The 54th Silver Chanter contest/ recital was held in Glasgow for the third time this evening as part of a truncated Piping Live festival. The venue was the National Piping Centre in McPhater Street, Cowcaddens. The contest is sponsored by the William Grant Foundation.
The contest was unique in that there was no audience other than on ‘pay per view’ livestream over the internet. However all other aspects of the event were ‘live’ making the result authentic and worthy of comparison with previous editions of ‘the Chanter’.
The competing pipers and their tunes were:
1) Connor Sinclair – Lament for Donald Ban MacCrimmon
2) Stuart Liddell – Lament for the Children
3) Sarah Muir – Lament for the Earl of Antrim
4) Callum Beaumont – Lament for MacLeod of Colbeck
5) Iain Speirs – Lament for MacSwan of Roaig
6) Fred Morrison – Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon
The winner was Stuart Liddell. The judge was M Henderson.
Editor Robert Wallace writes…..I was kindly supplied with a press review ticket for this competition/recital but am loath to comment on the performances in any great detail given that you simply cannot hear the instruments properly without being in the auditorium. Neither is the quality of the technique properly quantifiable in this medium.
However I will say, that from the comfort of one’s own favourite armchair, the event was most enjoyable. This sort of ‘halfway house to normality competition’ is perhaps what other promoters should be considering – at least until the pandemic strictures recede.
If I may be permitted one correction to MC James Beaton’s introduction. The Silver Chanter was not the brainchild of Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod but of Seumas MacNeill and John MacFadyen who more than half a century ago convinced the good lady to donate her drawing room at Dunvegan Castle as the venue for their project.
We were treated to six of the best pieces of ceòl mòr in the repertoire. The Lament for Donald Ban MacCrimmon was chosen for Connor Sinclair (above). The high ‘A’ seemed a fraction flat. He kept things moving well but Malcolm MacCrimmon’s magnum opus requires delicate inquiry and delivery. More study for Connor.
Next on was Stuart Liddell (above), properly attired for evening wear – jacket, no bonnet. He warmed up with a snatch of the Old Woman’s Lullaby and then via some tuning adjustments strode majestically on with Patrick Mòr’s Lament for the Children.
This was masterly playing from Stuart with subtle timing and tempo changes bringing out the true pathos of the melody. The pipe seemed immaculate. Was that a minor choke on the last crunluath or a glitch in my internet connection? No matter – superb stuff from an expert in the art of bagpiping.
At ‘the Chanter’ for the first time was Sarah Muir and she gave a steady account of Lament for the Earl of Antrim. A few inconsistencies here and there but the pipe and finger sounded first class.
The great tunes kept coming: John MacKay’s Lament for MacLeod of Colbeck next from Callum Beaumont (below). A well presented ground and first variation from this expert but I thought there was an element of rote about the latter stages of the tune. Sparkling chanter and technique.
Iain Speirs struggled to get the pipe to settle but once he did gave us a finely paced MacSwan of Roaig. I particularly liked the first variation singling where the links to cadences were played to perfection. Neither was there rushing in the doubling; just well set out phrases all within a steady tempo.
This pattern of controlled but fulsome expression continued to the end but did that outside tenor last? I couldn’t tell.
Last on was Fred Morrison with the Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon. He played the opening E to low G very evenly which would not be to everyone’s taste. Nor would the emphasis on the first note of the three note groupings in Var1 doubling where I also thought there was a slip.
That aside, there was merit in Fred’s delivery but I could not be sure if the pipe lasted.