Skye Gathering 2017: Dunvegan Medal Critique

A few free days before the Worlds allowed an escape to the wonderful Isle of Skye and an opportunity to listen to some top class piobaireachd, writes the Editor. Portree was sunny and pleasant when I arrived, though the venue, the Skye Gathering Hall, cool. I missed the first two tunes in the Dunvegan Medal but was fortunate to hear the winning performance by Ian K MacDonald from Toronto. No better tune ever won this award than his Lament for Donald Ban MacCrimmon.

I have heard many a dull plod through this masterpiece by pipers you would think would know better. Not so with Ian K, last year’s double Gold Medallist. Here was someone who fully understood the structure and momentum required to bring out the best in it. The bagpipe was resonant and strong and did not waver in 20 minutes, I kid you not. The only fault I could find was a slight inconsistency in the connecting notes in the T&C singlings. Ian’s first place must have been a very easy decision for the judges to make. He is pictured top on his way to yet more glory.

Runner-up Nick Hudson reflects well in the Gathering Hall mirror

In second we had Nick Hudson now of Texas. Nick’s pipe was high pitched and not exactly locked on low A – but stayed there. His MacLeod of Colbeck was adroitly handled but he dragged the cadences in Variation 1 and lost the song here. Clean technique for a good finish.

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Third prize went to Jamie Forrester with a good Battle of Waternish, the ground and first variation well timed and phrased.  Until Ian K came on Jamie had the best pipe of the day – beautiful balance between drones and chanter. I was a little at odds with his over round treatment of Variation 2 (close to what Kilberry shows) and he had a couple of misses on the D taorluath; this may have pegged him back.

Jamie Forrester and twin

Fourth went to German piper Anna Kummerlöw with the King’s Taxes. Anna got to her work in efficient fashion, her timing bringing out the best in this favourite. Unfortunately the pipe was on the weak side of easy when compared with others. Good hands from Anna, and a pipe with more depth may have catapulted her up the rankings. The trick is to stay comfortable but get more volume from the chanter.

Fifth went to P/M Peter MacGregor with A Flame of Wrath for Squinting Patrick. A clipped treatment this, especially in the run down and in the Variation 1 connecting notes, but the pipe was pretty good and there were no misses.

On stage, the Army’s Ben Duncan

Mentions in despatches for Andrew Hall who played the Earl of Ross’s March very well on an indifferent pipe, Alan Clark who had a not so good instrument too but some nice touches in the Groat, Sandy Cameron who may have had one eye on the Worlds and FMM but who also shaped the Earl of Ross well, Ben Duncan who was snappy with MacSwan (low A before the grip in the first phrase especially) the pipe not as good as it has been at the games, Gordon Barclay who played  a very nice MacLeod of Raasay and must have been considered by the judges though there may have been an error in the a mach, and Craig Martin who had a good ground in Donald of Laggan, a sharp F to the chanter and too much emphasis on the first low G of his crunluath.

Skye Piping Convenor Cameron MacFadyen announces the results as Cailean Maclean looks on

Despite several poor instruments this was an enjoyable day’s listening. The great advantage Skye has is that you hear MacCrimmon or MacCrimmon related tunes, all wonderfully melodic and well formed pieces. The competition was efficiently run by the new Skye Gathering Convenor Cameron MacFadyen aided and abetted by his predecessor Cailean Maclean. Judges were: Alan Forbes, Malcolm McRae and Iain Murdo Morrison.

• All the results from Skye here.

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