PP Ed’s Blog: Argyllshire Gathering/ CLASP/ Letters/ Festival of Junior Piping/ Grampian League

To Oban today for the 2017 Argyllshire Gathering. It is always a great occasion, one of the two ‘majors’ in the solo piping calendar and, with the Northern Meeting in Inverness, the place to hear the best pipers in the world.

The piobaireachd competitions are the most difficult of all on the calendar given that they prescribe the tunes that are to be played. This single fact elevates the senior events at Oban and Inverness above all other competitions, even prestigious contests such as the Glenfiddich Championship where the pipers submit their six favourites.

I have been given the responsibility of judging the Former Winners March, Strathspey and Reel contest along with fellow senior adjudicators Willie Morrison and Ian Duncan. This competition requires the pipers to play their sets twice through – gracenote perfect each time. As a technical challenge it is the toughest there is, far surpassing any piobaireachd competition in this department, though ceol mor makes stringent demands of a different hue on the piper. It goes without saying that only those at the top of their form have any chance of success in the Former Winners.

The competition always attracts a large crowd but missing this year will be Malky, Hector and John who for many years have made an annual pilgrimage by train from Helensburgh to spend a few days in Oban. Medical exigencies mean the three worthies  will not be in their usual chairs in the Corran Halls this year but I’m sure they’ll be heading north once more in August 2018.

The picture top shows the 2012 Argyllshire Gathering Gold Medallist Finlay Johnston leading the traditional march to the games on the second day at Oban. Check out the full list of medallists here. Results from Oban from teatime tomorrow.

Judge Brian Switalla with a recent winner in the CLASP, John Bertino

One of the most successful projects launched by the National Piping Centre has been the Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers (CLASP). It has given a platform to dozens of pipers who otherwise would be confined to club competitions. I have always encouraged students and pipers so inclined to take part and Margaret Dunn, the organiser, makes sure we have the results here on Piping Press.

I wonder, however, if the powers that be at the Centre could consider a slight change to their rules which would help our struggling Highland games. At the moment CLASP competitors are barred from taking part in these contests, presumably to maintain their amateur status. Could they not simply ask their pipers not to accept any cash prize they got (unlikely against the professionals anyway) and preserve their amateur status that way? When we read of only two pipers playing at Cortachy (see Letters), four at Nairn, and handfuls elsewhere we can see how the games need a helping hand. So come on NPC, let your CLASP guys play. It will help the games and be worthwhile experience for these amateur pipers.

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Perhaps some CLASP pipers would like to give us their views on this. One has already written: ‘I read that the number of competing pipers at some games has fallen as low as single figures. If this is so, and continues, it will strike at one of the really great traditions of the piping world! Why then, should games committees go to the expense and trouble to hold the contests? Surely, those entering the CLASP contests should be allowed to enter the games circuit?’

Entry forms for the Festival of Juvenile Solo Piping in October are now available on the PP site. Click here. Closing date is September 15.

Patricia Grant: Please find attached Grampian Games League placings after Ballater. It would appear that Calum Brown has won the Light Music for the Seniors and Liam Brown the Light Music for the Juniors.  The Piobaireachd sections are not so cut and dried.  Only two games to go so all still to play for here.

1        Allan Russell                                                  8
2=     Gordon McCready                                     7
2=     Ben Duncan                                                   7
3       Anna Kummerlöw                                       6
4=     Faye Henderson                                          4
4=     Edward Gaul                                                  4
4=     Alan Clark                                                       4
5=     Raphael Mercier                                         3
5=     Calum Brown                                                3
6        Andrew Hall                                                   2
7=     Bruce Macdonald                                        1
7=     Jamie Dyson                                                   1

1      Calum Brown                                              43
2      Allan Russell                                                22
3=   Gordon McCready                                  16
3=   Ben Duncan                                                16
4      Alan Clark                                                    13
5      Eddie Gaul                                                   11
6      Brighde Chaimbeul                                  8
7=   Lewis White                                                 6
7=   Robbie MacIssac                                       6
8      Andrew Donlan                                         5
9=   Struan McLennan                                     4
9=   Anna Kummerlöw                                    4
9=   John MacDonald                                      4
10= Andrew Hall                                               2
10= Gary Murray                                              2
11= Kate Kimove                                              1
11= Peter McCalister                                     1

Junior Piob
1   Liam Brown                                                      7
2    Jamie MacRae                                               5
3    Jordan Ednie                                                  4
4    Angus MacKay Robertson                     3
5=  Lee Taylor                                                        2
5=  Tom Spencer                                                  2
6     Angus Duffy                                                   1

Junior MSR
1    Liam Brown                                                    38
2    Jamie MacRae                                              11
3    Robert Howie                                                8
4=  Lee Taylor                                                       6
4=  Angus Duffy                                                  6
5=  Angus Mackay Robertson                    4
5= Jordan Ednie                                                 4
5=  Andrea Yeats                                                 4
5=  Peter McEwan                                              3
5=  Archie Downie                                              3
6     Daniel Ferguson                                           2
7     Tom Spencer                                                   1

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2 thoughts on “PP Ed’s Blog: Argyllshire Gathering/ CLASP/ Letters/ Festival of Junior Piping/ Grampian League

  1. I am a current Clasp player, just making my way back after a very long time of not playing and working towards joining the C Grade within the next 18 months.
    I think its a great idea to play the games and just enter as an amateur on day one making sure no prize money will be collected.

  2. Undoubtedly something requires to be done to support local games as the number of pipers attending are dwindling year on year at some places. The organisers of local games could understandably cease running the competitions as they do not continue as being viable. In the past, particularly in the the seventies there was an upsurge in interest and most or all games competitions attracted competing pipers well into double figures. There was no grading during this upsurge of interest and the number of pipers taking part and wishing to take part, particularly at Inverness and Oban caused the requirement of grading to be introduced as a necessity at the time. Some further thought is now required as it is important to have those competition platforms available for pipers wishing to perform.
    Occasionally I have a tune, knowing I am well past my ‘sell date’ and if there were decent numbers attending I certainly would not take part.

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