Review and Pictures from the Lochaber Gathering/ Silver Chanter Report

Whilst there was a disappointing entry in the P/A grade and under 18s, last Saturday’s Lochaber Gathering Festival of Piping should be viewed as a success, writes the Editor. The change in date has obviously had a detrimental effect on some grades of competitor – there were rival events at Newtonmore and at Aboyne to contend with. In 2017 the Saturday before Oban meant that 58 pipers signed up at Lochaber for a run through indoors before the big one. Allan MacColl, Piping Convenor, tells me that the plan next year is to return to this date so I am sure we can expect a larger turnout in 2019.

As to the playing, the judges reported a high standard, with William Geddes’s Young Laird of Dungallon pleasing the bench to take the Gold Lochaber Axe Brooch. William is pictured above with Sarah Muir Lochaber Gold Medal March winner. Also pleasing the bench was Jamie Elder in the ‘B’ MSR event. And there was praise indeed for young Luke Kennedy, ‘a clear winner’ in the U-15 Piobaireachd.

My own event was the ‘B’ Grade Piobaireachd. Eighteen entered and 17 played. Many of the pipers found it difficult to tune in the allocated hall – not due to cold; it was warm – but perhaps because of the slightly over-resonant acoustic.

William Rowe NZ, winner of the Silver Lochaber Brooch for ‘B’ Piobaireachd

That did not bother William Rowe the winner. He had a very pleasing instrument and a very pleasing tune. Grain in Hides and Corn in Sacks was well set out and he kept it moving, just a few crushed T&Cs on the deficit side of the ledger. Second went to Jamie Elder playing the Donald MacDonald setting of Too Long in this Condition. Wisely Jamie tackled the cadences not in ‘piano’ but in pipe style. He also excised the out of date repeat ground instruction. The result was a very pleasant piece of music – cogent, coherent, refreshing in its originality and thoroughly listenable. Now this is the way we deal with Donald MacDonald. Not with ignorance of his and others’ appogiatura instruction. ‘Piano style’ is not the way to go with this music. Do the man’s memory a favour and play his tunes as Jamie did.

Third prize was the reward for 16-year-old Finlay Cameron’s Isabel MacKay. I enjoyed the sweetness of Finlay’s chanter (perfect F); he had possibly the most tuneful bagpipe of the day. Had his three grounds shown more progressive tempi and his taorluath doubling pulsed to every second beat he may have done better.

The final prize went to Archie Drennan who attacked the Blind Piper’s Obstinacy with all the required tenacity. Unfortunately Archie’s bagpipe, even after nearly ten minutes of adjustment was never locked. He also nipped the low A before the D throws in the ground.

Jamie Elder, runner-up in the ‘B’ Piobaireachd and winner of the ‘B’ MSR

Of the rest I must first mention Greig Canning who played Donald MacDonald’s Glengarry’s March piano style with the resultant lack of musicality. Why Greig thinks this off the page setting better than that taught by John MacDonald, Inverness, Bob Brown, or Donald MacLeod only he can say. Had he taken Jamie Elder’s approach he might have got somewhere because his bagpipe was much improved and the finger accurate as ever.

A solid Massacre of Glencoe from Eireann Iannetta-Mackay; poor pipe. Andrew Bell played his Too Long too often to his feet and stopped after an error. Bruce MacDonald’s chanter was flat on B and low G and he lacked phrasing in the stately Ronald MacDonald of Morar. Super potential. Matt Pantaleoni and Lady Margaret? Good tune, poor pipe. Enora Morice: excellent hands; lacking phrasing throughout I Gave a Kiss to the King’s Hand. 

Andrew Bell, a pupil of Gordon Walker, and winner of the Open Hornpipe & Jig

Charles MacDonald missed a note out in the variation doubling of the King’s Taxes and the pipe drifted, the high G flattish from start to finish. Connor Kellett rushed the T&C doublings of Captain MacDougall, yet though the timing was good, the pipe was not. Finlay Frame was going well in Tulloch Ard when the bass drone chose to retire from the fray.

Andrew Ferguson had a nice pipe  – apart from a sharp F. His Beloved Scotland would be more beloved if he did not overdo the approaches to the T&C cadences and if he refrained from syncopating some phrases in the ground by cutting the second beat. A super prospect this boy. Steven Leask nipped the low G connecting notes in the variation of Bealach nam Brog and lacked the required lyrical approach – and the pipe was not what Steven normally produces. Mark MacKenzie and Calum Wynd both had poor instruments and up and down moments in their tunes, the Bicker and the Desperate Battle.

Young Lochaber prizewinners Luke Kennedy and Ruaridh and Hamish Drennan with their prizes

Overall a good competition with the winners having considerable merit in their playing. The others could all make the list on a another day. Closer attention to phrasing and better bagpipes will do the trick.

Full results from Lochaber Gathering here.


Apologies to readers and the participants for this belated report from the Silver Chanter competition held for the first time last Saturday at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow.

If people don’t send us pictures and information we cannot give them any publicity, can we? I have made representations and hopefully the Centre will make sure our thousands of readers are kept better informed in the future. They have sent this: ‘Iain Speirs took his sixth Silver Chanter on Saturday 4th August at this premier solo piping contest’s new venue, the National Piping Centre in Glasgow. The Edinburgh piper’s winning tune was I Got A Kiss of the King’s Hand.

Iain Speirs, winner of the 2018 Silver Chanter

‘Hugh MacCallum adjudicated with Ronald MacShannon acting as reader. The other invited pipers were Cameron Drummond (Rory MacLoude’s Lament), Alasdair Henderson (The Battle of Waternish), Callum Beaumont (Lament for the Children), Glenn Brown (Lament for the Earl of Antrim) and Angus MacColl (Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon).

‘Iain Speirs won the Silver Chanter in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2012 and 2015. The event this year moved to a new home at The National Piping Centre in Glasgow after rising costs and diminishing income meant that the Isle of Skye Piping Society couldn’t continue to support the event, but this year’s event went ahead with support of the Society and sponsorship from the William Grant Foundation. Cailean Maclean was Fear an Tighe.’ 


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