Kris in fine form to claim Piper of the Year award

Mike Egan presenting Kris Coyle with the Piper of the Year trophy
Mike Egan presenting Kris Coyle with the Piper of the Year trophy

THE Northern Ireland Piping Society held their annual ‘Piper of the Year’ competition in the Adair Arms Hotel Ballymena last Saturday with Kris Coyle claiming the coveted title.

Competitors were invited to play on the strength of their competition results at various events throughout the current year. Each player had to play in the Piobaireachd and MSR competitions in order to be eligible to receive an invitation.

The competition enables senior and junior players to compete on even terms with each other and in past years the Piper of the Year has been won by a junior player.

The overall trophy winner is decided by the player with the highest aggregate marks in both the Piobaireachd and MSR events with Dougie Murray, Fife, and P/M Norman Dodds MBE the men charged with making the judging decisions.

Coyle’s first place in the MSR and third in the Piobaireachd gave him the overall title with Ross Hume taking the junior crown.


Piobaireachd: 1st Ben Greeves - Beloved Scotland; 2nd Kevin Rodgers - Mackintosh’s Lament; 3rd Kris Coyle - Lachlan MacNeill of Kintarbert’s Fancy

M.S.R: 1st Kris Coyle; 2nd Ross Hum; 3rd Kevin Rodgers; 4th Ben Greeves

Hornpipe & Jig: 1st, Kris Coyle; 2nd, Ross Hume

Best Junior Player: Ross Hume

n The eighth annual promotion of the Competing Soloists’ Organisation’s ‘Young Player of the Year’ will take place on Friday, October 26.Considered as a “play-off” for soloists who have featured as prize winners or who have been close to the prize lists in other solo competitions during the past year, this has proved to be a very popular event for young solo pipers.

Invitations have been distributed to those eligible in each of two classes – under 15 years and Over 15 – Under 18 years.

The playing requirement for the under 15s will be a performance of at least four parts of a tune in 2/4 march rhythm. Competitors may elect to perform a single tune or a combination of two tunes. For the older age group, and similar to many solo events in Scotland, there will be a march competition followed by a strathspey and reel competition, each tune being of at least four parts.

With entries already received in each of the age categories, these competitions will be held in the clubrooms of Dungannon Rugby Football Club at Stevenson Park, Moy Road, Dungannon with the first competitor “on the boards” at 7pm.

Guest adjudicator for the evening will be David Chesney, from Cookstown. David, a former top prize winner in solo piping competitions and is well known throughout the pipe band world as a manufacturer of pipe chanters and reeds.

Following the competitions, and if time permits, some of the young soloists will entertain the audience by performing their own selected “party piece”.

n I have a few dates worth noting. Firstly there will be a meeting of adult drum majors with the Northern Ireland Branch at 8pm on October 16 in the Bridge Community Centre, Lisburn.

I have been advised that the Northern Ireland Branch A.G.M. will be held at Trinity Methodist Hall, Knockmore Road, Lisburn, on November 10 at 11 am.

The deadline for any notices of motion is three weeks prior to the meeting (Friday October 19). A band’s subscriptions have to be paid up with both Branch and Headquarters if they want to participate.

n The Northern Ireland Piping and Drumming School (NIPDS) has opened its doors for a brand new term and its budding young musicians have their ‘ceol bags’ ready for learning under an all new leader.

Mark Armstrong, a champion drummer from Bangor, takes over the position from Sam Bailie, who founded the school in the late 1970s to provide a specialised approach to musical education and who designed its bespoke teaching course over a period of six years.

“It really is an honour to be taking on such a prestigious role in a school which has trained some of our finest piping and drumming greats,” said Mr Armstrong.

“More than 3,500 students have passed through the doors of NIPDS over the past 32 years and our courses, which enable progression to GCE standard, are totally unique with a strong emphasis on practical and theoretical teachings. You can use your progress within the school to qualify for achievement in the Skills Section of the Duke of Edinburgh Award – Bronze, Silver or Gold.

“Every piping adjudicator and tutor in Northern Ireland is a past pupil of our school and we take great pride in promoting the cross cultural, cross community ethos of piping, drumming and Highland dancing through NIPDS,” he added.

“I feel privileged to take over this position from Sam Bailie, who has made such an outstanding contribution to music education in Northern Ireland, and I’m very excited not just about the coming term but also the prospect of many years ahead in charge of this wonderful musical institution,” concluded Mark.

Outgoing director and founder Sam Bailie said: “It’s bittersweet for me to be stepping down after so many years but I am delighted and confident that the continued growth of the school is in safe hands with Mark at the helm. I wish him all the best in his new role and hope that he enjoys it as much as I did.

“I’d like to thank everyone who has helped make the school such a success over the years and in particular the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for the vital funding required to keep us going over the years. Without this vital support, the piping and drumming fraternity of Northern Ireland would not be in such a healthy position.”

Students and tutors of NIPDS have attained awards in solo competitions in both piping and drumming at the highest level and others have led bands to world titles.

The school caters for all abilities and many enrol not to gain competitive honours but to learn how to play properly adding to their enjoyment of their instrument and with some going on to become qualified teachers in the piping and drumming field.

NIPDS currently operates from two permanent centres in Northern Ireland at Laurelhill Community College in Lisburn and Portora Royal School in Enniskillen.

To enrol in a course, contact Sharon Noade, Lisburn on 07745 169 327 or Cecil Jones, Enniskillen on 07533 979 404.