Captain John MacLellan Memorial Solo Piping – Updated with Pictures and Comment

army school logoAs ever this was a very well run competition held at Inchdrewer House, Edinburgh, home of the Army School of Piping and Highland Drumming, by permission of ASBMHD retiring Director Major Steven Small. Stewarding was by students of the Army School under the command of Captain Gordon Rowan. Prize money this year was increased by £1,000.

Generous sponsorship came from McCallum Bagpipes who donated a set of new pipes to the aggregate winner of the C Grade (Connor Jardine, Airdrie). Overall Champion Piper was Jamie Forrester. Other sponsors were the British Legion (Scotland), The Arran Malt Whisky Company, Wounded in Service Events (WISE), Prosperity Financial Solutions and Puccini Luca.

Captain Rowan and P/M Macdonald were responsible for a superbly run competition
Captain Rowan and P/M Macdonald were responsible for a superbly run competition

In his introduction Major Small said: ‘ As I hand over my duties as Director of Army Bagpipe Music to Captain Gordon Rowan, I have spent some time reflecting on the School and its purpose. We are the custodians of the great traditions and histories of our famous regiments, and as pipers and drummers, our task is to represent them and protect them for future generations.

‘The work that Captain John did during his appointment as the first Director of Army Bagpipe Music laid the foundations. This competitions offers an opportunity for civilian and military enthusiasts to come together in celebration of the heritage and music that means so much to us all.’

The picture up top is of trophy winners (l-r) Jonathan Simpson, Calum Watson, Bruce MacDonald, Scott MacRae, Dr Peter McCalister, Craig Sutherland, Jonathan Greenlees, Faye Henderson and  Jamie Forrester.

P/A Piobaireachd
1 Faye Henderson, Scarce of Fishing (£300)
2 Peter McCalister, The Fingerlock (£240)
3 Mike Fitzhenry, Park Piobaireachd No.2 (£200)
4 Jamie Forrester, The Vaunting (£180)
5 Gordon Bruce, The Big Spree (£160)
Judges: A Frater, R Wallace

B Piobaireachd
1 Bruce MacDonald (£140)
2 Jonathan Simpson (£100)
3 Steven Gray (£80)
4 Jamie Elder (£60)
5 Cameron McDougall (£40)
Judges: R MacShannon, S Samson

C Piobaireachd
1 Scott MacRae (£80)
2 Ben Mulhearn (£60)
3 Chris Lee (£50)
4 Connor Jardine (£40)
5 Andrew Bova (£30)
Judges: T Speirs, A Wright

1 Jonathan Greenlees (£190)
2 Craig Sutherland (£160)
3 Jamie Forrester (£130)
4 Steve Gray (£110)
5 Graham Drummond (£80)
Judges: I Duncan, I McLellan

1 Calum Watson (£60)
2 Jonathan Simpson (£50)
3 Andrew Wilson (£40)
4 John MacDonald (£30)
5 Andrew Hall (£20)
Judges: J Banks, C MacLellan

1 Connor Jardine (£50)
2 Edward Gaul (£40)
3 Dan Nevans (£30)
4 Chris Lee (£20)
5 Scott McRae (£10)
Judges: W Cowan, J Henderson

Open H&J
1 Jamie Forrester (£150)
2 Craig Sutherland (£130)
3 Connor Jardine (£110)
4 Calum Watson (£90)
5 Cameron MacDougall/ Graham Drummond (£35 each)
Judges: I Duncan, J Henderson, I McLellan, T Speirs, R Wallace

Of the playing PP Editor Robert Wallace writes: 
Faye Henderson
was a worthy winner of the P/A Piobaireachd. Only seven played however – very disappointing for such a prestigious and well-financed competition. Faye’s tune was that grand piece, Scarce of Fishing. She began her long journey in assured style. Variation 1 could have flowed more but that apart Faye’s musicality shone throughout and the rock steady bagpipe was fuller than hitherto, matching the quality of her expression. Dare is still too open at times and there were one or two minor fluffs in the crunluath and a mach – but nothing that at anytime compromised the musical package and her performance would have figured no matter the number of entrants. Faye is pictured after receiving the John MacLellan Memorial Medal, her second. faye-hendersonRunner-up Peter McCalister was another piper with a much better instrument than in the recent past. It was so well set up that it was possible to hear the relative harmonics of the drones alter in prominence as his Fingerlock progressed through the B, low A and low G phrases. I wish more people had been in the hall to hear this remarkable phenomenon – one of the joys of ceol mor. In the urlar, Dr Peter’s insistence on treating the E to low G figure in a round style robbed the melody of its edge, its required drama, and this had to be considered in the final analysis. On the technical side I felt Peter needed more D gracenote to C in his throw on D; it sounded a shade light in the double echoes.

Third placed Mike Fitzhenry has hands to die for and his timing of the Park Piobaireachd No.2 wasn’t half bad either: well controlled with detailed run downs and grip turns in the taorluath ably handled. However, T&C doublings needed more focus on the theme note and the pipe needs sweetening up – the beads of sweat rolling down his countenance at the end told their own story. An instrument more suited to solo piping and there is no boundary this piper cannot cross.

Champion Piper Jamie Forrester with the trophy for best overall
Champion Piper Jamie Forrester with the trophy for best overall

In fourth came Jamie Forrester with probably the best instrument of the day, just besting Peter’s. Accurate note intervals, perfect drone to chanter balance – everything a pernickety pecksniff of a judge could wish for. Jamie’s Vaunting promised much until the trebling of Variation 1 where if he was going to round things off he should have instead continued the lowGBAA/lowGDAA figure as before (long, short, short, long) to give at least some shape. He then played the repeated low As to B in a seemingly random fashion with little thought to phrasing. The cadence Es in the T&C singling were also rather short for this listener and the phrases and line endings in the doublings passed through with nary a glance – oh and he missed a couple of D crunluaths. Gordon Bruce played the Big Spree for fifth but needed to open up his work and play with more expression; very snatched in places in the ground and variation 1; pipe not his best.

The Open Hornpipe and Jig saw a whole host of performances completely lacking in rhythm and steady tempi. Do these pipers rely on drummers in bands to give them this and therefore when cast loose on solo work find themselves wanting? Most only needed some time spent with the metronome and practice at pulsing. Absolved of guilt were the prizewinners Jamie Forrester topping the lot, his Redondo Beach a model of clear technique, jaunty rhythm, balanced phrasing – and that bagpipe. Craig Sutherland came second, the pipe much better than in the ceol mor and young Connor Jardine was clear and precise for third, his difficult Angus Sutherland particularly noteworthy.

Graham Drummond played well but had three or four catches in the monstrous Blue Lagoon, Cameron MacDougall missed the crucial first D throw in the Curlew but delivered well otherwise and Calum Watson was clean if not thrilling for fourth. A word on the quality of tunes. Some offerings were just not suited to the top end of professional piping. A hornpipe or jig which works in a band with seconds and drums may not have the musical integrity to cut it on the solo platform. We did hear some good stuff midst the mediocrity: Lucy Cassidy, Train Journey North, Calum Campbell’s Caprice, Man from Skye, Dr MacInnes’s Fancy and the jigs Blue Lagoon, Angus Sutherland, the Curlew, Rakes of Kildare and Donald MacLean gave the five man bench and the large audience a lot of enjoyment.

Overall this was a fine day of piping and it remains the only top flight open solo contest on the east coast. Let us hope that pipers in the P/A and C grades offer more support in the years ahead. Captain John’s memory deserves it.feat-im