What a jovial, jubilant, just brilliant return to form by the Argyllshire Gathering. The first major solo piping event for three years was a triumph in every sense and just reward for the stewards for their determination and ‘can do’ attitude throughout the pandemic years.
They refused to allow it to halt their 150th Anniversary celebrations last year, putting on reduced events to keep the music going.
By the Editor
Pipers repaid them in spades at Oban 2022. There were outstanding performances through all ceòl beag and ceòl mòr contests and 50 pipers for the march to the games park led victoriously by the new Gold Medallist the mannerly, modest Jamie Forrester (pictured above).
And here was another reward for the stewards of the Gathering. Jamie’s father Peter is a leading light.
A brief run through the events and then a more detailed look at competitions I was involved in judging.
The Former Winners’ MSR was held for the first time in the splendid Argyllshire Gathering Hall where tuning facilities were so good most of the pipers got on with it after only a couple of minutes on the clock. The winner was Connor Sinclair.
The Senior Piobaireachd went to Angus MacColl with the Unjust Incarceration, extra line as required. Like me, Angus believes this addition detracts from the ‘perfect’ construction of the tune as we know it but he knuckled down to his task and, according to the bench, thoroughly deserved his £1,000 cheque.
As I’ve mentioned, the coveted Highland Society of London Gold Medal went to Jamie Forrester a piper who has been knocking on the door for several years. His balanced pipe and subtle touch with John MacLellan’s Phantom Piper saw him through this time.
The Silver Medal went to Calum Watson with the Big Spree from ‘Binneas is Boreraig’. This was musical playing allied to good technique on a tuneful pipe. In truth, Calum Brown in second was a close contender. His powerful rendition of Cherede Darievea had the audience riveted. A little off rhythm in the low A taorluaths and a little less expression in the urlar than Calum W made the difference.
Jonathon Simpson completed a good day for Boghall & Bathgate Pipe band when he took third with the Viscount of Dundee. Good control here. A mite more F in chelalho would improve the ground.
Out of the starting blocks like a revved up Mercedes came German piper Anna Kummerlöw with Flame of Wrath. A little gentler on the accelerator please Anna but well played.
John Dew completed the prizes with Isabel MacKay; a good tune but attention needed on the timings of the T&C doublings. Of the others, Brodie Watson-Massey produced a superb pipe and finger in Rory MacLeod but chedari was weak as was his phrasing. William Rowe, Ruiridh Brown, Finlay Cameron Andrew Ferguson, Ross Miller, Ashley McMichael, Xavier Bouderiou, Greig Canning all had good enough pipes and fingers but lacked shape to their tunes. Chokes and errors accounted for the remainder. I might say in passing it was a pleasure to judge this competiton with Ian Duncan and Robert Barnes. The nine hours seemed to fly by. One last point. We produced crit sheets for the pipers as requested but fewer than half were collected.
Over at the MacGregor Memorial, the pride of Lanarkshire, Cameron May, lifted first prize with renditions of Lament for Donald Duaghal MacKay in the heats, and Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon in the final. We should not forget how difficult this competition is for young pipers, concentration over a full day the requirement. Judges must take into consideration the performances in the heat and the final when allocating the prizes. These tough rules were laid down by the late Angus Nicol. They ensure the winner is fitted for the Silver Medal which is where Cameron will play next year.
The following day I judged the ‘A’ Strathspey and Reel heat and ‘A’ March final with Roddy Livingstone and the celebrated World Champion Pipe Major, Richard Parkes. Both competitions were marred by unmusical playing. Plenty of excellent pipes (though it was very difficult to hear drones on the games park) and good fingers – but that is not enough at one of the most prestigious piping competitions in the world.
Absolved of all blame in that regard was Angus MacColl jnr. who stormed to victory in the March. In true MacColl style he had us all swinging along the road to Melfort to meet Mr McFadyen. Close behind came Cameron Macdougall with another Argyll tune, Clan MacColl. James MacKenzie (a little slow in the S&R) played Donald MacLeod’s Mrs Duncan MacFadyen very well for third. Silver Medallist Calum Watson was fourth with Argyllshire Gathering and Callum Beaumont completed the prizes with Stirlingshire Militia on a rather high pitched chanter.
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