- Our club member Stephen Rooklidge, the force behind the Shasta Piping Society, announced the results of what we hope will be the first of many Original Piobaireachd Music competitions.
Judges Rab Wallace, Bill Livingstone and Mike Cusak were asked to listen to and award three winners out of 26 entries sent in from all over the world (Scotland, Germany, Denmark, France, New Zealand, United States).
Of the three winners, two of them are members of the Alt Pibroch Club:
- First place – Jori Chisholm, Washington USA, Untitlef
- Second place – Dave Mason, Ohio USA, Salute to Angus McDonald of the Great Divide
- Third place – John Bottomley, Maryland USA, The Knights of Glin
Congratulations to all the winners! It is exciting to think that we have 26 new pibrochs added to our precious tradition. Hopefully, we will be able to see and hear these exciting new tunes in the near future!
Here are the biographies of the winners:
Jori Chisholm is an active piping competitor in North American and Scotland. He’s a four-time winner of the U.S. Gold Medal for Piobaireachd and has placed in the top three in the Gold Medal in Scotland. He played with the SFU Pipe Band for 19 years and won the World Pipe Band Championships with the band three times. He’s the founder of BagpipeLessons.com and the creator of the Bagpipe Gauge and the Piper’s Ultimate Reed Poker. His compositions and arrangements have been performed and recorded by pipers and pipe bands around the world. He lives in Seattle with his wife and two sons.
I haven’t settled on a name for my tune yet, why don’t we call it “Untitled” and maybe a comment that I may give it a title later, or you could mention have a couple tune names which I’m considering, but I haven’t settled on one quite yet. As I continue to explore the composition, the title might reveal itself to me with greater clarity in time. Sometimes when I compose, the name comes to me first and serves for inspiration for the tune. Other times, the tune comes to me first and the name comes later, if ever. I get inspiration from many sources: my family and friends, from great pipe tunes and great piping performances, and from the great composers and players of all types of music — including Donald MacLeod, Lennon & McCartney, Mozart, Scott Joplin, and countless others.
I was taught piping at King Edward VII School, Johannesburg by Pipe Major Chris Mulinder, latterly of the South African Irish Regiment. I did not immediately develop an interest in Ceol Mor but was more into the light music and band scene. A few pipers in SA inspired me to try – Chris Terry of Grahamstown (a regular competitor in Scotland during the 70’s and 80’s), the late John Farmer, Ken Mustard of Durban Regiment. In the 1980’s, PM Angus MacDonald was invited to give a week’s school in SA and I was inspired by his level of, not only competence, but his ability and enthusiasm to share and encourage even the weakest of player. Thanks to John Wilson and Rab Wallace of The College of Piping I was able to get further encouragement and tutoring while sitting my Senior Piping Certificate. Since 2000, many have influenced my love for Ceol Mor. However, my biggest inspiration has to have been PM Donald MacLeod – for his inspirational CD series and his own pieces of piobaireachd. Although often shorter in length, his tunes can challenge the norms of the form which then challenge our memorizing of the tunes. Donald also had some beautiful melodies in his music which, in my opinion, is crucial in any good tune. The more we play piobaireachd, the more it benefits our piping (stamina, fingering, care of instrument etc.) and helps us to understand more of the musical nuances of piping. Perhaps a strange analogy but I like to think of piobaireachd like a good blue cheese. (I would have liked to say whiskey but I am not much of a spirits man.) To most, it smells bad, but to others, as we mature, we develop a strange craving and love for it!
I have been writing folk songs and piping tunes since the 1980’s and find it relaxing and challenging at the same time. Often I get a tune in my head and I just have to write it down. The idea that the Piobaireachd Society would choose some tunes from Donald MacLeod’s book for this year’s Silver Medal Competition shows more of an approval of modern tunes being accepted as “good enough” which encourages a composer, like myself, to try harder.
Last June, my family went to visit Glacier National Park. In preparation, my wife, Michele (as is her custom) started reading up about the area and its history and came upon the story of the McDonalds of Montana and Idaho – Native Americans living on reservations with the surname McDonald. Michele’s dad is a bit of a history buff so she asked him and he told her the story of Angus McDonald who, as a young man, left Dingwall in Ross-shire for North America and ended up working in the fur trade for The Hudson Bay Company. Angus married Catherine of the Nez Percé tribe and was instrumental in establishing Fort Connen (Connah). It is supposed that Lake McDonald was named after Angus’s son, Duncan, who carved his name in a tree in 1878. Although Angus grew up in Dingwall, he was born in Craig – a tiny village on Loch Torridon near Glencoe. On our visit and we were fortunate to meet with Joe McDonald, Angus’s great-great-grandson and learn that he and his wife had been able to travel back to Glencoe with Jim Hunter, one of the authors who has written about Angus. (Also author of “A Dance Called America”). Steve A. Anderson is another author who has written about the area and period in a book called “Angus McDonald of the Great Divide – The Uncommon Life of a Fur Trader”. Catherine watched the subjugation of her people’s lands much in the same way that Angus’s ancestors had experienced the highland clearances. I have permission from the author to include that name in the title of the tune.
John has been piping for more than 50 years, starting out with the Amityville American Legion Pipe Band in 1963. He is currently the Director of Bagpiping at the United States Military Academy at West Point. John played in the groundbreaking Guelph Pipe Band in the 1970s, and has led a number of successful pipe bands. He is the publisher of the EUSPBA Voice. A long-time judge in the EUSPBA, he is recognized internationally as a top piobaireachd player and authority.
The name of the piobaireachd is derived from The Knight of Glin (dormant 14 September 2011), also known as the Black Knight or Knight of the Valley, was a hereditary title held by the FitzGerald families of County Limerick, since the early 14th century. Like the Knights of Kerry, the Knights of Glin descended from one of the younger or illegitimate sons of the 1st Baron Desmond and Honora (daughter of Hugh O’Connor, of Kerry). Lord Desmond was also known as Sir John Fitz-John or Seán Mór na Sursainge, and he lived c. 1260. The last knight, Desmond FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin, died on 14 September 2011. My wife, Claire, read about the death of the last knight (neither one of us remembers where) and mentioned it to me. When I found out he was also known as the Black Knight, I had to write a tune. I wanted a strong tune to honor the title, with just a touch of lament because of the ending of the line of knights.