While studying cinema at USC, John received critical acclaim with Cotton Eyed Joe, his first internationally-recognized documentary. He produced, directed and co-wrote The Youngest Victim, a documentary that aired as an ABC Television Prime Time Special and won numerous awards, including an Emmy. His feature length documentary, The Ghost Mountain Experiment has just been completed and has begun screening at film festivals around the world. He has traveled to China four times to shoot footage for Children of the Pear Garden, his documentary about the dying art of Chinese Opera.

As an bagpiper, John has gone to the World Pipe Band Championships in 2002 and 2004, but he admits he’s a better filmmaker than piper.

John McDonald Productions website:
The Ghost Mountain Experiment:
John’s band website:


The origins of the bagpipes go back two thousand years. Their ancient sound resonates deep within our souls. Sometimes the unique music is sorrowful, sometimes joyful. The sound of the pipes has been heard in times of battle, but most often in times of peace and celebration. Every August over 200 bagpipe bands from all over the world gather in Glasgow, Scotland for the World Pipe Band Championships. They converge on a vast field called Glasgow Green for a single day of competition.

This year, many of the world’s elite solo pipers and drummers, forty in all, come together as an all-star band called the Spirit of Scotland to compete against other world-class bands that have been playing together for years, even decades. Something like this has never occurred before and it may never happen again. Will these outstanding individual players succeed in creating a winning ensemble musical performance in just one week?

As with any competition, the tension builds as the band gets closer to the Worlds. Sharing a passion for piping, but used to being center stage, alone, these great soloists must put the band first and function as a unit working toward perfect harmony. We see intense rehearsals in the days leading up the Worlds and the nail-biting qualifying rounds that determine the fourteen finalists.

Musical performances are interwoven with the musicians’ individual stories. The pipers and drummers in the Spirit of Scotland are at the same time extraordinary people and ordinary folks. We focus on a handful of players, revealing distinctive personalities as they emerge through cinema verite observation and one-on-one interviews. We delve into the background of colorful characters as they relate intimate, insightful stories, some heartening, some bittersweet, and candidly discuss the origins of their passion and their motivation to keep pursuing their dreams. At the same time, we watch these intriguing individuals form new relationships as they get to know each other while preparing for their ultimate performance.

Whatever viewers think they know about bagpipers and piping music will be forever changed. The film explores the lore of the pipes and reveals the people behind these intimidating instruments, set against the background of the World Championships. The film will entertain and enlighten audiences from all walks of life and open their hearts to experience and appreciate this often misunderstood stirring form of music.


The Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band is a new Grade 1 pipe band which was formed with the aim of competing at the World Pipe Band Championships. The band consists of pipers and drummers from Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia and the USA.

The idea to form the band was hatched at the Glenfiddich Piping Championships by a number of the participating competitors. It was recognized that there were many excellent pipers and drummers not currently playing with bands and unable to commit to a band on a year round basis that would enjoy the opportunity to compete at the World Pipe Band Championships.

The idea was met with great approval and so the band began to form with many of the worlds top soloists, including eleven Gold Medal winners, coming together for the challenge.

Official band website:



Clan MacRae Society
Written by William Fergusson

Dora MacLeod
Written by Peter R. MacLeod Jr.

John Morrison of Assynt House
Written by P/M Peter R. MacLeod

Arranged by Roddy MacLeod MBE, Simon McKerrell and Finlay MacDonald

The Blockbuster
Written by Ryan Canning
Arranged by Roddy MacLeod

Hoss Colquhoun’s Favourite
Written by Simon McKerrell

Dr. Iain MacAonghais’s Jig
Written by Allan MacDonald

Leaving Friday Harbor
Written by John McCusker
Arranged by Simon McKerrel

Chur I Gluin Air a Bhodach

The Rusty Gun

Traditional, arranged by Simon McKerrell

The Thin Man
Written by Gordon Duncan
Published by Grian Music
Arranged by Roddy MacLeod MBE

The Grey Old Wife of Raasay
Traditional, arranged by Roddy MacLeod MBE


Miss Elspeth Campbell
Written by T. Douglas

Bogan Lochan

MacAllister’s Dirk


Lament for the Earl of Antrim
Written by Donald Mor MacCrimmon (1570-1640)
Performed by Euan MacCrimmon

Celtic Air
Written by Fred Morrison
Performed by Roddy MacLeod MBE

Donnie MacGregor
Written by Donald Macpherson
Performed by Roddy MacLeod MBE

The Sleeping Tune
Written by Gordon Duncan
Performed by Stuart Samson MBE

Lest We Forget
Written and performed by Stuart Samson MBE


The 24th Guards Brigade at Anzio
Written by K.G. Roe (PRS)
Performed by the Battlefield Band
Published by G. Schirmer, Inc. (ASCAP)
Courtesy of Temple Records

Celtic Air
Written by Fred Morrison
Performed by Pipe Major Robert Mathieson
Published by Isa Music
Courtesy of Lismor Recordings

The Cake Maker's Wife
Written and Performed by John McCusker
Navigator Records

Mist Covered Mountains
Arranged by Alan Weidlich
Performed by Caber Feidh Pipe Band

River Rush
Written by Hugh McDonald (BMI) and Tony Hunt (BMI)
Published by Cat Bag Music - Fable Library Special Account
Courtesy of Groove Addicts

Leaving Friday Harbor
Written and Performed by John McCusker
Navigator Records

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