(1949 - )
James Wark was born in 1949 and raised in Glasgow. His piping career began with lessons at the local Boys Brigade Company in Kinning Park: the ’99th’, under the instruction of one of the officers, Alec MacLean. A little later, he was taught by Angus Campbell, a native of Carradale, in Argyllshire. He seemed to know absolutely everyone, and they all seemed to know him, which was fairly mind-blowing for the young, star-struck James. It was to Angus Campbell that he owes any success he achieved in ‘bagpipe world.’
James began pipe band work with the Boys Brigade and then with the Kinning Park Pipe Band led by Pipe Major William Kinnear, where he won his first World Championship in 1967. He was later to become the Pipe Sergeant of that band.
During this period, James won many solo piping prizes in both ‘light’ and ‘classical’ music, including the Boys Brigade Solo Piping Championship and the three major ‘Piobaireachd’ awards for amateur pipers.
He later joined the City of Glasgow Police Pipe Band, which became the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band. The band was led by the highly successful Pipe Major Ian McLellan, with Alex Connell as Leading Drummer. During James’s time with the band, it won 12 World Championships, setting the record of six successive championships. It was while sharing in that success that James became Pipe Sergeant, and ‘found his feet’ as a composer and arranger of bagpipe music. Much of his music was played at those World Championships. He became the Pipe Major of the Strathclyde Police Pipe Band for three years, before retiring at the end of 2005.
The influence of Ian McLellan and Alex Connell played a major role when James began teaching and coaching other bands, to the extent that these bands eventually won their own World Championships and promotions to higher grades.
James became a published composer with his collection of bagpipe music entitled “Molly Connell and Other Tunes.” The strathspey “Molly Connell” was written for Alex’s wife, and it was to become the single, most frequently played piece of music among competing pipe bands for many years. An interesting anecdote about this was when he told his old teacher, Angus Campbell, about the music he had written, Mr. Campbell said, “Och, you could always do that,” in a dismissive tone suggesting that competing was more appropriate than composing!
A former chairman of the Music Board of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, he is now responsible for educational matters in that organisation, along with instructing and examining students in the theory and practise of pipe band music. He made a significant contribution in creating the series of training manuals, Structured Learning, which form the basis of further learning for pipers and drummers around the world. He has given many practical workshops for overseas and local pipers, and is constantly in demand.
He is a qualified adjudicator who continues to judge at many contests both in the United Kingdom, Europe, and North America.