KarteRobert, from Maghera in Northern Ireland, began to play his first instrument, the great highland bagpipe at the age of seven in his local pipe band, Tamlaght O'Crilly.


He was involved in competing and public performance from the beginning as the band progressed through the competition grades winning most of the prizes available on the way including several Ulster and All-Ireland titles and the World Championships. In 1998 he joined the world famous Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band and spent three years there performing and competing at the highest level at the top of grade one. It was around this time that Robert took a keen interest in solo performing and competition and he is now regarded as one of the world's leading solo pipers.


Solo Competition Achievements

McCrimmon_TrophyHis solo achievements include the Macallan (renamed MacCrimmon) Trophy Solo Piping Championships at the Lorient Festival in Brittany which he was awarded again for the fourth time in 2006. This is a major event in the piping calendar and this coveted trophy is competed for each year by some of the world's top solo piper from several countries including Scotland, Australia and New Zealand, The USA and Canada, Brittany and Ireland. It is quite a unique event in that it requires each competitor to play a selection of Irish, Scottish and Breton music to a panel of judges from each of these countries with the overall winner being the piper who is awarded the most points in all three events. One of Robert's most significant awards is the Silver Medal for Piobaireachd at the 2000 Northern Meeting in Inverness. He has also recorded numerous Piobaireachd and light music prizes around the highland games circuit in Scotland and the USA. Some other prizes include the G S MacLennon invitational in San Diego, California, the Highland Society of London Piobaireachd competition and the Strachan Memorial light music competition in London, the Donald MacDonald Quaich on the Isle of Skye and he was awarded 'Piper of the Day' at the Stone Mountain Highland Games in Atlanta, Georgia after winning all of the piping events.He is also four times winner of the 'Highlands and Islands Young Piper of the Year' held annually in Benbecula on the western Isles and at a local level he has been awarded most of the prizes in the competitions in Ireland including several Ulster and All Ireland titles.

NotenschlsselPurely a Traditional Highland Piping Upbringing!!

Robert's teaching and playing background was for many years a very pure and traditional experience. For many years he was surrounded by people who were adamant that piping started and ended with the 'great highland bagpipe' and only the nine notes and traditional tunes should and would be played on this instrument. His first instructors where correct and persistent in that he didn't move on to the next exercise before the current movements and exercises were played perfectly. This sometimes resulted in spending weeks on particular movements. Robert would agree that this is quite a slow way to learn to play an instrument, especially at the beginning but believes that his outstanding timing and finger dexterity which he is now renowned for is thanks to this strict method of teaching in the beginning where attention to detail was everything.

Robert's Introduction to piobaireachd

PiobaireachdPipe Major Norman Dodds who has a very keen interest in Piobaireachd and indeed an outstanding knowledge of the tunes passed his Pipe Majors Course at Edinburgh Castle in the early 1960's. Robert, in the lookout for someone who could further his solo career, was introduced to Norman in 1998 by Pipe Major David Taylor from Tamlaght O'Crilly pipe band of which Robert still remained an active member after joining as a learner in 1985. Robert and Norman quickly created a bond and together they spent many hours working on old tunes and learning new tunes. It was only then that Robert was introduced to Piobaireachd for the first time and after gaining acceptance to compete in the Silver Medal in 2000 he surprised many by coming runner up at the Argyllshire Gathering in Oban and then making history by winning it at the Northern Meeting In Inverness. Robert is the first person from Ireland to win such a prestigious award, even more impressively, on his first attempt. His follow up from this was a very creditable 3rd place in the Highland Society of London Gold Medal Piobaireachd competition at the Argyllshire Gathering, Oban. Undoubtly much credit for this achievement
must go to Norman's expertise and patients.

Although he has been influenced by the styles many other great pipers, Pipe Major Dodds was and still remains Roberts only solo piping instructor. Since then Robert has received guidance from him in more than 50 Piobaireachds and indeed much of his light music!

Other types of pipes and music

Robert has a keen interest in many other types of pipes and indeed musical styles and enjoys listening to recordings of various artist and visiting and performing at festivals at home and abroad. He now plays a range of other pipes including the bellows blown Lowland (small) pipes, Border pipes and the Irish Uilleann pipes which are indeed a completely different finger technique and approach. One instrument which has more similarities to the finger style of the Uilleann pipes is the Irish 'penny' whistle. Coming from Ireland, Robert has all his life been exposed to traditional Irish music and has picked up many of these tunes on the whistle and has a full range of Low and High whistles which he regularly plays.

Performances and styles

Robert has performed on several television and radio programs and has travelled extensively in Europe and the USA. He has to date recorded five albums of his own and has played as a guest on several others. He has performed several solo broadcasts for the BBC Scotland Pipeline program and also the BBC Northern Ireland pipes and drums program. Much of Robert's musical influence has from the western Isles in the Outer Hebrides where he is frequently requested for public recitals in UistPerformance and Barra. Regarded as 'the home of piping', Robert has often said that in his opinion this is possibly the best place in the world to play pipes. Over the past few years he has spent much time there and feels a strong connection with this style of playing, however, having grown up in the heart of Northern Ireland and having travelled extensively in Europe, he has been exposed to many other musical cultures. His repertoire and style certainly reflects on this.


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