PP Editor’s Blog: Edith Cavell/ Nicol-Brown Contest/Gold Medal Tunes

imageMany will have read yesterday of the 100th anniversary of the death of heroine  Nurse Edith Cavell, executed for spying during WW1. She had served in a hospital in Belgium and treated Allied, German and Austrian soldiers but was executed by a German firing squad on October 12, 1915. Her death prompted outrage in Britain with thousands subsequently inspired to join up for the war effort. 

Miss Cavell is buried at Norwich Cathedral where ceremonies to mark her sacrifice were held yesterday. Her story has inspired generations, and two pipe tunes have been written in her memory. They were re-discovered by Northern Ireland piper and senior pipe band adjudicator, Harry Stevenson, last year. Harry writes: ‘In 2014 when I was researching my Great War tunes presentation [for a National Trust project commemorating WW1]  I found these two slow airs written in Nurse Cavell’s memory and I have attached copies.

‘In fact on the 12th October last year I played the Alexander Taylor Cameron tune at my second presentation for the National Trust. There is quite a lot of information about her life, subsequent betrayal, arrest, trial and execution on the internet. Both tunes are very playable and deserve to be heard.’

Here are copies with recordings of Harry playing both:


Lament Edith Cavell copy

Many thanks to Harry for alerting us to this music. I would be interested to know more about P/M Wilson of the QVS mentioned in the note to the second tune.

You can read an interview with Harry in the latest edition of Pipe Band magazine.

One of the pleasure of adjudicating is the time spent in the company of fellow judges. The Mod was a case in point where the first evening   at Oban passed very pleasantly with John Wilson, Iain MacFadyen, Archie Maclean, and Willie Morrison and our ladies. The stories were going great guns. How many of our readers know that Iain could have played professional football (soccer) but that his father, concerned for his fingers, wouldn’t allow him a trial with one of our top teams at the time, Third Lanark? Their loss was piping’s gain.
John and Iain were on duty at the recent Springbank competition in Campbeltown where they said the standard in the MSR was among the best they had ever heard. Pity it wasn’t recorded.

Thanks to John for passing on his own winning tunes in the Gold Medal and that of Islay man Neil MacEachran. They’ve been added to the lists. Anyone who can fill in any of the gaps please get in touch at pipingpress@gmail.com.


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paula-glendinningPaula Glendinning has sent this from last weekend’s Nicol-Brown competition in the US (prizewinners pictured top):
‘The 33rd Nicol-Brown Amateur Invitational Piping Competition was held in Albany, New York, along with a concert and a Master Class on October 9-11, 2015. Callum Beaumont started out the weekend with an exceptional concert, giving a bit of background on the tunes he played, and entertaining the audience with a variety of music. His performance of Lament for MacLeod of Colbeck, which he just won the Clasp with at the Northern Meeting a few weeks ago, was a privilege to listen to, full of artistic touches and expression. Callum had a long day on the bench on Saturday, but was rewarded for making the long trip from Scotland by 30 excellent performances from the 10 Amateur Grade 1 competitors, who had been invited based on their competitive success this year in contests across North America. Being selected to compete in the Nicol-Brown is quite an accomplishment, and one that many amateur pipers work toward for years.

‘Kevin McLean, from British Columbia, won the Nicol-Brown Chalice and the Overall Championship with a bold, exciting performance of The Red Speckled Bull. For the overall prize, he won a gorgeous blackwood McC2 pipe chanter with a sole engraved specially for the Nicol-Brown and donated by McCallum Bagpipes. He also won airfare to travel to compete in the London contests in 2016, so he’ll have a year now to prepare for that contest. In addition to having his name engraved on the base of the Nicol-Brown Chalice, Kevin won a bound Piobaireachd Society Collection, an impressive prize donated by The Piper’s Hut every year.
‘James Dyson from Nova Scotia, appearing at the Nicol-Brown for his third and final time before moving up to the Professional Grade, won the MSR with an outstanding, musical performance of Leaving Lunga, Loch Loskin, and The Sound of Sleat. He was presented with a lovely McCallum practice chanter with a presentation ferrule donated by The Piper’s Dojo.
Competitors and judges at the Nicol-Brown competition
Competitors and judges at the Nicol-Brown competition

‘Tyler Bridge won the Donald MacLeod Memorial 6/8 March event for the second time in a row, which means that he now has two of the most beautiful silver buckles created by Walker Metalsmiths in New York, which he can pass down to future generations of his family. His Bonawe Highlanders and Dundee City Police Pipe Band were performed with confidence and swing.

The beautiful Nicol-Brown trophies
The beautiful Nicol-Brown trophies

‘Whenever it’s possible for the judges, the Nicol-Brown committee and the EUSPBA are pleased to host a Master Class on Sunday. Callum Beaumont was able to fit the class into his schedule this year before flying back to Scotland to go to work on Monday morning, and it was a privilege for the competitors and the other students of piping who were welcomed to Celtic Hall in Albany. Callum had specific details for each competitor regarding their performances, and pointed out their strengths and gave advice for how to improve their weaknesses. He is an encouraging teacher, and full of wisdom, and it was easy to hear the improvement as each piper replayed the sections of music he had chosen. ‘

Get the full results here.

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