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Sounds of St Cecilia

Jim Gilchrist on the recital competition in November

FOR THE third time, Gary West won the Society's Invitation recital competition. .Having won the event in 2003 and 2006, he took first place yet again on 15 November, following the society's 25th anniversary Collogue.

Second place in an evening of highly musical playing, amid the atmospheric surroundings of Edinburgh's St Cecilia's Hall, was taken by Allan MacDonald, while third was Iain MacInnes - who stepped into the ranks at the last moment, as impending maternity prevented Carol-Ann Mackay from taking part as billed.

The proceedings were opened not by a competitor but by piper and pipe-maker Ian Kinnear, who set the evening's consistently high standard by playing the fine set of small pipes in C which he had made and donated as first prize for the event. The first competitor was the youngest - Fin Moore, with a set which included the Border air Mary Scott the Flower oƒ Yarrow, Allan MacDonald's popular reel The Gossips and a trio of jigs, as well as a march and strathspey that led into some Irish and Scots reels.

MacDonald himself played small pipes, including the Irish air For Ireland I'd Not Tell Her Name, noting its relationship to the Border tune Tweedside, as well as some of his own tunes, and included a Gaelic song he learned from Kenna Campbell, singing it over his drones in resonant tones. Another set of reels included his tune Lord McConnell oƒ Fermanagh and Lochend, which he composed for the inimitable flautist of the Boys of the Lough, with a sly dig at the Westminster Government's “Cash for Honours” ploys.

Originally from Mabou, Cape Breton Island, Angus Mackenzie, well known for his piping with the Scots-Irish-Cape-Breton band Daimh, opened with nimble set of jigs on Border pipes and also included some good, snappy strathspeys and reels.

Borderer Chris Ormston played Northumbrian small pipes and a largely Northumbrian repertoire, replete with some rippling variations in tunes such as The Keel Row and Holey Ha'penny, then changed to Border pipes for a plangent version of John Anderson My Jo.

With last-minute entrant lain MacInnes it was back to the Scottish small pipes, and a couple of “old style” 3/2 hornpipes - Rusty Gully, Pawkie Adam Glen followed by the jig Tam Glen, as well as some nicely measured quicksteps, closing with a sequence of 9/8 jigs and some crisp reels.

Gary West pulled off his hat trick playing small pipes, opening in impressive style with the traditional reel Miss Proud emerging easily out of Gordon Duncan's Ian Green oƒ Greentrax. He also delved into Border territory with a skeely set of hornpipes, while a set of Scots and Galician tunes was given an additional flourish by starting them on a single drone, bringing in the others later.

Outwith the competition, other contributors to an excellent evening were Julian Goodacre, playing the reproduction Cornish bagpipe he based on a carving in a church on Bodmin Moor, and our singing secretary Judy Barker, who performed several songs while accompanying herself on small pipes.