This year the annual competition was held, for the first time, in the splendid setting of the National Piping Centre in Glasgow. It proved to be a perfect venue and the day a show-case of the diverse pathways bellows-piping has travelled during its revival. Rona Dawson gives her impressions.

When Pete asked me to write up the competition for Common Stock I wasn't sure I'd have anything new to say about this year's event that hadn't been said in the past.  But I am delighted to report this turned out to be far from the case.  In this the Society's 30th anniversary year,  it seems that the competition has taken a giant step forward and it looks as though the aim of playing a lowland/border repertoire is finally coming to pass. 
The event was held in the National Piping Centre's main hall which is very suitable in size and has excellent acoustics.  It must be one of the most expensive places on the planet for coffee and beer - and for this reason the Society had opted not to provide any.  The rest of us had to take out a small mortgage to get our caffeine fix!
The usual sartorial elegance was on view - Jock sporting a feathered cap and pleated beard arrangement which I am sure should have a tune written for it,  David Stevenson sporting an arctic weather furry hat (which proved slightly unnecessary in the late afternoon sun) and Peter Duggan was modelling a very natty tweed pipe bag cover.
Joking aside, in general this year no-one had turned up unprepared and most people had given their tune choices some thought -  appropriate as to repertoire and player’s ability, played at a manageable speed.  There was a huge variety of music on offer this year which was refreshing and for once very little of the standard pipe band repertoire in evidence.
Frustration has been expressed in past years regarding the Society's remit to encourage the playing of border/ lowland repertoire - the instrument itself is now flourishing, but it has to a great degree been picked up by Highland pipers (like myself) looking for an indoor option and we have been slow to pick up tunes from lowland sources.  This year however it felt like a sea change had taken place – which I suspect is in no small measure due to the introduction  of the Martin Lowe trophy – and the number of entries featuring tunes from the Dixon Collection or Burns songs or other identifiably lowland sources was much greater.  These tunes show the instruments off at their best and it was great to hear more and more people making the effort this time – note to self for next year!
Special mention should go to Peter Duggan the sole entrant in the beginner class,  who played an immaculate set on beautifully tuned pipes made by Ross Calderwood,  despite first time nerves.  Being a flautist he has natural musical ability and it'll not be long before he is in the open class.  It's a daunting thing to have to go first in the day particularly when you’re new to the whole business, so I’m not sure why the Society didn’t continue with the practice of starting with the intermediate class.
As always Callum Armstrong's performances offered something well beyond the ability and imagination of most pipers - he switches key, produces stopping effects, a range of two octaves from his Goodacre pipes that the rest of us can only marvel at,  not to mention the harmonies he produces from his double chanter set.  Along with Pete Stewart on fiddle,  I thought they played an outstanding pipe and other instrument offering and were runaway winners of that class despite a really strong field.  Ross and Calum Calderwood were second while George Greig and Bob Lowe were third.
For non-pipers the various duet classes are often the most accessible,  and we really were treated to some great music – Stuart Gaudin who, like myself had dragged along some non-piper pals commented (with some relief) that the standard has rocketed over the last few years and it was more like an extended concert than a competition! [See Stewart’s letter p. 20.]
Pete and Callum’s duet for pipes was also a winning combination - and a lot of fun for the audience – with two well matched pipes working variations back and forth. Some of the other duets didn’t work so well because the pipes were unbalanced in terms of volume, meaning the harmonies overpowered the melody on occasion. However all the pairs had taken on board the requirement for harmonies and some interesting music was produced.

Callum Armstrong and Pete Stewart playing their pipe duet: at this point Callum is stopping the open tuning holes in his specially-commissioned drones, changing the chord from AE to GD and back, while Pete is using his knee to stop chanter.

