Ontario Online Championships

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Summer Blast! Scholarship Available!

Monday May 10th, 2021

Once again, congratulations to Caleb MacPherson, the early bird draw winner of one week of free tuition at this year’s Summer Blast!.  A reminder that registrations will close on Friday, June 11.  So, you have a month to submit your registration for this year’s virtual camp.  Check out our website to see the amazing prizes that have been donated by our generous sponsors.  

In addition, R. G. Hardie and Company is sponsoring one student (aged 18 and under) at this year’s camp. 

The winner just needs to submit a short (250 words or less) letter outlining why they would be a worthy recipient.  Applicants may wish to accompany the email with a link to a short video clip of their playing.  Applications will need to be received no later than Friday, June 11.

Bob Worrall, Director, Summer Blast!


All Set for Contest Entry!

Friday April 23rd, 2021

The Master Entry Form is now ready for download! Members can enter online! (non-members are also welcome to enter these events!)

Competitors can now enter to take part in the PPBSO’s exciting season of six online competitions (and don’t miss the Western Branch’s Kiwanis competition May 16!). Championship Supreme points will be awarded for all events!

Competitors can register by either logging in to their PPBSO member account or by downloading and completing the Master Entry Form and follow the instructions included on the page.

The online competitions are as follows:

June 12 – Ontario Championships
July 1 – Embro Highland Games Online
July 10 – Kincardine Games Online
July 17 – The PPBSO Championships
July 31 – Glengarry Highland Games Online
August 14 – Fergus – Canadian Championships

Championship Supreme points are a part of all events – including the May 16, Kiwanis competition (a reminder: individuals with the highest aggregate number of points at the end of the online season will be awarded the “Champion Supreme” award for their competitive category – and receive prize recognition).

Additional detail related to our online competitions can be found here.

Prizes will be announced live on the PPBSO’s Facebook page at the end of each contest day! Watch this space (and social media) for exact times!

Enjoy your music and good luck to all competitors!

PPBSO Judges’ Seminar Welcomed the World!

Saturday April 17th, 2021

The Pipers and Pipe Band Society of Ontario held its annual Judges’ Seminar in spectacular fashion on Saturday, April 17, in an online event that invited accredited judges from around the world to join in for the day.  More than 150 adjudicators attended, representing 12 piping and drumming associations worldwide:

Alberta Society of Pipers & Drummers
Atlantic Canada Pipe Band Association
British Columbia Pipers’ Association
Eastern United States Pipe Band Association
Irish Pipe Band Association
Midwest Pipe Band Association
Pipe Bands Association of South Africa
Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario
Royal New Zealand Pipe Bands’ Association
Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association
Solo Piping Judges Association (Scotland)
Western United States Pipe Band Association

The day ran on the Zoom platform and was built around moderated discussions in solo piping, band piping, snare and mid-section, with a final roundtable on the overall subject of ensemble. 

The 8:30 am solo piping session attracted 100 attendees and saw PPBSO Music Committee member Andrea Boyd moderate discussions by Bob Worrall and John Wilson. The panelists covered a range of subjects, with particular focus on rising pitch, decreasing tempos, and the lack of individual character in competition performances. The need for judges to be ready to select more unknown tunes for competitors also drew attention. Some lively discussion peppered the Zoom chat function.

Concurrent with the solo piping, Music Committee bass and tenor experts Kate Dudek and Kyle Heaney conducted session on the bass and tenor discipline that also embraced lively discussion. This kicked off with Kyle Heaney presenting his take on what makes a good bass and tenor score. Judges in the session noted the challenges of having to focus on so many diverse areas of the performance at once. This led to talk about the need for an additional judge in the drumming/mid-section area.

Pipe Major Richard Parkes, MBE taking active part in the Ensemble discussion

The morning snare session ran after the bass and tenor spot, consisting of a panel discussion with Harvey Dawson, Mike Hunter and Brian McCue, moderated by Steven Hill. Thirty-seven drumming adjudicators addressed the need to be clearer and more honest with lower grade competitors who are not being taught well. RSPBA participants spoke highly of the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board (PDQB) program as an effective way to raise standards.

