Bursary

William Shropshire - Bursary Recipient 2012
Successful 2012 bursary recipient William Shropshire.

The Pipe Major Kevin Ray Blandford Memorial Piping Scholarship.

This bursary is available for the 2014 Virginia School.
The National Piping Centre is delighted with the continued support of the Clan Currie Society to give students the opportunity to receive a bursary aimed at supporting their tuition fees at our Virginia school .

The Clan Currie Society have dedicated this to the late Pipe Major Kevin Ray Blandford for his contribution to piping in America.

The Bursary

We would be pleased to accept applications from piping students who wish to receive a bursary to support school fees at our Virginia School. The bursary amount is for $250 and there will be one recipient.

Students who wish to apply should answer the question below on a separate attachment and return it by e-mail to clynas@thepipingcentre.co.uk

The closing date for applicants is 30th April 2014.

Please have in your email the following

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone Number
  • Date of Birth
  • Current occupation, (for example student, unemployed, Doctor etc)

In no more than 250 words, explain why you think you should receive this Bursary and how it would improve you as a piper?

N.B. We also require a letter(s) of recommendation to be submitted from your primary instructor or Pipe Major outlining: a) how the bursary would benefit your development as a piper and b) why they think you are a deserved recipient.

About The Clan Currie Society

Clan Currie SocietyThe Clan Currie Society, an American-based, international, non-profit cultural and educational organization, is the preeminent Scottish-American cultural society in preserving and promoting highland heritage at Scottish Games, ethnic festivals, as well as community groups and classrooms. The Society has over 3,000 members worldwide that gather via the Society’s website and at special events and clan gatherings.

The Society was originally formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1959 to further the knowledge and appreciation of the MacMhuirich (pronounced MacVurich) bardic dynasty. Today, the organization is a respected producer of outstanding programs and events to honour Scotland’s rich culture and ancestry. The Society’s signature events include The Pipes of Christmas – a musical celebration of Christmas performed on bagpipes and brass, harp and fiddle, and organ – and the annual observance of Tartan Day on Ellis Island.

The MacMhuirichs served for over 700 years as professional poets to the Lords of the Isles and later to the MacDonalds of Clanranald among other prominent Highland clans and families. The Red Book of Clanranald, one of Gaelic Scotland’s literary treasures, was penned by successive generations of the MacMhuirich family.

In more contemporary times, MacMhuirich poetry and short stories have been chronicled in Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica, Angus MacLellan’s Stories of South Uist, Thomas Owen Clancy’s The Triumph Tree (Scotland’s Earliest Poetry 550-1350) and the recently-released An Laebhar Mor – The Great Book of Gaelic. The ancient and historic MacMhuirich name and its anglicized equivalent Currie can be found throughout the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

The Society produces a number of highly successful programs, including The Pipes of Christmas, Tartan Day on Ellis Island, and a Burns Night dinner dance. Clan Currie has also partnered with Sir Sean Connery and Friends of Scotland to help produce their popular “Dressed to Kilt” fashion fundraiser, the “Miracle on Madison” fundraiser for the Children’s Aid Society of New York and the National Theatre of Scotland’s New York premiere of “Black Watch” among others.

The Society’s scholarship program includes the Alex Currie Memorial Scholarship for Bagpipe and the Pipe Major Kevin Ray Blandford Memorial Scholarship. These scholarships are awarded annually to deserving young pipers. The Society also bestows an annual clarsach scholarship to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. The Society is also the lead sponsor of the National Scottish Harp Championship conducted annually by the Scottish Harp Society of America and the Harpist of the Day competition at the Richmond (VA) Highland Games and Celtic Festival.

Clan Currie is now venturing into the field of documentary filmmaking and travelling exhibition production with a concentration on Scottish history and the arts. Past exhibitions have included The Life and Legacy of John Muir and Loyalty and Rebellion: The Jacobites and America. The Society received one of its many Telly Awards for production excellence for “The Crafter’s Song”, a documentary film narrated by Cliff Robertson.

The Society has been recognized as the Honored Clan at a number of Highland Games and gatherings, including the Brodick Games on the Isle of Arran, the Bute Games on the Isle of Bute, and the Clanjamfry Scottish Festival in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Arms of the Society were granted by the Court of the Lord Lyon, Edinburgh, Scotland on June 30, 2006. The star, or mullet, is a heraldic symbol frequently found on individual Currie family coats of arms in Scotland. The thistle wreath, or chaplet, represents the international community the Society has created in “promoting Scottish heritage in general and Clan Currie heritage in particular, involving domestic and international matters.”

About Pipe Major Kevin Ray Blandford (1963 – 2003)

Kevin Ray BlandfordKevin Blandford was already in love with music when he became infatuated with the bagpipes at 14. That infatuation grew much deeper, to the point where he became one of the most influential pipers in the United States, teaching dozens of students in California, composing original pieces, and performing the now classic Pipes of Christmas concert produced by the Clan Currie Society since 1999 in New York and New Jersey, and the Society’s annual Kirking of the Tartans service from 1995-1998.

Blandford’s performances of the Pipes of Christmas quickly became an annual family outing for those on the east coast, while Blandford’s recording of the same name originally made in the early 1990s have sold out several printings. “I don’t perform other Christmas concerts,” he said in a 2002 interview. “This is it.”