The open solo smallpipe class has matured to a much more professional standard as well - all the pipes were in tune, steadily blown and most of the fingering was clean and articulate with few bum notes or squeeks which made it a closely fought event but Fin Moore's contribution was very strong with a Mary Scott sound-alike tune,  and came out on top.  The Society’s teaching weekend being held early in the year seems to work well as several contributions were of tunes learned at this event – Bob Lowe in particular produced a nice set from what he’d learned there.
The seasoned pipers (the those-who-should-know-better class) came up with a surprising and varied selection of music - David Hannay playing two tunes in honour of Tony Macdonald, late Dumfries-shire teacher and member of the famous Macdonald family,  while Henry Aitchison gave a measured rendition of Pumpkin's Fancy and Forest Lodge. Alan Sturrock was the eventual winner playing The Farley Bridge, Trip to Ballymena and The King’s House.

The pipe and song class was won again by Judy Barker and full marks to her for giving us a miners' protest song in the week of Thatcher's funeral.  The pipe and song duet produced several very entertaining entries and has been a welcome introduction to the range of classes in recent years.  By the time of publication all these performances will have been posted on the Society’s website for everyone to enjoy again.
All in all it was a really happy day out with lots of good tunes and a chance to catch up with old friends – lovely to see Laura MacKenzie over from the States which is the first time we’ve met for about 20 years!  It’s impossible to list all the performances or all the people who took part but I would just mention that Graham Barnes has done an excellent job capturing the spirit of the day in pictures which can be seen on the LBPS Facebook page and everything was organised superbly by Judy Barker and her willing band of helpers.  Well done to the committee on a great event.
Just a final thought for future years – any chance of the introduction of a “professional” class in the hope of attracting some of our very best players to take part?  Perhaps for a cash prize if that’s what it takes?

David Hannay playing this year in the ‘Seasoned Pipers’ class. David was one of two pipers (with Iain McDonald) to bring the Lowland pipes back to the streets of Edinburgh back in 1982 (see Common Stock Dec. 2010). He was the first treasurer of the Society and has been a regular presence at the competition  ever since. In recognition of thirty years of support, he has been awarded an Honorary membership of the Society.

A Letter from America
The following message arrived from a first-time visitor to the competition.

Dear Lowland and Border Piper's Society Leadership,
 It was my pleasure to attend your annual competition at the National  Piping Center last Saturday, April 13. I wish to thank you for  inviting "public at large", so I came knowing very little about any of the smallpipes. The event was a great introduction to me of the  repertoire and culture of these instruments, and also to all of you  dedicated people sharing your music with each other.
 I hope to attend again next year, perhaps to participate in the novice  category (I am waiting for a set of A Smallpipes from Fred Morrison). Thankyou for the information/ teaching that you provide through this  organization.
 Robin Larson
 San Diego, CA

Jock Agnew has been attending LBPS competitions since the very early days; here he reflects on the changes he has seen over the years

The passage of time has treated the LBPS competitions well. Back in the 80s, in the intimate environment of the School of Scottish Studies, there was an air of tentativeness, of experimentation, of wresting with a new and unfamiliar – even uncooperative – instrument. And in those early days there were fewer categories to tempt competitors; no encouragement for new compositions, nothing to persuade pipers to sing along, and no slot for us Oldies.
Over the years there has been a marked improvement in the standard of playing. There are fewer examples of the heavy heel bashing out the beat before striking in the pipes – pipe-band style. There are fewer examples of what I describe as the Highland Piper’s Hump – when the shoulder above the bag is permanently lifted to allow the bag to be kept extended to its maximum dimensions. The elbow work on the bellows has become more controlled –there are fewer examples of an uncontrolled pumping action as nervousness kicks in. Most pipers this year seemed to top up their bag with an average of 26 pumps per minute. Sadly, though, there are still too many pipers taking a chance on their chanter wrappings by allowing the chanter to dangle between their legs (providing a sight that would have been banned by the late Mary Whitehouse) and risk a fall-out endangering the reed!
Over the years the LBPS competitions have offered pipers a chance to hear (and see) what other pipers have been doing, their techniques and their choice of music. The competitions have provided an environment in which players can try out a new idea and learn, sometimes disappointingly, how it is received. It is a chance to see and hear pipes made by various pipe-makers, and glean first-hand information from their owners.
This year the Piping Centre was a most suitable venue to listen to the extraordinary variety of entries; in every category, despite there being but one Novice. The choice of music too was, to my ear at least, very acceptable. And if I must mention one entry, then it was the Dixon choice played on Border pipes by Fin Moore. Where on earth does he get such nice-sounding pipes!