Band piping took up the last morning slot for the pipers, with Ken Eller and Robert Mathieson in discussion. Peter Aumonier moderated. Topics included how judges should prepare for their job, the value and nature of the feedback we provide to the bands, the need to avoid jargon, and a call to review the rules around pipe band introductions.

The afternoon ensemble block attracted more than 120 adjudicators. Andrea Boyd managed her second panel as capably as she did the first, with Ken Eller, Kyle Heaney, Rab Mathieson, John Wilson and Bob Worrall filling the panel seats. The session began with John Wilson and Rab Mathieson presenting several videos produced by the RSPBA to describe their view of a more holistic approach to ensemble. Much discussion ensued on the role of the mid-section in the pipe band performance and what should be expected of it, both rhythmically and tonally. The session ended with a discussion of what individual ensemble judges are rewarding and whether we sometimes lose the musical thread due to ‘forensic judging.’

In addition to others, Bill Livingstone and Richard Parkes checked in with comments during the day, adding both gravitas and the competitor’s viewpoint to the seminar mix. 

Much credit goes to the Music Committee – particularly Hugh Cameron and Alan Clark — for their organization of this annual spring event, and to all of those named above who participated from all both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Chat comments at the end of the day offered glowing praise, with calls for a reprise in 2022. 

PPBSO Judges’ Seminar Welcomes the World!

Wednesday April 7th, 2021

The Piper’s and Pipe Band Society of Ontario is about to host what may well be the largest and most international adjudicators’ seminar ever held.

One of the few good things to arise from the pandemic is the widespread use of communication technology. Video communication with applications like Zoom are the norm. Connecting people has become fast, easy and inexpensive. With this The Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario has been enabled to invite piping and drumming judges from around the globe to its annual adjudication workshop.

The workshop is set for Saturday, April 17th, co-ordinated by the PPBSO’s Music Committee, with this year’s session spearheaded by committee members Hugh Cameron and Pipe Major Alan Clark. The aim of the workshop is to support the sharing of knowledge and perspectives that might enhance a judge’s kitbag of skills with a view to support the best outcomes for all competitors.

This year’s seminar covers both solo and band areas of expertise. 

Guest panelists include Hugh Cameron, Ken Eller, Harvey Dawson, Kate Dudek, Kyle Heaney, Mike Hunter, Brian McCue, Rab Mathieson, John Wilson and Bob Worrall. 

Peter Aumonier, Andrea Boyd and Steven Hill will each be moderating a panel discussion. 

The workshop is scheduled to begin at 8:30 AM (EDT) with participants spanning no fewer than 12 time zones. 

Current registration has the PPBSO anticipating over 100 participants from organizations that include: 

Alberta Society of Pipers & Drummers, Atlantic Canada Pipe Band Association, The British Columbia Pipers’ Association, The Eastern United States Pipe Band Association, The Irish Pipe Band Association, Midwest Pipe Band Association, Pipe Bands’ Association of South Africa, The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, Solo Piping Judges’ Association (Scotland), and The Western United States Pipe Band Association.

The PPBSO’s current judging panel can be viewed here.  For more information on PPBSO judging certification see pages 8-12 of the rule book.  If you would like to enquire further about becoming a judge please email the PPBSO’s Administrator for additional information.

A message to all members of the PPBSO: On Membership

Friday April 2nd, 2021

When it comes to piping I was a lucky kid in many ways. 

When it came to things “piping” my mum and dad would drive me pretty much anywhere their 1977 gas-guzzling Dodge Monaco could reach. On more than one occasion we’d head on that legendary long-weekend drive from Toronto to Maxville for the Glengarry Highland Games. Traffic was always bad – even then. After six hours east on the 401 Friday night to Maxville, we’d set up the tent in the cornfield near the games – yes, the tent – after a muggy and sleepless night it was on to the games – most always the hottest day of the year, then as now. 

The next morning we’d drive the hour and forty minutes to the Montreal games in St Lambert. When the contests were over late Sunday afternoon – are you ready for this –  my dad would drive us the six hours or so back to the west end of Toronto. We’d be in the door around midnight set for a good five or six hours sleep before heading to Dutton games, always held on the Monday August Civic holiday. Dutton is a leisurely two hour ride from Coppermill Drive in Toronto. Yes. We were hardcore. 

