Thursday, August 30, 2012

Get Thee To Highland Storm!

Tonight is the last night to see Highland Storm of the 2012 season! Have you gotten your tickets yet?! Do not miss out on the highly acclaimed show. It has comedy, romance, traditional elements and lots of surprises! Congratulations to the whole cast and crew for an outstanding season! You guys and gals are a stellar cast of very highly talented people. A big thank you to Ryan MacNeil for being such a terrific director and all round nice guy! See everyone next year on the stage!

It's not too late to sign up for classes for the 2012-2013 year. Our lovely registrar, Jane Magee, is eagerly anticipating your calls and emails. Her email address is and if you prefer more intimate ways of communication, the College phone number is 1-877-BAGPIPE. Sign up now!!! 

James and Kylie MacHattie have continued their travels across the pond. Last Friday saw them in Cowal. James was the winner of the very prestigious A grade piobaireachd and came fourth in the A grade strathspey and reel. Kylie was one of eight players who qualified for the B grade piobaireachd final in the afternoon. She was the only player in the C grade light music list to place in both events. Kylie came third in the strathspey and reel and fourth in the march. Both were extremely pleased with their Cowal experience! Saturday saw them in Drumnadrochit at the Glen Urquhart Games. These games take place near the famed Loch Ness. Sadly, there were no monster sightings. The day was overcast but the rain held off for a change! James won the piobaireachd and Kylie came second. James was first in the three light music events as well with Kylie taking a second and two thirds. The royal Gathering, the Braemar Highland Games, takes place this coming Saturday. The Queen and Prince Philip attend these games every year. Perhaps these two will be lucky enough to get a picture with Liz and Phil?! Watch this space!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Argyllshire Gathering

Just a quick update with pirated wifi at the restaurant we're currently eating at! The Argyllshire Gathering has finished for 2012. For those who are wondering what this is, it's the first contest of two where the premier pipers of the world compete for the coveted silver and gold medals and the senior piobaireachd. James is privileged to be one of 26 players vying for the gold medal. It was a very long and nerve wracking day but James was extremely proud to place fifth in the event. With so many top players competing for the gold, it's an honor to make it into the prize list. Board member, Andrew Hayes, also competed in the gold medal and the senior piobaireachd. Andrew had the honor of winning the Northern Meeting Gold medal in 2010. Both James and Andrew competed in the A grade light music today. 38 players competed for a place in the 5 person short leet in each event. James was happy with his tunes but with so many stellar players, it's tricky business to make the final! The Cowal Highland Games are tomorrow. Watch this space for an update (wifi permitting!)!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Goings on on both sides of the pond

Can you believe that August is almost over? We're more than halfway through the month.  Soon classes will resume, the leaves will start to turn and the amphitheatre roof will be disassembled for another year.  Do you know that there are only 6 more Highland Storm shows left?!  There is still time to purchase tickets!!!  Do not miss out on the opportunity to see this brand new show which is directed by the very talented and extremely nice guy, Ryan MacNeil.  If you need any more nudging, check out this link: http:/!.  This number promises to have you crying while you laugh!  Book your tickets NOW!!!

So this blogger accidentally left out the link to the highlight video of the PipingLive! festival.  This video featured our very own Ashley Brockway and you can hear the band playing in the background during different times during the two and half minute clip.  To view this, please follow this link:  htp://  My apologies for leaving this out before!

Caution...this next blog portion is about our continued adventures in apologies for taking over the blog with our competitive travels!  James and I are fortunate to have been able to stay on in Scotland after the band left.  We are both competing on the Highland Games circuit and James is competing at the Argyllshire Gathering and the Northern Meeting in the Gold Medal competitions.  It is an honour and a privilege to compete in those medals as only 25 pipers in the world are selected to play in them (26 at the Argyllshire Gathering).  A bit of background about why we do this to ourselves!  James and I are graded each year based on our track record from the previous year's competitions.  We belong to an association called the Competing Pipers Association (CPA).  We submit our results (or track record) to the CPA and we are given gradings.  Based on your grading, you then submit your results and your CPA grading to the joint eligible committee for the Argyllshire Gathering and the Northern Meeting where they then decide who is eligible to compete at the Silver and Gold Medals.  Having a good grading does not necessarily mean that you will get in to the medals.  Confused yet?!

