Shasta Piping Society and Burley Bagpipe Company – Original Piobaireachd Music Competition

This competition calls for copies of original piobaireachds to be submitted by composers to a panel of qualified judges.  The piobaireachd submissions must be original to the composer(s), of any style, and cannot have been published before.  Prize awards for the top three compositions will be £500/£250/£100.  Submissions must be received by April 1, 2017, and winners will be announced in May 2017.

Piobaireachd Competition Rules

  1. Composers must have reached the age of 21 by the final submission date.
  2. Piobaireachd submissions must be original to the composer(s), and not been published before.
  3. Submissions may be of any form (Lament, Salute, etc.) preferred by the composer(s).
  4. Only one submission is allowed from each composer.
  5. Submissions must be unmarked PDF files of the music score, attached to an introductory email with the composer’s contact information.  No indication of the composer’s identity or composition name on the score is allowed.
  6. Submissions must be generated by computer in a recognizable arrangement format (PS, Binneas, McIntosh).  Hand-written scores or written notations on the score are not accepted.
  7. Submissions must also include an audio electronic file of the composition played on pipes or practice chanter, with no voice or identifying markers.
  8. Complete submissions must be submitted by April 1, 2017 to the email address:
  9. Composers will retain all copyright, but must agree to grant the sponsors free right to publish the score in a music collection and use recordings of the arrangement to advertise future competitions.
  10. Composers must have the ability to receive monetary awards from the sponsors by paypal account.
  11. All decisions made by the representatives of the sponsors are final.


Piobaireachd submissions will be catalogued, provided individual identification, and sent under blind cover to the panel of judges.  Results of the competition will be announced to each of the composers during May, 2017, and announced on shortly thereafter.  Awards will be distributed within 30 days of the winner’s announcement by paypal payment.

Shasta Piping Society

The mission of the Shasta Piping Society is to foster interest and proficiency in the traditional music of Scotland.  The main function of the SPS is to provide a program that enables disadvantaged youth to receive refurbished instruments, so the financial burden of bagpipe purchase does not prevent them from becoming active musicians.  Another goal of the SPS is to encourage existing players to expand their repertoire to include musical scores not often heard by players or audiences.  Inquiries to shastapipingsociety {@]

Burley Bagpipe Company

Graham Burley produces high quality bagpipes in Penticton, British Columbia.  Graham started learning to play the Great Highland Bagpipe at the age of seven, and as an adult he also took a keen interest in Irish Uilleann pipes.  The rarity and challenge of Uilleann pipes led to his pursuit of pipe making, and with the help of his father, a retired machinist, he started producing Scottish and Irish Instruments in 2003 during his machinist apprenticeship.  Burley Bagpipe Company began full time production in 2013 to provide pipes with quality of tone, stability of sound, and beauty of craftsmanship well suited for the player of Ceol Mor.


Interpreting Primary Source Manuscripts – Part 8

In the last post, I made some pretty controversial statements.

Par for the course, when it comes to cadences.  As mentioned in the earlier discussion, these 2-, 3-, sometimes even 4- and 5-note runs inspire a great deal of passion!

I have actually heard of judges attempting to correct performers who have won Clasps and Gold Medals regarding how to play a cadence in a given piece.  The competitor quite rightly said something to the effect of, “I know what you are saying, but I’ve been playing for a very long time and just find the style I played is more musical for me than what you are describing.”  (Good for the competitor! Too bad they have to be a champion to get away with it.  And too bad the judge felt compelled to offer a correction.)

Now, I asserted that the held-E cadence has been abused, and therefore also abuses the melody of the tune.  I stand by that statement.

In this post, however, I will not be making aesthetic judgements, so much as citing empirical evidence regarding the differences between the manuscripts and scores, and what is played today (and over the last 50-70 years or so, according to the sources we have).

This is simple empiricism.  Not hypothesis.

Here is the oldest staff notation  we have of Gille Chriost, aka Glengarry’s March (PS 170):

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 10.21.49 AM

There are two things to note:

  1. The themal notes in the first three bars according to the score are: G-B-A-B, G-B-G-D, G-B-E-A
  2. However, the E in the middle of the third bar (at the beginning of the second line, in fact) is a held-E cadence.. How do we know?  It does not appear anywhere else in the rest of the score (which you can download and view here).

This suggests that the transcriber was capturing a performance in which appoggiatura cadences were played, but relatively rarely.  This would make the themal notes dominate the performance. This, in turn, would make the held-E cadence become an exceptional element in the tune.

Just to drive the point home, here is the end of this motion, where the held-E cadence clearly breaks the time signature, but the transcriber doesn’t care:

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 10.34.02 AM

This score makes it into Donald MacDonald’s book (with a bit of clean up, and some editorial additions) relatively intact:

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 11.29.46 AM Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 11.29.55 AM

Empirically, here we see evidence of a style of cadence performance that shows far less of the presence of the appoggiatura cadence.  When it does appear, it is clearly captured in the score. Which is, by all empirical accounts, very infrequently.

Is this less musical?  It depends on your point of view.  One could argue “less is more”, for example.  Or, you can say that this is not how it was handed down, and that as such it did not withstand the test of time and taste.

But, regardless of how one feels, it is certainly different.  And while it is certainly the case that different does not always equal better, it just as certain that different does not always equal worse.  We often dismiss something that is different, and do so far too quickly without giving it a chance.

By allowing for difference, by empirically recognizing that difference existed and can exist, we are not diminishing the present: we are enhancing the future.

More to follow…


The Line Has Been Breeched!

I noted this elsewhere, but I wonder if anyone else has quite “got it”.

Perhaps for the first time ever, certainly in the modern era, a competitor for the Gold at Oban performed from an authentic Donald MacDonald setting in a MacDonald style.

And he won 3rd prize.

Cameron Drummond, a pupil of Colin MacLellan, played “A Doleful Lament for Samuel” (PS 108), also known as Stewart’s White Banner. John Frater, himself an Archie Kenneth Quaich winner, called it a “real treat” to listen to the tune played “very well”.

Sadly, we do not have a recording of Cameron’s performance (yet?).  But Colin sent along his recording of Jimmy MacColl playing the same tune.  It is a fascinating insight into MacColl’s approach to pibroch: as I understand it, he believed they were, in fact, “marching tunes”, so his tempo is very steady and his pacing is more akin to Dr. Donaldson’s dictim that “pibrochs be played at least 30% faster than today.”  You will also hear “redundant-A” taorluaths and crunluaths.

Enjoy!  And if anyone happens to have a recording of Cameron’s performance of this piece (in any arena), please let us know!

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