He had served as Pipe Major of the award-winning R.P. Blandford & Son Pipe Band since 1988. He and his father, Paul, had created the R.P. Blandford and Son Ltd. British Isles Import Shop in 1983. Kevin was also the president of the Western United States Pipe Band Association (WUSPBA) for several years.

Blandford lost his battle to cancer on November 26, 2003 at only 40 years old. Though he had kept the December 2003 Pipes of Christmas concert as a personal goal, he passed away just weeks short of the performances, which were dedicated to him.

Organist and collaborator Jeffrey Rickard recorded the original Pipes of Christmas CD with Blandford and still performs in the annual concerts. They also collaborated on “Amazing Grace: A Collection of Hymns of Bagpipe and Organ.” “We interacted along the same lines musically,” Rickard said.

“He had an amazing ability to hear and to visualize that most composers don’t – composing in his head duets and four-part harmony,” he told the Redlands (CA) Daily newspaper. “Most pipe bands are lucky to play a single line in tune. He did a lot of arranging with them and for use in the church hymns and service music. Now I think (these arrangements) will get impetus and be published for churches using pipes more than just bringing them in once a year. Kevin and I broke all kinds of ground in that area. We’ve had many requests for our arrangements from those who have heard our recordings.”

When it came to the pipes, Blandford was a painstaking professional.
Discussing the rigors of tuning for the Christmas concerts, where the temperature changes frequently, he said, “You have to know how to set up your instrument for that kind of environment,”. Blandford said there are generally two types of bagpipers: one who struggles to keep tuned in any circumstance, the other is the more advanced player who can tune the instrument.

Yet even for a bagpipe that is warmed up for five-ten minutes and appears to be in tune, could go out of tune once it is set down. “In a concert setting you play your piece and there’s a reading,” he said. “You have to know how to set your instrument without that big long warm-up session.”

Tuning for such circumstances is like trying to straddle a fence, he said.
“I’m playing a good half hour before the concert,” he explained. Then he would set the instrument down for about 10 minutes. “When you pick it up again, if it’s still in tune, you’ve done the right job.”

Keeping in tune is also about the reeds. “A beginning player just isn’t going to have a very good mastery of reeds to begin with,” he said. He had used the same reed for the Pipes of Christmas. “It’s so stable,” he said with a sense of pride. While he goes through “competition reeds” quickly, the “concert reed” remained strong. “It’s solid, (but) I know eventually it’s going to die,” he said.

The set up for an indoor concert is also different than the more traditional outdoor play. Even advanced players sometimes over tune when moving indoors.
“I’ve been playing for 25 years,” he said in 2002. “This is something I’d never be able to do 15 years ago.”

Performing outside is more challenging. “A light breeze you might not even notice can make it go flat in five minutes,” he said. “Sun changes the reed like crazy, heat goes sharp.”

Blandford was more than a piper. In addition to his musical talents as a choral singer and as a teacher, he was an open ocean diver and dive instructor.

In an article following his funeral, the San Bernadino County Sun recalled the impact he had on people’s lives. “If we must put a name on it, a gentle passion might fit. For music, for the ocean, and for seeing the worth in other people.”

About the Kevin Ray Blandford Memorial Pipe Band

The R.P. Blandford & Son Pipe Band was formed in 1986 after its original sponsor, the R.P. Blandford & Son, Ltd. British Imports shop. The band began as a small group of twelve pipers and drummers who practiced and performed regularly. The band did not enter its first competition until 1994 at the Costa Mesa (California) Highland Games. By its third competition, the band began a winning streak taking aggregate trophies in Monterey and Pleasanton, CA.
In 1996, the R.P. Blandford & Son Pipe Band was upgraded to Grade 3. The band also continued its Grade 4 band which was awarded the Western United States Pipe Band Association (WUSPBA) Champion of Champions title. In 1998, the band began working with Ian Whitelaw who helped it create a new competitive style. By 1999, the Grade 3 band was winning most of its competitions culminating in also winning the WUSPBA Champion of Champions award.
In 2000, the band competed for the first time in the World Pipe Band Championship in Glasgow, Scotland placing second in their category. In 2002, the Band returned to Scotland and the World Championships placing first in the category of Dress and Deportment. That same year, the band made their debut in the Clan Currie Society’s Pipes of Christmas concert which had earlier featured Pipe Major Blandford since its premiere in 1999. The band continues to play a featured role in the critically-acclaimed concert.
In 2004, the band changed its name to the Kevin Ray Blandford Memorial Pipe Band in memory of the band’s founder and first pipe major. The band now has over forty pipers and drummers in its Grade 3 and Grade 4 bands and continues to grow. Although the Band is based in Redlands, California, it draws members from throughout the United States including all of California, Tennessee, Massachusetts and British Columbia.
Consistent with its policy to travel outside of its local area, in 2005 the Grade 3 band travelled to the Stone Mountain Highland Games in Atlanta, GA, taking home the first place trophy for the Grade 3 competition and the trophy for band of the day. The Band also returned to Scotland for the 2007 World Championships at which it placed 5th.
The band is now under the direction of award winning Pipe Major Matt Nonnemacher and world champion drummer, Drum Sergeant Eli Fugate, formerly of the world champion House of Edgar Shotts & Dykehead Pipe Band.