THE Northern Ireland Piping and Drumming School (NIPDS) hosted its first drumming master class with Steven McWhirter earlier this month in Laurelhill School, Lisburn.
More than 30 drummers of all abilities took part in the free event which included NIPDS students, pipe band drum corps members and a few pipers who sneaked in at the back of the hall to listen in.
Steven is the current and three times winner of the World Solo Drumming Championship as well as the current All Ireland Champion. He is also a past pupil of the NIPDS.
Steven demonstrated incredible drumming execution and encouraged the drummers to develop their knowledge of music and technical playing to improve their band or solo performance.
Students were provided with a copy of Steven’s technical exercises which he has developed over the years through his playing with Adrian Hoy in Cullybackey Pipe Band, Reid Maxwell in Simon Fraser University Pipe Band and, of course, his own Inveraray & District drum corps. NIPDS students would have recognised a few familiar exercises taken from the NIPDS Graded Workbooks providing a very positive endorsement of the school’s materials.
Steven’s educational expertise was highly evident from the outset. He engaged the audience through participation and focussed on the importance of good basic technique to play with execution, expression and control.
Steven paid tribute to several players of his mentors including Adrian Hoy and Reid Maxwell in Band and encouraged those attending to look out for Andy Scullion’s solo performances on the internet in particular, as well as those of the legendary Alex Duthart and his drum corps.
Steven offered a fascinating insight into the different requirements for solo drumming compared to those of his leading drummer’s role during a competition season with Inveraray Pipe Band. He explained the discipline of solos required a higher level of concentration and an intense focus on minute details of the score, which required superb technique and relaxed playing to create the most musical and dynamic accompaniment to the piping score. His top tip was very simple; make sure you have a reliable piper accompanying you.
Using a hastily handwritten score of the Highland Wedding – courtesy of Andrew Wright, honorary president of the Piobaireachd Society, who was instructing at the bi-annual NIPDS piobaireachd seminar at the same venue – Steven demonstrated his approach to snare drum composition and how to write for bass and tenor drums to provide tonal colour and rhythm.
He highlighted the importance of following the melodic line and ensuring the ‘dot and cut’ was followed accurately. He stressed that Grade 1 scores had to avoid copying other leading drummer’s material and illustrated how he worked through and tested a number of rudimental ideas for each phrase to create a new score for the first part of Highland Wedding and even using suggestions from the audience writing it out in real time.
Bass drum was the next component and Steven recommended the use of a highlighter to mark the main accent patterns in the key 2 bar phrases. He then added the rhythmic tenor line and said only one tenor and the bass drummer would ever be playing at the same time. The flourishing was then scored between the patterns of playing on the drum for each relative pitch.
Finally, Steven finished with a demonstration of his remarkable solo playing with his world championship winning Cameronian Rant and then straight into The International drum salute which he developed for Simon Fraser University Pipe Band.
Commenting on the event, NIPDS’s Mark Armstrong said: “Steven delivered a very memorable afternoon of drumming, education and inspiration to a very appreciative audience and NIPDS wish to sincerely thank him for his support and to wish Inveraray & District Pipe Band all the best for the new 2013 season particularly as we look forward to their forthcoming pre-World’s Concert in August.”
NIPDS wish to sincerely thank everyone who worked tirelessly to make the event a success and the Arts Council for their sponsorship and support. Thanks also to Samuel Smith for providing the Andante drum for Steven McWhirter and two excellent prizes for the draw.
For more information on the work of NIPDS visit www.nipds.org.
n Broughshane and District Pipe Band are holding their annual guest tea in Broughshane Community Centre on Tuesday, February 26 at 7.45pm.
This will comprise a musical evening followed by supper and everyone is welcome to attend.
The Broughshane band was formed in September 2010 and is aiming to compete in a number of the local competitions this year.
The band practises every Monday night in 1st Broughshane Church Hall. Learners meet from 7.30-9pm with the senior members meeting from 7.30-9.45pm.
n Cairncastle Ulster Scots are holding their February Soiree on Wednesday, February 27 at 8pm in the Halfway House Hotel, Ballygally.
More than 20 musicians will be performing on the night including Island Fiddlers and Dalriada Folk.
There will be plenty of entertainment to suit all tastes and everyone is welcome, including anyone who plays a musical instrument. For more information contact Bobby on 07774 401 935.