The reason we compete in Scotland and try to take in as many games as possible because the grading committees want to see that you are actively competing in Scotland and not just North America.  This brings me to our adventures in Scotland!  The first contest of the season was Glen Isla which only offers light music.  We left Glasgow Calendonian to massive rain showers.  These did not ease off until we hit Blairgowrie (about two hours away) where the rain showers turned to a solid drizzle.  It took us longer than normal to get there because of flooding on the roads.  Once we did arrive, the drizzle had turned back to big drops of soggy rain.  This is when we got stuck.  The Glen Isla Highland Games are literally at the side of the road.  You go down an embankment and there they are.  The car park is a muddy pull-out on the other side of the road.  We nervously pulled in and quickly realised that this was not the place to park but once we had made that was too late.  Our shiny rental car turned into looking like a pig that had rolled in mud.  With James at the wheel, I tried to push.  No such luck.  With the registration time looming and frustration setting in, I set down the bank to register us and find help.  Help came in the form of our good friend and the extremely talented Ian K. MacDonald (pipe major of the Toronto Police).  He helped push us out (in his uniform, no less!) and we found somewhat firmer ground right in front of the Porta-Potties (very convenient, if you ask me!).  We quickly changed in to our uniforms (since it was pouring rain) , grabbed our pipes and went to see what the order of play was.  Scottish games normally do not take entries before the day.  They set a time that you should be there by and then they do a draw.  Sometimes games can have 10 players and sometimes they'll end up with 24.  You just never know.  On this rainy day, there were 18 of us.  The Juniors went first.  They got the dancing stage with the nice cover.  The organizers soon realised that if the Senior players (if you are 18+ in age, you're considered senior) were to all play our marches there, it would push the dancing back way too much.  Out in the rain we went.  The poor beer tent bartender (while the games are very small, it still has room for a beer tent!) had to put up with 18 players tuning up their pipes as it was the only cover besides the stage!  Hitch number two of the day...there were three stewards with three different orders of play. Now, you take18 players all vying for covered space, put us in soggy wool and then tell us that you're on or maybe you're up in three players or is it six?  There was some crabbiness happening in the group.  Once one list was established (the order that we signed up in), calm was restored.  Glen Isla was a good warm up for the weekend.  James came away with a second, fourth and fifth and I got a fourth (which I was really chuffed with since I was playing against some of the best in the world!).  Once the last player played the last bars of his jig, the sun broke through the clouds and we had an uneventful drive to our next destination.

Uneventful until we realised that the room we had gotten at the hotel in Newtonmore was right above the bar. Which offered karoke on a Friday night. The room itself was quite nice (much to our surprise...the lady behind the desk asked us three times if we wanted to see it before we paid for it...that caused some concern...) until the tone deaf gentleman wouldn't stop singing.  This went on for quite a while until it went dead silent...I'm guessing that someone finally had the courage to wrestle the microphone away from this person's clutches.  Morning came waaaay too early when the alarm went off.  We still hadn't quite decided where to go that day.  There were two Highland Games on.  One in Nairn and the other in Glenfinnan. We decided on Glenfinnan (the promise of sunshine there was the sometimes is the deciding factor in which games we go to).  We made sure to park on higher, dryer ground right by the Harry Potter Bridge.  Glenfinnan turned out to be a very long day. They did the draw for piobaireahd and then reversed it for the light music.  I was fifth from the end for piobaireachd an fifth on for light music, James was second on for light music and second from the end for piobaireachd.  t started at half twelve and about an hour in it, they took a lunch break.  I finally played my piobaireachd at half five and James played his around six.  By thetime the last player had played, the park was shutting down.  The races had finish, the heavy events done, the beer tent packed up and no toilet paper left in the porta-potties.  It was a very long day (have I mentioned that already?!).  James came away with a third in the march.  I was really happy with how I played my light music and in front of a senior judge.  Competing against some of the top players in the world, we were both happy with our plays.  We left the field running as the midges were out in full force (the Grade 3 band thought they were bad at Glencoe...try wearing a klt in those exact conditions) and wearing kilts was not fun while trying to fend them off.  We left the park around seven, scratching our way up the road.

