John MacLellan Memorial (Update 3 – critique and pix added)

photoRobert Wallace reports: Faye Henderson won the overall trophy at today’s Captain John MacLellan Memorial competition held at the Army School of Piping at Inchdrewer House, Edinburgh. This was a superb day of piping organised with perfect precision by the Director of Army Bagpipe Music, Major Steven Small, and his assistant P/M Scott Methven. The standard was extremely high with the judges declaring Faye Henderson’s performance of Donald Gruamach’s March as ‘outstanding’. is delighted to be a media partner of this prestigious competition.
Winning the set of bagpipes generously donated by McCallum Bagpipes for the champion C grade piper: Duncan Beattie.
The full results were:

P&A Piob:
1 Faye Henderson, £200, Donald Gruamach’s March (Captain John MacLellan Medal)
2 Gordon McCready, £140, Battle of Auldearn No 2
3 Peter McCalister, £100, Lament for the Viscount of Dundee
4 Jenny Hazzard, £80, MacNeill of Barra’s March
5 Darach Urquhart, £60, Lament for the Earl of Antrim
Judges: Andrew Wright, Ronald MacShannon

Champio Piper Faye Henderson poses with the prestigious John Maclellan Memorial Medal
Champion Piper Faye Henderson poses with the prestigious John MacLellan Memorial Medal

1 Cameron Drummond, £100, (P/M Angus MacDonald Trophy)
2 Sarah Muir, £80
3 Kevin McNulty, £60
4 Peter Hunt, £40
5 Craig Sutherland, £20
Judges: Ian Duncan, Tom Speirs

B Piob
1 Sandy Cameron, £140, Red Speckled Bull, (P/M Joe Rafferty Plate)
2 Sarah Muir, £100, MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart
3 David Shedden, £80, Big Spree
4 Edward Gaul, £60, The Groat
5 Kristopher Coyle, £40, Old Men of the Shells
Judges: Robert Wallace, Alan Forbes

1 Steven Gray, £60, and the John MacLellan Pipe Banner
2 Bradley Parker, £50
3 Scott Barrie, £40
4 Kristopher Coyle, £30
5 Sandy Cameron, £20
Judges: Jimmy Banks, Walter Cowan

ppresshop pic


C Piob
1 Duncan Beattie, £80, and the Jo Delworth Quaich
2 Scott Barrie, £60
3 Rebecca Tierney, £50
4 Brian Mulhearn, £40
5 Andrew Bova, £30
Judges: Bruce Hitchings, Andrew Frater

1 Glen Ross, £50, and the Fort Augustus Shield
2 Edward Gaul, £40
3 Fraser Allison, £30
4 Jonathan Simpson, £20
5 Jonathan Lamberton, £10
Judges: Barry Donaldson, Jim Henderson

Hornpipe & Jig
1 Craig Sutherland, £100, and the Robert Kilgour Trophy
2 Cameron Drummond, £80
3 Steven Gray, £60
4 Sarah Muir, £40
5 Andrew Bova, £20
Judges: Ronald MacShannon, Andrew Wright, Ian Duncan, Tom Speirs

All the main winners from the JMM. They are (l to r):
All the main winners from the JMM. They are (l to r): Craig Sutherland, Cameron Drummond, Glen Ross, Duncan Beattie, Steven Gray, Faye Henderson and Sandy Cameron

We arrived early morning and the heightened security alert in force meant that every car entering Redford Barracks (the way in to Inchdrewer House) had to be searched by soldiers at the gate. So it was up with the bonnet and boot in torrential rain, a search underneath and on your way, all done very efficiently and with courtesy.

We were met by Major Small and his staff and a warming breakfast, thence to our various rooms and the competition proper. I had the pleasure of the company of Alan Forbes, Convenor of the Northern Meeting piping competitions, a director of the National Piping Centre and Secretary of the Piobaireachd Society’s Music Committee – a busy man!

