Monday 23 October 2017

'Grand slam' piper relishes success

Kyle Warren took up playing seriously around a decade ago when he started lessons at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow
Kyle Warren took up playing seriously around a decade ago when he started lessons at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow

A Scottish piper has turned a childhood hobby into an major success by winning 13 international titles in the last three years.

Kyle Warren won the piping "grand slam" of the Cowal, Scottish, British, European and World Piping Championships this year as part of the Field Marshall Montgomery pipe band after taking a break from teaching.

The 25-year-old, from Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, is part of a family of bagpipe players, with his father, uncle and grandfather all experienced pipers, but like many teenagers he shunned parental advice and took his own route to musical success.

He may have learned the basics as a child from his family but he took up playing seriously around a decade ago when he started lessons at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow.

With his father Paul, a former Army piper, spending a lot of time overseas, Mr Warren was helped in his pursuit by the Royal Caledonian Education Trust (RCET) that supports children of Scots who serve in the Armed Forces.

He said: "My dad, my uncle and my grandad all played the pipes, so it was easily accessible when I was younger and I played now and again.

"When I wanted to take it more seriously they could help me in the right direction, I could have learned from my dad who is a great player, but like most father-son relationships I didn't want to listen to my parents, so going to the Piping Centre gave me the chance to feel like I was independent."

Since he joined the Field Marshall Montgomery pipe band in 2010, they have won the Scottish, British and World titles three times each and two Cowal and European piping championships.

It adds to Mr Warren's individual achievements, which include recording part of the soundtrack for Disney Pixar film Brave and producing an album.

He has also toured the world with the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, the ensemble made up of pipers, guitarists, keyboards, and drummers.

"Being part of the Field Marshall Montgomery pipe band has been so good; I've been a member for three years now and during that we've won two grand slams," he said.

"There are only two other bands that have ever done it and they only won it once, so it's quite an achievement to win every contest we entered."

The Field Marshall band is based in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, and is made up of pipers selected from across the world.

"It's quite an international field in the band, it's mainly split between Northern Ireland and Scotland and there are a couple of Australians, a piper from New Zealand, one from Canada and two Americans within the group, and most of them have moved to this part of the world just to play in the band.

"It's an elite group to play with and requires a lot of time and dedication, but the rewards are pretty satisfying, like the last few years."

Mr Warren is travelling to Belgium and then Australia in the next month to teach the bagpipes but still finds time to pass on his experience to new teenagers taking part in RCET programmes.

He said: "I probably can't put it quite into words, but the trust was so important for me and it gave me the platform to build and the opportunity to go for world-class tuition.

"When I went to university they also helped with living expenses which took the stress away of a financial burden and allowed me to concentrate on the music, and I graduated with a first-class honours degree, which was good.

"I'm still in contact with the trust since I graduated and help at various opportunities that I can, whether it's functions or speaking on behalf of the trust at various things, and I'm just keen to show how it's a hugely valuable thing that has helped a lot of people and is a fantastic thing to be involved with."

The RCET has been supporting forces children for almost 200 years and holds Kyle up as one of its finest success stories.

Trust chief executive James MacBain said: "Kyle is a talented and inspirational role model, and we are enormously proud of what he has achieved.

"The trust provided the extra help when it was needed but it was Kyle who put in the hard work to get to where he is today.

"Despite his busy schedule, Kyle gives his time generously to the Royal Caledonian Education Trust performing at events and giving encouragement to other young people from military families and we are very grateful for that.

"He is an exceptional individual and deserves every success that comes his way."

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