The problem with leaving a games very late is the dilemma of trying to find a place to stay that is relatively cheap and finding a place still serving food.  We stopped in Bridge of Orchy at a restaurant there because it was now quarter after eight and most places stop serving food at half eight.  Then we drove and drove and drove while looking for a reasonable (ie:  not going to break the bank) place to stay.  I can't tell you where we stayed that night because we had no clue where we were (somewhere near Crianlarich is all I can tell you).  It was comfortable and we crashed as soon as our heads hit the pillow (as there was no karoke!).  It was another early morning as we were off to Crieff.  Crieff is one of those games where forty people may enter but half of that may show up.  The order of play tends to get very confusing.  James was second on in the piobaireachd and I had a while to wait for both light music and piobaireachd.  The piobaireachd is held behind the porta-potties and beside the food vendor generator (I'm not making this up).  It makes for some interesting tuning.  The light music is held beside the high jump and right beside the track races (again, I can't make this stuff up).  Did I mention that the loud speaker is about two feet away from the platform?  Crieff has an announcer who is very uncomfortable with silence.  This, again, makes for some very interesting tuning as you can barely think straight with the racket!  Crieff was a relatively short and uneventful day with us getting away by five (although we had been there since half eight in the morning).  I managed to even out my sunburn as the day was mostly sunny with the heavens opening up for the results.  James managed a fourth in the MSR.  We were both really happy with our plays which is all we have control over.  We decided to stay in Dunkeld that night due to exhaustion of three straight days of competing.

We are now off to Oban where James will compete in the Gold Medal on Wednesday and the light music on Thursday.  Friday will see us in Cowal where we will both compete and Saturday will most likely see us in Drumnadrochit (Glen Urqhuart).  Keep your eyes peeled on this blog for more of our adventures and thank you for indulging me with our tales!                  


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back to Life!

It's amazing how communication, travel, etc. seem so fast these day.  It seems like in this day and age, everything seems instant.  One minute you're in Glasgow, the next Iceland and then back to the reality of life! The two week hiatus didn't stop the cast of Highland Storm from putting on a stellar show for a crowd of over 250 people last night.  Congratulations to the entire cast for such an excellent performance!  Do not fear, there is still time to see the show!  Highland Storm runs three nights a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) until August 30th.  Tickets can be purchased from the College box office at 1-877-BAGPIPE.  Directed by Ryan MacNeil and with a fantastic cast of highly talented performers, why wouldn't you want to see it?!

It's not too late to register for classes in the fall.  To download the enrollment and registration information forms, please follow this link:  The College offers programs in its four main disciplines:  Step Dancing, Highland Dancing, Drumming and Bagpiping.  If you are interested in piping or drumming, see if you qualify for the Hall Scholarship.   Sign up and see what all of the fun is about!

The College of Piping Grade 3 Pipe Band's accomplishment at the World Pipe Band Championships has been written about in the Charlottetown Guardian.  To check out the article, follow this link:  There is a mistake in the article.  The College of Piping Pipe Band was not the only Canadian pipe band to place at the worlds this year.  Canada was well represented in the prize list at the World Pipe Band Championships.  Simon Fraser University took home a third place in the Grade One category with another four Canadian pipe bands taking prizes in the top fourteen in that same category.  The Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band was the first prize winner in the Grade Three A category and their entry level band took second in the Novice Juvenile category.  I'm sure I'm missing some more Canadian bands and my apologies.  Canadians showed that they are a force to be reckoned with at this year's World Pipe Band Championships!  Well done to everyone!

The College of Piping Grade 3 Pipe Band was also featured in a highlight video about the 2012 PipingLive! festival.  Our very own Ashley Brockway is featured not once but twice in the two and a half minute video.  The College was very honoured to be a small part of the festivities.  As pipes|drums website has noted, the PipingLive! festival is the world's most important festival of piping.  A big THANK YOU to the festival organizers for letting the College take part in such an internationally renowned event.  A big CONGRATULATIONS for another success PipingLive! festival!

Pipe Major James MacHattie had a bit of a shock when the Scots Guards Volume Three was unveiled in Glasgow last week.  His tune, "At Long Last" was published in the latest book.  The Scots Guards books are considered the canon of light music books.  It was an honour and a privilege for his tune to be included.  Not only did James have a tune published but the College's founding director, Scott MacAulay has two tunes featured in the publication.  The College is well represented in the latest volume!           

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Worlds Week Whirlwind!

What a whirlwind Worlds week was!  Practices, performances and promotion of the College took over for the Piping Live! festival.  Here's the week at a glance:

Monday:  The schedule of two practices per day started.  The band learned a fair bit from the somewhat nervous performance in North Berwick and really settled down.  Two very solid practices.  Then it was off to take in some of the festival which included a fabulous concert by some of the best Celtic musicians on the planet such as Michael McGoldrick, John McCusker and John McSherry.

Tuesday:  The sun arrived in full force!  We all wondered how long that would last...  After a good morning practice, Tuesday brought one of the most important performances for the band.  We were invited to conduct an open practice on the steps of the National Piping Centre, one of the focal points of the festival.  Pipe Major James was so pleased with this performance, in particular since so many influential piping people in the audience got their first chance to hear what sort of quality is coming out of the College.  It is very rare for a non Grade 1 band to be asked to conduct an open practice there during the Worlds week.