If it wasn’t for The Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario, these atomic road trip weekends would never have happened. And I would never have experienced the fantastic events that were integral to the development of my piping – and me.

And it’s not just games. The PPBSO supports “branch” activity. Again, I reflect and think of myself as a kid, a person who loved the music of the pipes and wanted to be the best I could be.  That part of me hasn’t changed. The Toronto branch of the PPBSO was – as it is now – a magnetic hive of activity. Like all branches, places to hang your hat with like-minded people,  have a tune, hear a tune. Really, rare sorts of places in the context of 21st century life in Canada.

The Sergeant’s Mess of the Toronto Scottish Regiment was the place to be every third Friday night. That was the meeting time of the branch and a high social event on any clear-thinking (and pipe-and-drum-music-loving) person’s calendar. 

I attach a photo of a medal I still have in my possession. I won this for playing “Donald MacLean’s Farewell to Oban” at a grade four Toronto branch event. Crazy that I remember it. But it mattered to me. In fact, Bob Worrall was the judge – at the time he was vice-president of the branch to the excellently Irish-named, president, Danny Monaghan. Just think: an inexpensive – ok – cheap – medal, held in my hand all these years later. We should never under-estimate what matters. It really is so often the small things. Not unlike this nondescript medal and the occasion it represents.

I can’t imagine any person pines to be leading a not-for-profit org like ours. I didn’t. But I’ve come to appreciate that people come to the idea of the intrinsic value of service and aiming to do the right thing, like my predecessor, Chris Buchanan and all those volunteers before him. And all those many who step up today and offer their time. Time is limited for all of us. We have that in common. We’re only given just so much. It’s priceless. Never let anyone tell you there is “no overhead” in an organization like ours. The cost of ours is incalculable. 

We’re in membership renewal season. In any standard year PPBSO membership times-out on the last day of the calendar year. With pandemic pressures in mind the 2021 renewal period has been extended to April 30.

While we’re working at developing new revenue streams for the PPBSO the truth of the matter is that membership fees are currently the society’s most important source of income. 

Contrary to what some might think, The Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario is not just a “highland games-running machine”. Yes, the PPBSO has a solid track record of collaborating with games committees to field successful events. We’re lucky to have administrative support that helps enable all of that – and the ongoing office work of keeping the wheels of the society turning.

This past pandemic year our branches collectively staged over two dozen events for members. That’s especially impressive considering the need for everyone to immediately adopt technology – and adapt accordingly!

Games and branch events aside, I say that the the PPBSO’s core value to members is the community it represents. In the teeming diversity of our ever-busy multi-cultural world the PPBSO offers lovers of the music of the pipes and drums a place to call home. A place to preserve and promote a great tradition. One that matters. 

I know you feel the same way. So I’m asking you to join me today in renewing your commitment to our community by renewing your membership. 

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got til it’s gone


Michael Grey,
The Pipers’ & Pipe Band Society of Ontario

A message from Embro Games’ Board of Directors

Tuesday March 30th, 2021

Covid 19 statement Embro Highland Games 2021

To our dear spectators, contestants, sponsors, and vendors:

After much consideration, the Board members of the Zorra Caledonian Society have made the difficult decision to cancel the 84 Embro Highland Games scheduled for July 1, 2021. We unanimously agreed that is our responsibility to offer an event that is safe for all guests, competitors and volunteers by complying to all health protocols during these unprecedented times.

Since the founding of the Zorra Caledonian Society in 1937, only once have the Games been cancelled. It was during World War II in the summer of 1942. And now, due to this global pandemic, we are cancelling for the second year in a row. Many months of planning go into the organization of this event and many of our participants who travel from far outside of our community have already sent their regrets for this summer.

In the meantime, we are closely monitoring the COVID 19 restrictions in our area and are in the process of planning some incredibly special events in order to celebrate the “Spirit of the Games” on July 1 . For those Scottish enthusiasts, the Society will be holding virtual as well as socially distanced events during the year. Please keep checking our Website, our Facebook Page and other social media platforms for exciting opportunities to celebrate our Scottish heritage and get involved with our community.

In particular, please watch for the following:

• On National Tartan Day join us virtually for a fun evening of Tartan Trivia on Saturday April 3rd at 7:30 p.m.