Competition Results

NOVICE- Heriot & Allan Quaich: Judge:Hamish Moore    
1st:         PETER DUGGAN    Wals voor Polle/The Farley Bridge    
SEASONED PIPERS - Nigel Richards Trophy: Judge: Fin Moore    
1st.         ALLAN STURROCK    The Farley Bridge/Trip to Ballymena/The King’s House    
2nd.         DAVID HANNAY    Sir Hector MacDonald’s coronoch/Gathering of  the clans
3rd.         HENRY AITCHISON    Pumkins Fawly/Forest Lodge
INTERMEDIATE - Julian Goodacre Trophy: Judge: Iain MacInnes    
1st.     CRAIG McDOUGALL    Sinc Bhan/Humour of Tull/Famous Ballymote/ ohn McDonalds Reel/Skansen Selmu    
2nd.     DUNCAN R BELL    Pilling Moss/Broad Hoop/Daniel Cooper
NEW COMPOSITION - London Trophy: Judge: Iain MacInnes    
1st.         CALLUM ARMSTRONG    Angie’s Jig    
2nd.         PETE STEWART     Yooky Taes [Ed: tr.- ‘Fidgety Feet’]
-3rd.         GEORGE GREIG    Lynne & Steve’s Big Day  

        Judge: Gary West    
1st.         FINN MOORE    Flowers of Yarrow/Dunse Dings a’/Battle of the Braes2nd.
2nd.         STEWART GAUDIN    Ah Hae a mare o ma Ain/The Earl of Errol/  Hey tuttie tattie/Teribus    
3rd.     ROSS CALDERWOOD    Harris dance/Kissin’s the best of all/ Skye  Dance/Harris Dance
PIPE AND SINGER DUET: Judge: Gary West    
1st.     PETE STEWART & SADIE MASKERY    Quiet Joys of Brotherhood    [My  Laggan Love]
2nd.     STEWART GAUDIN & BRUCE KENNEDY     Ye Banks and Braes   of Bonnie Doon
3rd.     JOHN BUSHBY & CAROLINE BUSHBY     Dainty Davie (R.Burns)

PIPE AND SONG - Jimmy Wilson Memorial Cup: Judge: Gary West    
1st.     JUDY BARKER         Coal not Dole    
2nd.     JOHN BUSHBY        Lassie wi’ the lint white locks    
3rd.     ALLAN STURROCK    And sae will we yet  

DUET FOR PIPES - Mains Castle Medal: Judge: Hamish Moore    
1st.     PETE STEWART & CALLUM ARMSTRONG    Extemporizations on  a New Ground Made Two in One    
2nd.     GEORGE GREIG & ROBERT LOW      Atom of delight/Kick the rogues out/ Screapadal Schottishe/Och is Duine Truagh Mi
3rd.     GARY MURDOCH & COLIN McCALDOWIE    Farewell to Camran/   Oz the Dykie  

Judge: Fin Moore    
1st.     CALLUM ARMSTRONG & PETE STEWART    I saw my love come  passing by me    
2nd.     ROSS CALDERWOOD & CALUM CALDERWOOD Mary do it again/ Fisherman’s song for attracting seals
3rd.     JOHN BUSHBY & CAROLINE BUSHBY Montrose’s Tune from Balcarres Manuscript
Judge: Iain MacInnes    
1st.     FIN MOORE        Over the dyke & till her laddie     
2nd.     ROSS CALDERWOOD    New road to Alston/A Rigadoon/Argeers
3rd.     ROBERT LOW         Rodsley Court/Ty Coch Caerdydd/Dacw ‘ngnariad I  lawr yn y berllan/Mom’s jig/Drink the wort & spill the barley
THE MARTIN LOWE TROPHY: Awarded by the Judges only for the greatest contribution to the performance of Lowland and Border music on the day of the competition.