Wednesday:  Another important day, which had the band performing in George Square in the heart of Glasgow before a huge, appreciative crowd.  The band put on a 45 minute concert under the blazing Scottish sun - yes, the weather was still holding!  One of the organizers said it was 27 degrees in the square...  In the evening many took in the Boghall and Bathgate concert at the Royal Glasgow Concert Hall. Boghall would go on to win the drumming in both the MSR and Medley contests at the Worlds.

Thursday:  This was an early day - we all went down to Glasgow Green to be ready for an 8:30 practice, since our draw for Saturday was an early one.  We did a bit of exploring, and then had to reset the chanters for the pipe section to adjust to cool and dewy grass after the heat of George Square.  Karen and Susan joined us all in the afternoon - their tired but smiling faces were a welcome boost to us all.  One more practice, and then many headed off to hear Canada's own Triumph Street Pipe Band take the stage with then reigning and now current World Champions Field Marshall Montgomery.

Friday:  Another early practice at Glasgow Green and the band was feeling pretty much ready for the big day.  Doug and Debbie Hall showed up for another big show of support, as well as alumnus and board member Andrew Hayes who was a great help in the tune up.  Then Sarah Simpson rushed off to Strathclyde University to compete in the Grade 1 CLASP contest - the Competing League of Amateur Solo Pipers, open to over 18s who are not yet in professional/open competition.  This was Sarah's first foray into this type of international competition, and we were all so incredibly proud when she emerged with first place in the piobaireachd!  Even before the Worlds, the College was really turning heads in Scotland both as a band and as a force in solos to be reckoned with!  To keep everyone relaxed in the evening we met in the common area of our accommodations and had pizza and played a few games.  Then it was back to our rooms to polish shoes, iron shirts and try to get some sleep!

Saturday:  The World Pipe Band Championships had arrived!  12 long months of practice and fundraising had finally brought us here, and all we had to do now was do our best to play well enough in the qualifier to make it to the final to compete for a prize.  The fog lifted and the sun showed itself just as the band started to warm up for the qualifier.  There were 32 bands in total, and we were on 4th out of our heat of 16 bands.  What a performance the band put out!!  It was by far and away our best performance of the entire year.  We were finished before 9:30, but had to wait 4 excruciating hours until the results of the qualifier were announced at 1:30.  Even though we felt we had a good play, we all got very nervous waiting for the results. It turns out we stewed for nothing - we won the qualifier handily, with three first place ordinals and one second place!  We then drew ninth position to play in the final.  The performance in the final was also fairly solid, but not quite as steady as the qualifying run.  Finally, a bit after 6:00 the band did the march-past the dignitaries onto the massed band field with thousands of pipers and drummers all together.  Kylie and James have played so many times in the World Championships, and they knew that more than not a band does not get a prize; so when the announcer read out "The College of Piping Pipe Band, Summerside, Canada" in 5th place, they felt such an intense sense of pride in all the members - it was almost overwhelming.  After such a long day (and year!) of physical and emotional exhaustion, many of the members of the band didn't really understand the magnitude of what had just happened.  The results had an odd mix of ordinals - from the four judges we received marks ranging from first place to ninth.  When all the math was done we tied for fourth but another band received that placing because the ensemble judge placed them higher.  What an incredible day!  And many of us got sunburns...  Can you believe it?!

Sunday:  The day after the Worlds is always a strange one.  All the efforts of the year built towards one day as the prime focus, so the day after can be a bit of a let-down.  Some went off to Edinburgh, and many cheered on our board member and superfan Andrew Hayes at the Masters Solo Piping Contest as well as alumnus Iain Speirs.  Iain put our a superb performance against the world's best, and won the piobaireachd competition!

Monday:  Monday was a real treat!  Debbie and Doug took us all to Edinburgh to spend the day exploring, and then treated us to supper at a fabulous Italian restaurant just off the Royal Mile.  At this supper an amazing announcement was made: since so many new players are joining the band organization and since we are establishing a brand new Grade 4 band, Doug and Debbie are assisting in the purchase of some new drums for the organization!  Chris was overjoyed, to put it mildly!  Then the Halls took us all up to Edinburgh Castle to take in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  What a spectacle!  The College was represented there as well with both Lacey Fischer and Brooklyn Tchozewski dancing!  By the time we all got on the bus (after nearly losing one of our dear parents in the Fringe Festival crowds!) we all nodded off for the ride back to Glasgow.  Many thanks to the Halls for everything they do - and so much beyond the financial assistance:  they are our biggest fans and huge emotional supporters.

