PP Ed’s Blog: Northern Meeting/ SPA/ Wedding Piper/ MSR Playing

To Inverness today for the 2017 Northern Meeting. Proceedings begin this evening with a reception in the city’s Town House hosted by the Lord Provost with the Queen’s Own Ex-Members Pipes and Drums parading at 7.45pm.

The competitions at Eden Court are tomorrow from 9am with the Gold and Silver Medals, the ‘A’ MSR and the Formers Winners’ MSR.

Results will be known from late afternoon onwards so watch this space.


Tom Johnstone, President of the Scottish Pipers’ Association, has asked us to remind everyone about the SPA Juvenile contest. Tom writes: ‘Could you please put a reminder on the website that the Scottish Pipers’ Association Annual Juvenile contest is on Saturday 9th September 2017 and that entries close on Monday 4th September. This year there is also a chanter contest for the first time.’
Please support this contest if you can. Entry forms here.


Regular correspondent Duncan Watson has sent this picture. It is from a good few years ago and is of some grumpy piper playing at the wedding of Carra Riach’s daughter…



It’s all systems go for the 2018 South Florida Pipe & Drum Academy. The dates are February 26 to March 2 and the instructors may be able to take in the Fort Lauderdale Games that weekend. If you are in North America and thinking about a week in the sun with some good piping and drumming instruction then there can be no better option that the SFPDA. Sign up here.


Peter Skae from Palisades, NY: ‘Really enjoyed your editorial on the Grade I contest from the Worlds.  Refreshing to hear someone with an honest and well-informed opinion. To me it has been a tragedy for piping that the MSR playing has been so ‘blah’.  Seems bands use it to make sure they stay in the mix and try to win the event with the Medley contest. I love some of your thoughts on four- parted tune selections etc., however, would the RSPBA even entertain the idea?

‘In your opinion, what years or bands would you think present a properly played MSR?  I only ask because in my opinion, for several years many solo players were going the same route.  This seems to have turned and I hear more pointed and aggressive playing over the past couple of years.  However, this is simply my opinion.

‘Again, well done and thanks for the honesty.  Hopefully bands take note and we can again see a day where the MSR is the premier event that people want to listen to!’

Thanks for that Peter. I think my own band, Muirhead and Sons, were right up there as were Ian McLellan’s Strathclyde Police. Shotts driven on by Alex Duthart were superb and Edinburgh Police had their own, more laid back, smooth style. We did not have the players the bands today have nor the sound, but the appreciation of good MSR playing was paramount in everyone’s thoughts. It was the only competitive discipline right up to 1970 after all.

We still hear a few trudgingly boring MSRs in the solos but I think there is a trend towards more musical playing out there, especially among pipers who would rather risk an error by playing on the edge than stifle the music with sterile, safe correctness.

Thanks to Hector Russell and Gordon Ferguson for the superb picture up top of Muirheads in 1967 after winning the Worlds at Oban with the ever-proud Secretary Lawrence Jenkins carrying the trophy. I think the tunes then were Jeannie Carruthers, Blair Drummond and Pretty Marion. I didn’t join the band until 1970 so may be wrong on the tunes. This next picture is from the previous year’s Wolds at Inverness’s Bucht Park. The result has just been announced and piper Dougie Elmslie shakes hands with brother Jim whilst Leading Drummer Rab Turner dances an impromptu jig: