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The National Piping Centre exists to promote the study of the music and history of the Highland Bagpipe.
Patron HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, KG, KT, GCB.
Founders: Sir Brian Ivory, CBE, FRSE - Lady Ivory, DL - Sandy Grant Gordon, CBE.    Read More

  • Events News

Livestreaming of the Donald MacDonald Cuach from Armadale and a new Clarsach Competition

The Donald MacDonald Cuach piobaireachd competition, now in its 32nd year, will bring together five renowned pipers from across Scotland on 15 June, and will be livestreamed on their facebook page for the first time. The following day introduces a major new competition for Senior Clàrsach, where four leading harpists will compete for the Princess Margaret of the Isles Memorial Prize. 

The performances will take place in the Stables Café at Armadale Castle and are open to the public. They will also be live streamed for those unable to attend in person.

The competitions are a key part of Clan Donald Lands Trust’s ongoing commitment to supporting Gaelic performing arts and are made possible through generous support from the Glencoe Foundation, USA.

Donald MacDonald Cuach, Friday 15 June at 7.30pm

Named in honour of the 18th-century piping pioneer, the Donald MacDonald Cuach is a flagship cultural competition for Clan Donald Lands Trust. The five pipers invited to take part this year are Callum Beaumont (last year’s winner), Glenn Brown, Alasdair Henderson, Iain Speirs and Craig Sutherland. (See below for tunes and brief biographies.) The event will also include singing by Christine Primrose, Head of Gaelic Song at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland’s Gaelic College on the Isle of Skye.
The competition will be opened by talented young local piper Malin Lewis from Bernisdale, north Skye, who is studying at the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music in Plockton. Malin will study Piping at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in September. There will also be contributions from pupils from Bun-sgoil Shlèite (Sleat Primary School).

The competition will be adjudicated by acclaimed piper Allan MacDonald. Allan taught at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for 17 years and has recorded several CDs of pipe music. 

Convenor Dr Angus MacDonald said: ‘This year we have some of the top performers in the country and I look forward to a very entertaining evening’. 

Princess Margaret of the Isles Memorial Prize for Senior Clàrsach – Saturday 16 June at 2pm

The following day sees the inaugural Princess Margaret of the Isles Memorial Prize for Senior Clàrsach. Candidates in this new open competition were required to prepare a 25 minute recital including a variety of Scottish styles, traditional and contemporary, and a new composition of their own.

Four finallists have been selected to perform at the competition recital: Màiri Chaimbeul,  Fraya Thomsen, Karen Marshalsay and Riko Matsuoka. (See below for brief biographies.) 

The adjudicator is acclaimed Scottish-born harpist and composer Savourna Stevenson, who has performed and recorded with artists as diverse as Eddi Reader, the Bhundu Boys and Catrin Finch and has written prolifically for clàrsach and pedal harp. The event will be convened by Professor Boyd Robertson, retiring Principle of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

Skye-based clàrsair and tutor Mary M. Strachan, who chaired the shortlisting panel, said: ‘We were delighted with the interest in this new competition,  and were blown away by the high technical standards and innovative playing of the chosen finalists. It should make for a very interesting afternoon of music.’
The prize is named after for Princess Margaret of Scotland, the daughter of King Robert II and the wife of John, Lord of the Isles. Princess Margaret was a great patron of the arts, and the through this prize for senior clàrsach playing, CDLT seeks to perpetuate and honour that reputation.
Sue Geale, Armadale Castle’s Museum Manager and member of the Management Committee, commented: ‘The ancient Clan Donald Lords of the Isles were great patrons of the arts and saw it as their responsibility to encourage and develop Gaelic culture in all its forms.  The Trust is pleased to carry on this important responsibility.  For many years we have supported both piping and clàrsach – the latter through the loan of instruments to schools and an annual junior competition. We are delighted to enhance this through the launch of this new senior clàrsach competition,  and through a number of traditional music competitions that we also support worldwide.’ 
Competitor biographies

Biographies of the players

•    Callum Beaumont is a piping instructor at Dollar Academy, Clackmannanshire. His solo achievements include winning both Gold Medals and the 2017 Donald MacDonald Cuach. Aside from solo piping, he is a member of the Inveraray & District Pipe Band.
•    Glenn Brown is a native of Milton, Ontario, Canada. His first teacher was his mother, Gail Brown, who was a successful solo piper.   Some prizes of note in Piobaireachd are the Canadian Gold Medal, the Dunvegan Medal and The Northern Meeting Gold Medal.
•    Alasdair Henderson is from Dunoon. He studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and now works at Fettes College in Edinburgh as a piping instructor. He is regular demand as a recitalist and won the Gold Medal at Inverness in 2017.
•    Iain Speirs lives in Edinburgh. He has won both Gold medals and numerous other prizes in competition. He is currently a member of the Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band, which was formed to compete at the World Pipe Band Championships in 2008.
•    Craig Sutherland hails from Crieff, Perthshire. After many years as Pipe Sergeant of the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band he now plays for the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band in Vancouver, Canada. Last year he won the Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering. 
•    Màiri Chaimbeul is a Boston, Massachusetts-based harp player and composer from the Isle of Skye, who tours regularly in the UK, Europe and North America. She joins the faculty at Berklee College of Music this year as their lever harp instructor. 
•    Fraya Thomsen is an internationally renowned clàrsair, vocalist and composer.  Her Scottish harp and song duo The Duplets have released two acclaimed albums. Fraya was musician in residence at Feis Rois in 2011/12 and published three harp tuition books. 
•    Karen Marshalsay was formerly clàrsach tutor at the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music at Plockton and now teaches at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Karen has performed across the UK, Europe, America and Australia.
•    Riko Matsuoka was born in Osaka prefecture, Japan. She moved to Edinburgh to study the Clàrsach and traditional Scottish music in 2016. She is currently studying for a Masters at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Event listings and ticket information

