Pipers have until January 31 to get their entries in for the Argyllshire Gathering at Oban and the Northern Meeting, Inverness, the two top events in world solo piping. After that date names will go forward to the joint selection committee late next month when the final places will be allocated. The committee comprises representatives from both contests, the Competing Pipers Association, judges and the Piobaireachd Society.
There are likely to be 25 spots in both Silver and Gold Medals, though in the past this has occasionally been extended slightly to accommodate borderline candidates.
It is understood that the Competing Pipers’ Association’s new scheme for selecting pipers for the Silver Medals has not been an unqualified success and is likely to be dropped or drastically re-vamped for 2020/21.
Under this scheme certain competitions were earmarked as qualifiers for the Silver Medal; but these qualifiers have been inconsistent in quality and numbers. At one event there were only four performances worthy of consideration for the first prize and the SM place. At others there were many more excellent pipers, particularly in Scotland, vying for the prized place. At another, Inveraray Games, the pipers were given their tune a week beforehand, a practice out of kilter with all other qualifiers.
This year for the first time in history the Northern Meeting will take place before the Argyllshire Gathering, the first on August 20/21 and the second on August 26/27th. The change has been forced on the NM organisers following booking difficulties at their venue, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness.
For solo pipers who play in bands it means an unprecedented run of events with the World Pipe Band Championships taking place in Glasgow on August 14/15th. Five days later it is off to Inverness and five days after that it is down to Oban.
The Argyllshire Gathering will launch their smart new website tomorrow. Pipers enter via the site, fee £40. When live the site will be accessible at http://www.pipingcompetition.com. Here is a preview of some of the pages:
The website blurb: ‘The 2020 Argyllshire Gathering Piping Competition takes place on Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 August 2020 in Oban, Argyll. With over 200 entries from accomplished pipers from countries throughout the world, it’s two days of piping excellence.
‘The first day of events (26 August) sees the prestigious Piobaireachd – the Ceòl mór – competitions taking place at various indoor venues in Oban – the Senior Piobaireachd Competition, The Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal, The Highland Society of London’s MacGregor Memorial Competition for young pipers and The Argyllshire Gathering Silver Medal competition. The ever-popular Former Winners’ March, Strathspey & Reel competition also takes place which is an outstanding concert of light music.
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‘On the second day (27 August) the focus turns to the Ceòl beag – light music – competitions at The Argyllshire Gathering’s Oban Games. Pipers from across Argyll, Scotland and the world compete outdoors in the March, Strathspey & Reel competitions and the Jigs competitions at Mossfield Park stadium.
‘Members of the public are most welcome to come along and listen to these world class piping events at the Corran Halls and other indoor venues on Wednesday and at The Oban Games at Mossfield Stadium on Thursday. Entry fee payable on the day.’
The Northern Meeting website is already inviting pipers to register for consideration for a competition place. Here is the link.
The NM blurb: ‘The Northern Meeting Piping Competition has emerged as the pre-eminent and most prestigious piping competition in the world. The Gold Medal for the classical piobaireachd music and the Gold Clasp for former winners, are the most sought after achievements for any piper. The honour attaching to such success attracts pipers from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Europe and throughout the British Isles.
‘Entry to the competition is restricted to those of the highest calibre and competition is intense. Only around 100 competitors are selected to take part in the various events. These include the classic Piobaireachd, March, Strathspey and Reel and Hornpipes and Jigs. The competition also caters for younger players with numbers in the junior competition increasing to some 30-40, reflecting the expanding interest in schools.’