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Heartening performances

GORDON MOONEY reviews the 1987 LBPS Piping Competition in April which, he writes, "was a sparkling display of the best in the art of cauld wind piping”.

HELD for the fourth consecutive year at the School of Scottish Studies, Edinburgh, by kind permission of Peter Cooke, this year's competition on April 11 was a sparkling display of the best in the art of cauld  wind piping. Unlike previous years, where there was a shortage of competitors for certain classes, this year saw a greater than ever entry in each class; so much so that it took from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. to hear all the entrants.

The quality of entries did not however, detract from the quality, which I felt was also greater than in the past. So many performances exceptional that it was no easy task for the judges.

The day kicked off with Novice Class for the Heriot and Allen Quaich, which was won by Arthur Timperley from Fife, playing a brisk set on a lovely sounding set of small pipes. Second in this class was Jon Swayne from Glastonbury playing Border pipes and reaching one two - three? - notes up into the second octave. Third was Eric McKinnon from Northern Ireland playing a lively selection on small pipes.

Although she was not placed in this event, several members were most impressed by Una McQueen's performance. It is most encouraging to see a young player - at last. Let's hope she keeps practising, and that we'll see her again next year. The judge for the novice class was Jim Anderson.

The Pipe and song competition for the Jimmy Wilson Memorial cup continued the tradition of pawky humour and passionate singing which Jimmy loved so much. The class was won by Andy Hunter from Fife with a wonderful rendition of the "Gallowa' Hills' which had the whole audience joining in the chorus. Second was John Agnew from Essex with a humourous self-composition, and third-equal were David Stevenson and Julian “this ain't Border piping" Goodacre giving original and spirited renditions of their own songs. The
judge was Mike Ward.

The third class was the Open Solo for Scottish small pipes for the Colin Ross Trophy, and was judged by Colin Ross himself. The winner of this competition was John Agnew, who played a faultless Border selection on a rich-sounding A set. In second place was Arthur Timperley and third was Eric McKinnon. Colin remarked that he felt the repertoire of Lowland and Border music wasn't being fully exploited by players in this class, but was also greatly impressed by the high standard of playing.

The open solo for Border pipes for the Hamish Moore Quaich was judged by myself. The five entries must be the largest ever in this class and the competition was hot. Eventual winner was Andy Hunter playing  an evocative Lowland selection on mellow pipes. Second was Jon Swayne playing pipes of his own making which had a gentle “pastoral” sound and were able to reach easily into the upper octave. In third place was John Agnew playing a strong set on Lowland pipes.

The Duet (two sets of pipes) for the Mains Castle Medals was judged by Ann Sessoms. Placed first, playing a beautifully puttogether set on D small pipes were Andy Hunter and Mike Ward from Fife. Second were David Hannay and John Agnew playing Border pipes and small pipes together. Third were Andrew and Una McQueen playing a very pleasant set on the small pipes.

The Duet (pipes and other instrument) produced some very interesting combinations. This class, for the Dumfermline Tassies, was judged by Colin Ross. Again, a large, high quality entry made judging difficult. However, the deserved winners were Hamish Moore and Ken Campbell with a polished and professional selection of slow air and 9/8 jigs for the C Scottish small pipes and Northumbrian small pipes. Second were Andy iiunter and Mike Ward playing a slick set of Lowland tunes on D small pipes and “Scots-Indian" harmonium. Third, with a beautifully balanced set of tunes played on small pipes and concertina, were John Agnew and Sam Allen. Other entries included a scintillating duet on Lowland pipes and accordion from Jim Anderson and friend, and a spirited set by John and Julian Goodacre on small pipes and Leicestershire pipes.

 Last, but by no means least, saw the debut of the new composition class which attracted a large entry of some ten tunes. The trophy was generously donated by the London section of the Society and the competition was judged by Mike Ward. A difficult task indeed, but I felt Mike gave a fair and balanced judgement on the entries. First’ place went - again—to Andy Hunter for his beautiful slow air called Ireland at Peace Again. Having only heard it once I want to hear it again. In second place was Hamish Moore for another evocative air called The Legspreader. Third prize went to John Agnew for his air, Lie Peacefully There.

I must admit that my day began with feelings of trepidation and angst that no-one would turn up but, in the event, everything went fairly smoothly and there was a larger than ever turn out of players and  audience. The good humour, sense of fun and camaraderie which has become a feature of the competitions was more than ever evident. The standards of performance also go on rising and particularly  heartening is the sight of a young person taking part. Also highly encouraging and healthy was the large entry in the new composition class.

To sum up, I left at the of the day with a "birlin' heid" due to overstimulation. I felt tired but inspired with a feeling of assurance that the cauld wind pipes are emphatically here to stay in today's Scottish culture.