Piping at Waipu Highland Games, New Zealand, New Year's Day 2018

Waipu Highland Games on New Zealand’s North Island are 147 years old making them one the longest established on any continent, writes the Editor.
The piping is very well run with good prize money. I judged the senior events with Stuart Finlayson. It was a pleasure to work with Stuart as it as was to meet up with Reid Maxwell of SFU who was over from Vancouver to do the drumming.
Despite torrential rain in the afternoon Piping Convenor Bain MacGregor kept everything running very smoothly with the B grade events decamping to a nearby school. In the Open class we were fortunate to have a covered platform and a tent so proceedings could continue unimpeded.

B Grade competitors with Piping Convenor Bain MacGregor

There were five events for seniors all with first prizes of £150 and a descending scale thereafter. Champion Piper was Stuart Easton (pictured top with the overall trophy). Stuart displayed a thorough grasp of all idioms he was asked to perform, placing first for Strathspey and Reel, Hornpipe and Jig and Piobaireachd, with second prizes in MSR and March.
Particularly impressive was his rendition of the Lament for the Earl of Antrim. Such was the balance and quality in his instrument that the repeated melodic progression from bottom hand to top produced a magical effect. It was the true essence of piobaireachd – the instrument making the notes come alive and mean so much more than a handful of dots on a page.
Greg Wilson cruised through MacLeod of Colbeck and later took first in the MSR

Second place went to Greg Wilson who we were able to hear despite the noise of the rain battering down on the canopy. Greg’s tune was the lengthy Lament for MacLeod of Colbeck. He cruised through it despite the distractions of the weather with only a very small choke and some lack of smoothness in the ground to criticise.
John Decker, now domiciled in NZ from South Africa, gave a very enjoyable rendition of MacFarlane’s Gathering for third. A little work needed on the crunluath, but good ceol mor from John, the handling of the cadences particularly noteworthy.
John Decker placed third in ceol mor

Fourth went to Scot Scott Armstrong with Lament for Donald of Laggan. Scott’s pipes were too strong in the light music but he seemed to have them in better order for the piobaireachd and he handled his tune well with good technique.

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In the light music there was a mixed bag of playing but with the prizewinners all up to a standard that would have taken money at a games in Scotland.
Liam Kernaghan had a very good day winning the March – and he would have done better in the MSR too had his Dr EG MacKinnon not been so slow as to be almost soporific. Slow ‘competition’ march playing is something that has crept into professional piping in the last few years and it is up to adjudicators to express their views on it when making up their lists. 2/4 marches are one of the most exciting and musically interesting branches of piping and we cannot have them becoming dull dirges that we march/walk to. It is a problem in the bands too. It was doubly annoying at Waipu in that Liam is a very fine piper with excellent fingers and therefore has no need to slow down to get the work in.

Liam Kernaghan competing at Waipu

The winner of the MSR was Greg Wilson who pushed things along nicely and finished with a well phrased Little Cascade. Second went to Stuart Easton – very close to Greg – and third to Stewart MacKenzie of the Manawatu Scottish Pipe Band. Stewart only needs to compete a bit more to get the polish into his solo work.
The results at a glance:
Piob: 1 Stuart Easton 2 Greg Wilson 3 John Decker 4 Scott Armstrong
March: 1 Liam Kernaghan 2 Stuart Easton 3 Greg Wilson 4 Stewart MacKenzie
S&R: 1 Stuart Easton 2 Liam Kernaghan 3 Stewart MacKenzie 4 Greg Wilson
H&J: 1 Stuart Easton 2 Liam Kernaghan 3 Stewart MacKenzie 4 Greg Wilson
MSR: 1 Greg Wilson 2 Stuart Easton 3 Stewart MacKenzie 4 Liam Kernaghan
Rain clouds over the grounds at Waipu

Later on the rain abated and the prize giving went ahead out of doors. Reid Maxwell presented the drumming trophies including the Robert Turner Cup for best overall drummer (below). Robert is a former 214 BB and Muirhead and Sons Leading Tip and his photograph can be seen on the trophy base. Nice to see his contribution to drumming being recognised in his new homeland of New Zealand. Splendid trophy it is too as you can see.

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