PP Ed’s Blog: Piobaireachd Conferences/ Shotts Concert Tickets Going Fast

Jim Stack has sent information about the EUSPBA’s ‘Piobaireachd Conference’ to be held in New Jersey on the weekend of March 31 – Apr  2 when the main speaker will be Dr Angus MacDonald. Events take place in the Madison Hotel, Morristown, and include a ceol mor and an MSR contest. A weekend ticket is $100. Contact Jim for more info.

Please don’t confuse the above with the Piobaireachd Society Conference which gathers a week tomorrow in the Birnam Hotel in Perthshire. Here’s the line up:

  • Angus McKay revisited – Robert Wallace
  • CLASP – Margaret Dunn, Gordon Hislop, Gill Cairns.
  • New Tunes from the Campbell Canntaireachd – Patrick Molard, Jack Taylor. Includes book launch of 45 unpublished tunes.
  • Fiddling and Piobaireachd – Pete Clark
  • Set Tunes demonstration – John Frater, Peter McCalister, Bill Wotherspoon
  • Dinner and Ceilidh

Day visitors and non-members are always assured a friendly welcome. Book here, or for further information contact Roderick Livingstone on  roddy66@gmx.com or call 07801 014885.

Robert Frater, recent winner of the Archie Kenneth Quaich, piping at the splendid Piobaireachd Society Conference  ceilidh


I hear that more than 500 tickets for the Shotts contest to be held during Worlds Week have been sold already –  great news. Order your briefs here. The concert is without doubt the biggest show in town during the week running up to the Worlds and is always very well supported. Looking back over my reviews of the past 15 – 20 years there is a recurring thread running through them all which I hope the powers that be will address for this year’s concert.

Generally speaking, it is has been a major success story for the Glasgow Skye Pipe Band, the promoters – but it needs to evolve. It desperately needs a musical director who has the final say in content, duration and numbers. Pipe majors are not always good at this with personal issues and a lack of stage nous influencing, sometimes detrimentally, all of the above.

Robert Mathieson conducts proceedings during his highly successful concert in the mid-2000s

The show is always too long – less would be more – much more in this case. There is never any time for socialising. Most serious music concerts, where the audience must stay seated, last no more than circa. an hour and a half (excepting the Proms and Wagner operas) plus interval. People from all over the world are at this concert, sometimes meeting up with friends and acquaintances for the first time in a 12 month. So it has a fraternal function as well as a musical one. End the concert no later than 9.45pm and then have a warm-down session in the concert hall bar where the band can mingle with those members of the audience who want to stay on. Impromptu sets of pipes might appear to add atmosphere and certainly the ‘meet and greet’ aspect would be properly catered for with a financial spin-off for the bar. Two 45 minute spots I say – not a second more.

Cut the number of drummers. The full corps can get a game at various points in the evening, but for balance and harmony in the main auditorium of the GRCH, play no more than six at any one time. Spend a good while on sound checking this too with the musical director going to various parts of the hall to listen to how it is coming across and making allowances for the fact that bodies will absorb some of the sound – but not much. Over the years drummers, through no fault of their own, have upset the musical delivery and effect – a shame given that this is always of a very high standard with the Worlds arena only two days away.

A trio of smallpipers perform during the Shotts concert, Margaret Dunn, or Houlihan as she was then, far right

It was Shotts under Robert Mathieson and Jim Kilpatrick who I remember pruning the number of sides to dramatic effect. I think that was 12 years ago. Now the ‘new’ Shotts have an opportunity to do the same. The picture up top shows Jim’s corps playing his tribute to Alex Duthart at the earlier concert –  an opportunity for the full corps to take the stage with no detrimental affect on the music.