Silver Chanter / Argyllshire Gathering composing contest / Worlds’ Medley format / Armagh Pipers’ Club

Prior to the winner being announced, the competing pipers marched on playing Happy We've Been Together.
Last year’s competitors at the Silver Chanter. Jack Lee won the title.

A week on Saturday – August 8 – the 54th annual Silver Chanter competition will take place. The invited pipers are Sarah Muir, Fred Morrison, Callum Beaumont, Stuart Liddell, Connor Sinclair, and Iain Speirs. Murray Henderson is the judge and James Beaton is on fear an tighe duties.

As we reported last week, this year’s competition is being held online and broadcast live. Commencing at 7.30pm GMT (3.30pm EST), the livestream costs only £10. Click HERE to watch.

The Silver Chanter is one of piping’s most iconic competitions. It was first held in 1967 as a way of encouraging the best pipers to come to Skye. Its founders were Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod, Seumas MacNeill (formerly of the College of Piping and long-time editor of the Piping Times) and John MacFadyen.

Held in the hall of Dunvegan Castle until 2018, the future of the competition had been in doubt until The National Pipng Centre stepped in and brought it under the Piping Live! umbrella that year. Since then has been the first event of the festival.

• Read MacTavish’s account of the very first Silver Chanter.

A tune composed by National Piping Centre (NPC) Piping Teacher, Iain Lowther has won a 2/4 march composing competition held to mark the 150th anniversary of the Argyllshire Gathering.

Iain, pictured in his garden at his home in Fife, Scotland, is a former Pipe Major of the Scots Guards and has been a staff teacher at the NPC since 2016.

His winning tune, Dr Whittow’s Salute to the 150th Argyllshire Gathering, is below:

Oban’s Senior Steward, Helen Malcolm QC donated the prize and named the tune. She is of the well known Mid-Argyll family, the Malcolms of Poltalloch whose clan seat is Duntrune Castle. She said: “Dr Whittow’s Salute to the 150th Argyllshire Gathering is good I think. I imagine it will be shortened to Dr Whittow’s Salute which is also good.

“I am so pleased that we have been able to contribute to something positive in the piping world in these strange times; there was a large and strong field of contenders, and a most excellent winner. The name chosen for the tune pays tribute both to the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Argyllshire Gathering in 1871, and to a staunch and generous Argyll enthusiast.”

Dr Whittow, pictured, was killed in a car crash late in December 2017. He was Helen Malcolm’s husband.

Argyllshire Gathering Piping Steward, Torquil Telfer said the judges received 62 entries which were sent to them under anonymity and that they had a difficult time selecting the winning tune. He said: “We are very grateful to all those who submitted tunes for the competition to mark what is a historic occasion for the Gathering. The tune will be played by the competing pipers on the March to the Games Field next year – the 150th anniversary – and thereafter, though it will not replace the tune traditionally heard as the pipers and stewards enter the games field, the Argyllshire Gathering by John MacColl.”

John Wilson, one of the competition judges, said: “We had 62 anonymous tunes and what I found interesting was that it proved to me just how difficult it is to compose a really good 2/4 march. The 6/8 format is something that most people can do something with but the 2/4 rhythm is entirely different. Think about all those classic 2/4s out there from Willie Lawrie and John MacColl and so on. There were some compositions where we were alert to places where the composers were strongly influenced by those classics of the past in their use of motifs and patterns. I was looking for a tune that was well structured and had a natural sense of rhythmical fluency to it, had a clever use of the genre’s ‘question and answer’ phrasing.

“Iain’s tune contained all of this and had very effective part endings. It was something we could all connect with. The contrasting parts, the sense of continuity … Iain’s tune has a lot of clever interaction between the parts, too. A very original composition.”

Listen to Stuart Liddell playing Iain’s winning tune:

Iain, Pipe Major of the Scots Guards Association Pipes & Drums (Scotland) sits on the Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board. As the winner of the composing competition he receives a cash prize of £1,000 plus a certificate.

RSPBA logo

The Music Board of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association has have invited all the Grade 1 Pipe Majors and Leading Drummers to participate in a conference call to discuss the format of the Medley Competition held at the World Pipe Band Championship.

This conference call will be held on August 15 at 6.00pm GMT.

It is thought the discussion will involve both the circle/concert format and the musical content of the medley.

The Pipers’ Club of Armagh is hosting an Virtual Song Trail this Friday (July 31) evening.

It will take place on the organisation’s Facebook page.

A spokesman said: “We end the term with an extraordinary video performance by many of our young musicians and singers, an hour-long concert including solos, duets, small groups and a mosaic of synchronised singers. Eithne Vallely is the virtual MC and introduces each piece with a few words about the place, the people and the musicians. Tune in at 7.30pm on Friday for a real treat.”