I spent a pleasant afternoon at the Shotts Junior contest last Saturday listening to the performances in the 18 and under ceol mor, writes the Editor. There was an outstanding Daughter’s Lament from Luke Kennedy, the winner.
One is reluctant to praise too highly youngsters for fear that it goes to their head, but all things being equal this young chap will go far, make no mistake. He tackled this difficult piece like a professional, keeping it moving along, and with technique that never interrupted the flow of the music.
Second placed Gregor MacDonald was rather long drawn out with Donald MacLeod’s Cabar Feidh Gu Brath and there were a few technical lapses. A nice bagpipe however and excellent posture and demeanour.
In third we had the 18 and Under Champion Christopher Happs whose tune, unfortunately, I missed. Fourth placed was Hazel Whyte from Larkhall. Hazel seemed very nervous and she had an error at the start of the crunluath. That said, she showed good tempo variation and her finger was clean and the bagpipe steady and sure.
From outside the door I heard Ruiridh Brown tackle the ‘big’ Nameless tune Cherede darievea. It seemed to go well but I did hear blemishes on D in the T&Cs. Fifth came Paul Christie with a good, if rather choppy, Too Long in this Condition. There was a competant Captain MacDougall from Cameron May who just needs to get his finger brushed up – tight. Passable in bands but not in solos.
Outside of these tunes there were basic errors in bagpipe and finger but more disappointing were the numbers of youngsters – 18 played – who clearly had little idea of the piobaireachd idiom. There is no excuse really as they could all join the Piobaireachd Society for £5 and have a listen to the sound archive.
I was confirmed in my view that it is wrong to start youngsters on ‘tuney’ tunes. Donald MacLeod’s Field of Gold for example. What happens is that the beginner approaches the music as they would a slow air with knobs on.
Get them singing the Wee Spree or Munro’s Salute. Make them understand that a piobaireachd is not just a theme with a technical exercise to finish; more that it is a sum of its parts and that the tune starts with the first note of the ground and ends on the final note of the final variation.
All praise to the Shotts band for running such an important event. Over 200 pipers and drummers took part, coming from all over Scotland in the bitter cold. My own local authority North Lanarkshire Council are co-promoters of this competition and provide the superbly appointed Calderhead Secondary School for a venue.
They are also very supportive of their own schools bands under P/M Ross Cowan. For some reason I no longer feel so bad about paying my council tax.
Full results from Shotts Juniors here. The kids are at it again this coming Saturday when the Scots Guards Association have their junior competition at Inchdrewer House, Edinburgh, courtesy the Army School of Piping. Starts 10am.