My views on the playing in the B Piobaireachd were:
First on was Graham Mulholland with the Park Piobaireachd No2, a favourite of both Alan and I. Graham had a good pipe which held until the crunluath doubling and the fingering was clean and clear. He lost momentum at the grip turns in the ground and also at some of the double echoes where there was a decided jerkiness. Overall a good performance and just outside the list.
Northern Ireland’s Andy Wilson – smartest man on parade – lacked drive in the Fingerlock and one thing you cannot have in this tune is a lack of drive. The pipe needs work too.
Similarly Peter Hunt’s instrument continues to disappoint. The drones are steady; the chanter dull. His Black Donald was stuck in a bog – which is what happens when you stick too rigidly to the 4/4 of the PS score. Nice pre-cadence touches.
Mike Fitzhenry blew up on a full, sonorous, well-set bagpipe. He then proceeded to put it out of tune, back into tune, back out of tune. Great hands, great potential, no prize for his Kinlochmoidart 2 with his cuts to the top notes and disjointed rhythm.
Technique is the big issue with Matt Fraser. His Viscount of Dundee was nicely put together with good control throughout. If not spectacular, the bagpipe was adequate. He needs more low G in his throws on D and a better embari, chedari and fosgailte.
Calum Watson played MacKay’s Banner from Binneas is Boreraig – the setting we should all be playing.  Fingering good; pipe rather raucous. The cuts from C were too severe in the ground and his a mach timing is too measured. They needed to be run together more.
The Old Men of the Shells was a shade ponderous, but, in the main, well handled by Kris Coyle. His hiharin and double echo on B were inconsistent; the former needing immediate attention: a thousand slowly on the practice chanter before breakfast and 1000 at an increased tempo after. Douglas Gardiner is a fine piper and produced a very pleasant pipe. All fingerwork in his Melbank’s Salute was of high order too, but the way he chopped things up left this listener cold, his singlings shackled by pre-cadence over deliberation. Sandy Cameron gave us a first class performance on a good pipe. Perhaps the ground and doubling of the Red Speckled Bull were a shade slow, but this was mature piping from a lad with a big future, all things being equal. The pipe never moved; the finger technically very sound. Another lad with a big future is Steven Gray. Unfortunately he attacked his Nameless, hiharin dro o dro, like a man possessed. This beautiful piece needs a more relaxed approach, not forced aggression. Eddie Gaul missed a crunluath on E (not just the movement – theme note as well) in the Groat but played very nicely. This was enjoyable ceol mor; good pipe and finger. Steven Leask was given The Vaunting and overdwelt on the low G gracenotes in the ground. His connecting notes in the T&C were not consistent. I didn’t like his treatment of the trebling of Variation 1 either – it lacked focus on the theme notes. Inconsistency was the crime too of Greig Canning, the E,C,E passage in his Captain MacDougall varying throughout the tune. In Variation 1 he pulsed on the note before the grips rather than on the grips themselves. Mael Sicard-Cras had a pipe that wasn’t completely locked but didn’t move. The finger was good for the most part though some fosgailte movements were too open. Lady Margaret MacDonald lacked phrasing and tempo variation. Greig Wilson was dreadfully slow with MacLeod of Raasay’s Salute and played his T & C in a marked 6/8 time, the theme notes lost in a sort of waltzy timing. Sarah Muir had one of the best (if not the best) pipes of the day and phrasing in MacCrimmon’s Sweetheart of high order. Pity she rushed the third ground and also snatched at the suibhal. Excellent tune overall. Christopher Gray lacked composure throughout his MacSwan of Roaig and gave the impression he just wanted to get through at all cost. Variation 1, with a staccato approach to the first four notes, was noticeably unmusical.
Northern Ireland’s Bradley Parker was given MacLeod’s Short Tune and I’m afraid just did not do justice to the music inherent in this tune. His doublings were far too slow and the crunluath tight. Last on was last year’s winner David Shedden. David again played very well the only question marks over a ridiculously short low A in the final phrases of the each line of the ground in the Big Spree – check B is B David. He missed three GDEs, but otherwise the finger was good and the pipe, though never completely united three drones as one, held well.

In the end, a good competition with the prizewinners all playing well. As I said in my closing remarks at the prize giving, the first thing any adjudicator is looking for is a quality instrument. Without that you can stay at home. Next we need quality technique, and I’m talking about professional quality technique: crisp, clear and accurate. If on top of that you have good phrasing, controlled tempi and are from Glasgow, then you’ve a chance of a prize!