The organisers of the annual Donald Macleod Memorial Competition, held every year on the island of Lewis, have announced the invitees and other details.
The date is Friday 31 March 2017 and the venue as last year, the Caladh Inn, 11 James Street, Stornoway. The excellent music starts at 10.15am; admission: £15.
Invited pipers are as follows:
1) Alasdair Henderson
2) Finlay Johnston
3) Angus MacColl
4) William McCallum
5) Roderick MacLeod
6) Ian K MacDonald, Ontario
7) Iain Speirs
8) Niall Stewart
Judges: Iain MacFadyen, John Wilson, Alan Forbes; Fear an Tighe: Dr John Smith
The Donald MacLeod contest has been running for 24 years and serves to preserves the memory and music of one of the great figures in 20th century piping. Donald was born in Stornoway in 1916 and died in Glasgow in 1982. Not only could he play to a standard most can only dream about, but as a composer of pipe music there are few who could equal him. His tunes form a central part of the annual competition with pipers required to play one of his 20 ceol mor composition in that section.
The tunes are highly melodic and have been criticised in some quarters for being so. But anyone attempting to play this music must be well versed in how to apply subtlety and nuance to the score – as with any ceol mor interpretation. Playing the strong melody, though attractive even at first hearing, is never enough.
Donald was often inspired by historical incidents in the life of his native island, incidents such as the sinking of the ship Iolaire at the end of WW1. Carrying hundreds of servicemen, it struck rocks when only few minutes from harbour and safety. Two hundred and five of the 280 aboard drowned and the loss of life is still felt on the island to this day. Other tunes reflect his appreciation of plants and the natural world, tunes such as Garden of Roses and the Field of Gold. Donald also commemorated in music some of his great friends in the piping family, men such as Neil Angus MacDonald, Uist and Inverness, and Roddy MacDonald, Uist and Glasgow.
As every piper knows, Donald was also a master in the composition of ceol beag. In the MSR competition pipers are asked to play two marches two strathspeys and two reels, with one of each composed by Donald. The day ends with a Hornpipe & Jig event where his many tunes in these genres also feature.
The organisers of the competition are the Lewis & Harris Piping Society and P/M Iain Murdo Morrison. P/M Morrison said: ‘We look forward to welcoming all these champion pipers to the island of Lewis once more to celebrate the life and music of P/M Donald MacLeod. I am sure visitors and local alike will come along to hear the finest pipers in the world playing his wonderful tunes.’
The Silver Chanter
Later this year, at the beginning of August, piping focusses once more on the home of the art, the isle of Skye, where, following the annual competitions in Portree, the prestigious Silver Chanter contest is held.
In this event pipers are asked to submit classic tunes composed or associated with the legendary MacCrimmon family. They were the hereditary pipers to Clan MacLeod and, as is fitting, the music is heard in the drawing room of the clan seat, Dunvegan Castle.
Those who qualify this year, and who have accepted invitations to play, are: Callum Beaumont, Finlay Johnston, Roderick MacLeod, Cameron Drummond, Derek Midgley, New Jersey, and Ian K. MacDonald, Ontario. The adjudicator is Malcolm McRae, Australia, and the Fear an Tighe, Dr Roderick MacLeod. Ticket information will be made available nearer the time. The competition is sponsored by the William Grant Foundation and organised by the Skye Piping Society.