P/M Ben Duncan of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards is the winner of the prestigious international piobaireachd composing competition organised by the Shasta Piping Society of California in conjunction with the Burley Bagpipe Company and Piping Press.
P/M Duncan’s tune, ‘Salute to the Duke of Brax’, a tribute to his pedigree spaniel, was a clear winner from 18 submitted. We believe it may be the first piobaireachd named for a dog. The panel of judges, who received no fees, was chaired by Piobaireachd Society President and PP Editor Robert Wallace, and comprised Mr William Livingstone, Ontario, Mr Chris Terry, South Africa, and Mr Greg Wilson, New Zealand. All are champion solo pipers and experts in ceòl mòr.
Second place in the competition went to Jori Chisholm of Seattle, USA, a previous prizewinner in the competition. There was a tie for third with the prizes going to John Dew of Crieff and a member of Inveraray Pipe Band, and Zephan Knickel from British Columbia, a member of Simon Fraser University Pipe Band.
P/M Duncan wins £500 ($650), Jori Chisholm £250 and the third places £100 each. After hearing of his win P/M Duncan said: ‘I was overjoyed to hear that my tune had come out on top. I have dabbled with composition for many years and when I saw the opportunity to enter a piece of piobaireachd into the Shasta competition thought ‘I may as well give it a bash’.
‘I had never expected to get in the prizes but saw it as a way of getting another tune out there. I am very grateful that the tune was appreciated by the panel. I had a lot of fun writing it.
‘I had composed the piece at the end of last year and named it after our Springer Spaniel Duke, who is my much loved companion and working dog. He is, believe it or not, a huge lover of piobaireachd, so I thought, what more would a spaniel want for his fifth birthday than a tune (apart from a ball or a bone perhaps).
‘His Kennel Club registered name is ‘Duke of Brax’ which lends itself well to a regal, stately piece of music and with the added slice of humour, for the avid title searcher in the future, the tune was named ‘Salute to the Duke of Brax’.
‘The Shasta composition contest is the first music writing competition that I have entered and has been a very enjoyable experience. It is a great initiative to encourage the production of modern ceòl mòr.
Please see attached a picture of my wife Lee, Duke and I at the top of Ben Nevis, the day after Inveraray Games last year plus a picture of Duke in suitable stately uniform.’
Here is the ground and first variation of P/M Duncan’s tune:
Download a copy of the full score here:
Listen to P/M Duncan playing his winning tune:
Of the competition Mr Wallace said: ‘Ben was a worthy winner. We were impressed with the melody of his tune and its solid structure. There were many other excellent pieces in contention. The third placed tunes were considered of equal merit, hence the additional prize. Mr Steve Rooklidge, President, and the Shasta Piping Society, deserve great credit for maintaining and promoting the composition of new piobaireachd.’
- Stay tuned to Piping Press for more on the other prizewinners and their compositions.
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