Last weekend was spent near St Conan’s Kirk, on Loch Awe-side in Argyll. That’s the handsome church you see on your left about twenty miles east of Oban as you head for the Argyllshire Gathering.
It was the venue for a concert to celebrate the life and work of the famous Gaelic poet, Duncan Ban Macintyre.
There was piping and poetry and stories. One speaker, Professor Alan Riach of Glasgow University, explained that Duncan Ban’s 1768 masterpiece ‘In Praise of Ben Doran’ (Moladh Beinn Dòbhrain) took the form of a piobaireachd with a theme and variations. The poem, with Professor Riach’s translation, can be found here.
Local pipers Iain MacIntyre and Sinclair Hennessy (a pupil of Angus MacColl’s at Oban High School) provided a couple of piping selections during the presentation and included a very nice 2/4 written by Iain called Leaving Glenorchy. It has its inspiration in MacIntyre flittings. Iain’s promised me a copy once he has it written out properly.
If you are passing, the church is well worth a visit. Lots of architectural interest and there’s a a bit of bone from Robert the Bruce in the draughty tomb.
Heading for home, and high on a small hill overlooking the loch, you will see the monument to Duncan Ban, circular to represent the never-ending song of the Gael.
Talking of which, a black mark for the BBC’s ‘Landward’ programme. How could they do an otherwise commendable show on the island of Raasay, as broadcast last week, and not mention its piping heritage? Rightly we had lots on another great poet, Sorley MacLean, but nothing on John or Angus MacKay or the beneficent MacLeods of Raasay and their love of the music.
One of the ‘Landward’ presenters was a young, Gaelic-speaking lady and one would have thought that her education in things Raasay would have featured all the heritage art of the island not just Sorley’s. Shouldn’t a piping taster be part of the curriculum for all Scotland’s schoolchildren and more especially those from the Highlands and islands?
Well done to the promoters of the Livingston Invitational drumming contest we featured yesterday. Well done for putting on the contest (it put the decision to abandon the 2021 World Solo Drumming to shame) and well done for introducing piping prizes.
This is something I have done informally at the WSD and should become de rigueur at solo drumming contests. Peter Snaddon made the point about the different positioning of the pipers affecting his ability to adjudicate, but that should be easily sorted by adopting a fixed position. From what I remember, the piper is always to the drummer’s right at the WSD.
Peter’s other point about the strictures on expression placed on the piper is well made, but it is still possible to produce an order of merit based on the tone of the pipes, the quality and accuracy of fingering, and how well the piper blends with his percussionist.
Reader Archie Maclean (Skye) has been in touch: ‘I’ve been working on a free (and open source) app for writing out pipe music. It is mostly complete, but I would like people to try it out so I can fix any bugs / glitches that appear.
‘The website is here: https://pipescore.web.app/ it requires a PC/laptop (not a mobile phone or tablet), and a mostly-up-to-date browser. I would like PP readers to try it out and let me know if you have any questions, or have anything you would like me to change. Thank you.’
Contact Archie here: email@example.com
Round the Games, USA
Alma, Michigan 1968
March: 1 Alex Dewar 2 Noel Slagle 3 Ken Eller 4 Bruce Burt
S&R: 1 Ken Eller 2 John MacRobb 3 Jim Fryer 4 John Goodenow
Bands Grade 1: 1 Clan MacFarlane 2 St Andrew 3 St Thomas 4 Highland House
Grade 2: 1 Chrysler Highlanders 2 Redford Highlanders 3 Ingersoll 4 Flint Scottish
Fair Hill, Maryland, 1968
Piobaireachd: 1 Roderick MacDonald 2 Donald Lindsay 3 Stewart Crawford 4 Arthur Milne
March: 1 Roderick MacDonald 2 William Drennan 3 Jerry Earley 4 Arthur Milne
S&R: 1 Roderick MacDonald 2 Jerry Earley 3 Jerry Quig 4 John Milne
Piob 17 and Under: 1 Albert McMullin 2 Ed Cheney 3 Howard Robinson 4 Robert Mitchell
Kansas City, Missouri, 1968
Open Piping: 1 Roderick MacDonald 2 Gordon Spiers 3 John McRobb 4 B Brent
Amateur Piping: 1 Robert Mitchell 2 Albert McMullin 3 Tim Carey 4 Jerry Earley