night on Friday watching the BBC live broadcast. I am hoping that this becomes a yearly tradition. Or better yet, I hope I can attend! It was also fun chatting live with other piping fiends via facebook and commenting as the competition progressed. What an amazing technological world we live in!
Other highlights included the Dowco Triumph Street Pipe Band playing well enough to make it through the qualifier in the morning and play very respectably in the final on their first time out in grade one at the worlds and sentimental favorite Saint Laurence O'Toole from Dublin break into the top 3 after 10 years of gridlock at the worlds. It was very satisfying to watch local talents Justin Howland and Ross Morrill play so well in TSPD! Congratulations and thanks to all the bands who work so hard to set the world standard in piping and help our art progress.
Well, it's that time of year again. A little over a week from now over 8,000 pipers and drummers from all over the world will take the field at Glasgow Green to compete for the title of "world champions".
I would like to take this opportunity to wish good luck to three home grown pipers that will be competing in the grade 1 contest. Marching to the line in the grade 1 arena at the worlds is something many pipers dream of for years and most never realize. Congratulations to Sylvia DeTar of the current world champion SFU Pipe Band and Justin Howland and Ross Morril of Dowco Triumph Street.
Pipe Major Willie Ross, G.S. McLennan, John MacDonald of Inverness.
John MacDonald of Inverness was arguably the best piobaireachd player of all time and passed is vast knowledge of the classical music to many pupils, the most famous of whom are Donald MacLeod and the Bobs of Balmoral.
G.S. McLennan may have been the most gifted piping prodigy the world has ever seen, particularly in the light music. From a very young age he wowed audiences (including the Queen) with his unequalled musicality and dexterity. His compositions make up some of the most highly regarded tunes we have in the piping library. Unfortunately, his life was cut much too short. Who knows how many wonderful tunes he took to the grave.
Pipe Major Willie Ross is said to have been the most influential piper of the 20th century. Joining the Scots Guards at age 16, he began an association with military piping that would last for 60 years, including almost 40 years as the piping instructor at the army school of piping at Edinburgh Castle. Among his many students, his most prized pupil was John D. Burgess another piping legend in his own right, winning both gold medals at the age of 16, a feat that has never been equaled.
This photo is of Donald Cameron. Donald was the premier player of his day and an authority on piobaireachd. He lived from 1810-1868. He was a student of the great Angus MacKay and is one of the direct links to the MacCrimmon line. It is said that he was a shrewd, clever man, full of Highland lore and tradition; a keen angler…. In appearance, as in disposition, he was the ‘ideal successor of such hereditary pipers as the MacCrimmons, and we shall not look upon his like again.’ Personally he was a most congenial, unassuming man and benevolent to a fault. He won the prize pipe in 1843 and in Edinburgh in 1844.
I am fascinated with the great history of our music. I wish I could go back and meet some of these great pipers and just listen to the stories they would tell. I think it would make for a great evening.
The band has had a busy summer so far. A few highlights include playing for over 10,000 people at the Mariott Center for a patriotic service and for an estimated 300,000-500,000 people leading off the annual grand parade at the Provo Freedom Festival. The band also played a concert at Colonial Days and played for the Steven Henager College graduation as well as several other parades and shows.
On a personal note, I competed solo for the first time in four years. I felt I had a particularly good run in my piobaireachd which is pictured here. Hopefully many more competitions coming up in the future!
...ok, maybe not, but sometimes it comes pretty close. Tonight was one of those nights. When the pipes seem to play themselves. When the deep bass and bright tenors blend warmly and seamlessly to envelope the room in a thick and penetrating wall of sound. When that wall of sound seems to gently cradle the chanter, bringing out sweetly ringing overtones and harmonics. When all you have to do is let your chanter sing effortlessly. When the music just flows like a relentless river full of life and energy. When your instrument, technique, and music melt together and become an extension of your mind, body, and soul. When you are taken to another place and time. When life, for a few moments, is just... perfect. All of this deep Zen thinking led my mind to a philosophical riddle that has perplexed mankind for centuries. "If a piper is alone in a forest and misses a doubling and no one is there to hear it, did he really miss the doubling?" Ponder that for a while and you just may experience Zen enlightenment through piping. ;)
I’m not really sure why, but this photo I came across deeply touched me. This is a photo of an Allied soldier playing the bagpipes en route to France on D-Day, June 6 1944. Gratitude overcame me as I looked at each of their faces and saw bravery that must have been far superior to my own. It is almost certain that these same pipes, only days later, were heard playing the constant strains of Flowers of the Forest in memorial to many of these brave soldiers who gave their lives to protect our right to freedom in the face of tyranny. May we always remember the price of our freedom.
Here is the legendary piper Donald McLeod tuning the drones of one of his pupils.
How often do pipers neglect the importance of always presenting a well tuned instrument when performing? I remember reading an article by Ian Whitelaw years ago in which he discussed the acceptable standards for performing that classical musicians have. Whenever you hear piano or violin, etc. on a movie soundtrack or on television there is always a certain standard that the listener expects to hear. How often do we as pipers hear the public say "I can't tell the difference between a good piper and a bad piper"? This is because the average listener has only had experience listening to poorly tuned and played bagpipes.
If we as pipers are to be respected as musicians and not just a novelty act we must strive to always present our instrument at the highest level that we are capable. This takes practice. Never just rely on your band to always tune your bagpipes. Have a separate solo chanter and get used to setting up your own chanter (messing with your band chanter is not a good idea usually). Tune always and often during your private practice, never settle of anything less than in tune. It may be hard at first, but each time it gets easier.
When performing, don't have the attitude of "It's just a funeral", or "It's not a competition so it doesn't matter". As a piper you are perpetuating a very proud tradition. Make sure that those who hear you have a positive imprint left upon their mind. Of course, we all have those days when things just go wrong, but practice, practice, practice, and just caring will make those times the exception rather than the rule.
To the make of a piper goes seven years of his own learning, and seven generations before. At the end of his seven years one born to it will stand at the start of knowledge, and leaning a fond ear to the drone he may have parley with old folks of old affairs.
Happy New Year! Despite the roller coaster world we live in, it has been another great year for piping. There have been so many great stories and accomplishments both local and world wide. It's always enjoyable associating with fellow pipers and lovers of the music. I hope that 2009 brings many more great things for all of our piping.
New years is a great time for resolutions... What are your piping related resolutions? I would like to read about them.
One of my piping related new years resolutions is to return to the solo competition platform. I have taken a 4 year break from competing solo because I have chosen to spend more time focusing on other aspects of life, but I have always enjoyed the challenge and thrill of competing. So look for me this summer at the games!