• On July 1st watch for virtual piping and drumming online “Embro Highland Games Online”.

• And we also have a few more surprises up our kilts!

Looking towards the future, we are anxious to see everyone again in July 2022 when we can once again reunite with friends and clans on the grounds of the Embro Highland Games. Until then stay safe and healthy.

Sincerely, The Zorra Caledonian Board of Directors.

For information on the Zorra Caledonian Society visit;

A Celebration of Duncan Johnstone and his Music

Thursday March 25th, 2021

The National Piping Centre has just announced its next Online Concert, this time celebrating the life and music of Duncan Johnstone.

A Celebration of Duncan Johnstone and his Music will be an evening of fantastic music and interviews with students of Duncan’s and fans of his music. During the concert you will hear solo piping from Roddy MacLeod MBE, one of Duncan’s most well-known pupils and John Dew who was the last overall winner of the competition in 2019. The event was recorded at The National Piping Centre in early March in strict adherence to all social distancing and COVID safe guidelines. 

The NPC’s Director of Piping Finlay MacDonald has put together a band with fiddler Marie Fielding, founder member of Capercaillie and Director of Celtic Connections Donald Shaw, and guitarist Steve Byrne, for a cracking set of tunes, showing us why Duncan’s music is so highly regarded in the wider traditional music scene.  

Dougie Pincock, former piper with the Battlefield Band and Director of The National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, will also perform from his home in Plockton, as well as discussing his years of tutelage with the great man himself. 

Duncan Johnstone

Finlay MacDonald said: “We wanted to make sure that we continue to honour and celebrate Duncan’s contribution to the piping world. This event showcases the depth and breadth of his music, but also gives us an opportunity to hear more about the man himself through those who had a personal connection to him and have been influenced by his body of work.” 

This event will be premiered online on Saturday 10th April from 7pm, and tickets are £10 to watch this fantastic night of tunes and interviews, and can be purchased online at The National Piping Centre website through Inplayer, the same software that was used for Piping Live! and the Glenfiddich Piping Championship. After the event, you can rewatch it for a week until Saturday 17th April. 

Find out more and get tickets at

Summerblast! Registration Open!

Tuesday March 23rd, 2021

At the inaugural town hall on Saturday, February 27th, new president Michael Grey announced the PPBSO’s first step towards launching educational opportunities for members.

Taking place from Monday July 5th to Friday July 9th 2021, Summer Blast! will offer a virtual week-long summer school in piping, drumming, bass and tenor drumming tuition for all abilities and ages. Everyone is welcome!

Drawing from Ontario’s leading exponents of piping and drumming, tuition will be offered by John Cairns, Ken Eller, Michael Grey, Reagan Jones, Jim McGillivray, Doug Stronach and Bob Worrall, the school’s director.

This is the first time in the PPBSO’s 74-year history that it has organized a summer school.

“It took us 74 years but our Summer Blast! school is worth the wait,” says Michael Grey, president of the PPBSO. “In the tradition of all great summer schools, it’s shaping up to present an epic and memorable experience for attendees.”

Tuition will take place in four, one-hour sessions daily, using the zoom platform. In addition to twenty hours of tuition that will be offered in a variety of styles and formats, daily extracurricular activities will be included in the price of registration. The first to be announced is Scotch Rocks! a whisky and piping appreciation event presented by Stuart Cassells, the founder and former frontman of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, and the current general manager of The Macallan Estate in Speyside, Scotland.

As announced at the town hall, the PPBSO is offering its members a special rate of $280 for the week, a 20% discount on the registration fee. This special pricing offsets the cost of renewing 2021 membership to the PPBSO within the registration fee. Non-PPBSO members will pay $350CAN.

Full registration is open today. As a bonus incentive, registrations received on or before April 30th will be entered in an early bird draw to win a free place in the school, which will be applied to their 2021 registration.

For more information, please email:

PPBSO Branches

PPBSO Office

President: Michael Grey
Vice President:Chris Dodson
Secretary: Michele Curtis
Treasurer: John Allen


Administrator: Sharon Duthart
Chief Steward: Glenn Covert
Ombudsman: Ken Eller