PP Editor’s Blog: New Piob Recording from Donald MacPherson/ Pipe Band Formations/ Oz Results/ MacGregor Entries

A treat for all piobaireachd lovers today. Posted on the PP Audio archive is maestro Donald MacPherson playing that beautiful tune, Lady MacDonald’s Lament. It is Donald’s winning performance from the 1977 Clan Donald competition held aboard a ship, the SS Calypso, moored off Sleat, Isle of Skye.

Donald’s superb technique, extraordinarily resonant and steady pipe and masterful phrasing are all in evidence. Lady MacDonald is a wonderful piece of music, reputedly composed by Angus MacArthur one of the pipers to MacDonald of the Isles. For those who don’t know the tune, it begins with an urlar or ground with dramatic switches from major to minor modes. This theme is developed further in the next variation, and there then follow taorluath and crunluath variations based on the salient notes from the ground.

It is a model of piobaireachd composition, a true classic, and in Donald’s hands it comes to life. The tune has been set by the Piobaireachd Society for next year’s Gold Medal competitions and will surely feature on many lists. Listen to the tune here and download a lesson on it here.

I was pleased to see that the Pipe Band Hub Facebook page has taken up the cause of pipe band performance formation. They have launched a poll asking for views on whether we should stick with the so last century circle or move to a much more progressive concert formation.

Readers may be fed up hearing me go on about this but the cause is good, and one which I believe will transform pipe bands into much more public friendly performance entities.

There are two comments attached to the Pipe Band hub poll. The first from Neil Strickland:  ‘Bands that want to stay in a tight circle have something to hide. In my opinion’. The second from Colin Spence: ‘When we play for the public we want them to hear our best, why hide that ‘best’ from the judges?’

On our own Facebook page are the following comments: Gerry Hanlon: Good move’. And from Alec Lawson: Well said, again, Robert Wallace. As a spectator, I would love to see concert formations adopted for pipe band competitions. Give it a go at one of the Majors where the number of spectators attending will provide a good sample for feedback analysis.’

My suggestion is that Grade 1 bands could be offered the choice of playing in the closed or open circle as a first step. Judges could do what they do at the moment but eventually move to a seated arrangement or not. There’s a full article in the current PIpe Band magazine and to take part in the Pipe Band hub poll click here.

Here’s my open circle suggestion in diagram form:band position copy

Readers may remember that our own poll on the subject a few months back produced the following results:


87% in favour of change is pretty overwhelming don’t you think?

MacGreg Mem slide 1Reminder for all pipers wishing to enter for the MacGregor Memorial competition: entries close on April 30th. Click here to enter. The competition is for pipers aged 22 or under and is one of the toughest tests for young players. They have to submit four tunes, play one of them in the first round and then another if they make it through to the final.

The date of the contest is August 24 in the Great Western and Regent Hotels, Oban. Read about the history of the competition and the promoters, the Highland Society of London, here.

More results from Australia, this time from Melbourne. The first event of the Victorian Piper’s Association season took place at Haileybury College, Keyborough, Victoria, on Sunday April 17.  There was a record entry with 136 performances across five different grades during the day.

A Grade Piobaireachd:
1st: Simon Gibson 2nd: Jamie Hawke 3rd: Jonathan Quay

A Grade MSR
1st: Jamie Hawke 2nd: William Sincock 3rd: Jonathan Quay

A Grade Hornpipe/Jig
1st: Jamie Hawke 2nd: William Sincock 3rd: Jonathan Quay