Tuesday:  Homeward bound!  The bus pulled up at 10:30 to take the tired but happy Grade 3 band to the airport to head home.  Kylie and James are staying on in Scotland to represent the College in the solo contests, and so they waved goodbye with wee lumps in their throats as the bus pulled away.

Within an hour of the band leaving, the heavens opened and bombarded Glasgow with the rain that had miraculously held off for the entire Piping Live! week.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

North Berwick

The first contest has come and gone.  North Berwick Highland Games were held on Saturday and it was the first Scottish competition for the band.  The band came away with a sixth place in a field of eleven and they won dress and deportment for Grade Three.  It was a very good learning experience for the band as nerves were a factor.  It was too bad that Bridge of Allan was cancelled because they would have liked a shot at redemption but it was great to get the nerves out with the first play.  Less than a week until the big day and lots happening in between now and then!

A bus tour took place today on the west coast of Scotland since the coach had been booked for the Bridge of Allan Highland Games.  It took us to the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum, Glencoe, Fort William, Glenfinnan and Inveraray.  It was a long day but great to get out of the metropolis that is Glasgow.  In Glencoe the band had their first taste of midges or rather the midges had their first taste of Canadians!  There was lots of arm flapping and swatting as the little bugs wreaked havoc!  It was a beautiful misty day to go through the famous glen which added to the mystique of it.  A lunch stop was had in Fort William and then on to the famous Harry Potter bridge in Glenfinnan.  Glenfinnan is also the landing place of Bonnie Prince Charlie.  No midges bothered them there!

A supper stop was made in Inveraray where the rain teemed down.  It had been the hope to catch the Inveraray and District Pipe Band practice but no such luck.  Good food was eaten instead!  After arriving back in Glasgow, the band had a very short band practice as the heavens decided to open up.  The band members are certainly being exposed to the very schizophrenic weather that Scotland tends to have!

No such luck with pictures and technical people have been enlisted but still no luck!  I will continue to work on this.  Thank you for your patience!!!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Iceland Review

Yay!!!  I finally found internet on campus that works!  Thank you for your patience in regards to the non-existent blog posting thus far...I appreciate it!  The band has arrived safe and sound in Scotland.  Everyone's luggage and instruments made it with no major snags.  The journey for the band began on Tuesday when we left Halifax for Iceland and then on to Glasgow.  The stopover in Iceland was very much appreciated before the hustle and bustle of what lies ahead for the band.  We arrived in Iceland early Wednesday morning and were taken to our accommodation...or at least what we thought was our accommodation.  We realised after we had unloaded the bus and all of the luggage that we were in fact at the wrong place.  Reloading the bus and the luggage we were on our way to the right destination.  The University of Iceland was an extremely comfortable and welcoming pit stop.  After checking in, the group split up.  Some of us went to the Blue Lagoon and others explored the city of Reykjavik.  The Blue Lagoon group were lucky to get a mini tour of an active volcano and a short hike on said volcano before hitting the warm and relaxing waters of the natural hot spring.  Once back at the university, the band had a short practice.  The practice was very well attended by locals who seemed to enjoy the playing of a visiting Canadian band.  They even wanted to put us on national Icelandic television but after a long day of travel, it was time for dinner and an early bedtime, so it didn't work out.  The band had a fantastic time in Iceland.  Great people, excellent food (some ate puffin and whale!) and beautiful scenery.  It was a perfect way to start the trip.

We arrived in Glasgow yesterday morning and checked in to Caledonian University.  After a short practice, it was time to explore the city of Glasgow.  Many in the band have not been to a city this size, so it was quite the new experience!  We had another practice today in anticipation of North Berwick tomorrow.  The first contest of the trip.  Bridge of Allan was cancelled on Sunday due to a water logged park, so the band will take a tour of Western Scotland instead.  Stay tuned for pictures and musings of the first competition!

I'm having trouble uploading photos to the blog but once I figure out the problem, I will post a blog of just photos from Iceland...I promise!!!

The band has landed!

Well, we made it!  The Grade Three band has landed in Glasgow!  After a whirlwind stopover in Iceland, we've settled in at our accommodation and had two practices already.  We also had a band practice in Iceland which attracted a crowd of curious Scandinavians.  They even wanted to put us on the national news!  Our first contest is tomorrow in North Berwick where we'll compete against bands in our category and the next one higher.  On Sunday we'll tour the west coast of Scotland since Bridge of Allan was cancelled.  I'll try my best to post some photos but the Internet connection has yet to work where we're staying.  At least we now have hot water....

I'll try to get a quick post in every day so stay tuned until next time!