Friday 15 June
Stables Cafe, Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum, Skye:  Donald MacDonald Cuach Piobaireachd Competition, 7.30 pm. Five pipers perform in the annual competition, now in its 32nd year. Tickets £8 (£4 concession), including buffet; call 01471 844305 or buy on the door. Further information: www.armadalecastle.com 

Saturday 16 June
Stables Cafe, Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum, Skye:  Clàrsach (Scottish Harp) recital and competition judging. Performance by four finalists for the Princess Margaret of the Isles Memorial Prize for Senior Clàrsach, 2pm. Free, all welcome. www.armadalecastle.com

Live streaming will be available on Armadale Castle’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ArmadaleCastleSkye) and YouTube channel (link from website, www.armadalecastle.com

Solo Piping Returns to Helensburgh and Loch Lomond Games

A new Adult Solo Piping Competition has been introduced for this year's Helensburgh and Loch Lomond Games. The games take place on Saturday 2nd June at: 

Helensburgh Cricket & Rugby Grounds ,
G84 8JZ

A free shuttle bus service will run from the town's pier car park to the Games field.

There will be an MSR Competition only this year. Find out more at the documents below. 

Solo Piping Event Info 

Solo Piping Entry Form 

Or go to the event website here


Piping and Snare Drumming tutors Wanter - Balerno Schools, Edinburgh 

The Dean Park Primary School Parent Teacher Association wishes to engage a piping and a snare drumming tutor, on a self-employed basis, from August 2018 to deliver lessons during the school day at Dean Park Primary School and at Balerno High School and to develop a Balerno and District Schools Pipe Band.

 Full details available from Lisa Benn, Balerno & District Schools Pipe Band Co-ordinator: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 07976 515 749.

Spring Update from the SPJA

The SPJA Committee met in full on March 18th at the Salutation Hotel in Perth, with Dr Angus MacDonald attending from Toronto via Skype.
The following was discussed: 

Assessment and Training
It was agreed that the Committee would produce a concise paper on the assessment and training of judges to be reviewed at the Annual Meeting in November. The Committee will approach the Piobaireachd Society with a view to the SPJA presenting a seminar in the autumn where matters pertinent to judging might be discussed. It was felt that since the Committee has adopted the idea of introducing this forum of training and discussion that interested parties such as those senior pipers on the CPA List of Supplementary Judges be invited. 

Ideas which were suggested are as follows:

•    Dr Angus MacDonald offered to make a presentation.
•    How piping might be adjudicated at different levels, for example professional level, competition league for amateur pipers, junior competition events, and how approaches might be advantageous for these.
•    The writing and giving of feedback to competitors and defining the role of adjudicators as regards positive reinforcement and advice.
•    A session on judging, using different approaches on arriving at the final conclusion, in both Light Music and Piobaireachd.
•    The use of recorders in checking for possible errors.

Mission Statement
It was suggested that the Association adopt a simple Mission Statement which would provide a reference to its aims and objectives. This will be ready for discussion and possible approval at the autumn meeting.
Retirement Policy
It was felt that the Association should have a written policy on this, and a draft was agreed which suggested that in the first instance a judge might approach the Association should any concerns of disability in concentration and memory impairment become an issue. A suggested draft of this will be ready for discussion and possible approval at the autumn meeting. 

Complaints Procedure Update
It was felt that several adjustments to the Complaints Procedure were needed, and in summary the proposed changes are that: 
•    The Chair and the Committee can decide at the outset whether or not the complaint is pertinent to the SPJA. 
•    There will be a right of appeal at any stage.
•    The appeal period to change from 14 to 21 days.
•    There will be an option and a right whereby the person complained against may come before the Committee.

At present there are no complaints outstanding and the Committee hopes that the need for consultation and use of the Complaints Procedure will be minimal in the future. The Committee has been fortunate in obtaining the advice and guidance of Mr Robin Webster of the RSPS and is grateful for his input in advising us on these matters.

Judging Outside the UK
The Association received a query regarding the validity of the Code of Conduct when members of the SPJA are engaging in judging competitions outside the UK. The matter was discussed in full and it was decided that SPJA members should adhere to local guidelines when judging outside the UK, including those which refer to the judging of pupils.

Consultation with Senior Judges
In response to a query received from a Senior Judge, it was decided that Senior Judges would be consulted by the Committee when a new appointment of a Senior Judge was being considered. The exact method of this was not settled upon but will be available for discussion at the autumn meeting.  In the meantime, the Committee is anxious that views of all judges, not just Senior Judges, are known and represented, and urges all those with concerns and ideas to contact any Committee Member or the Chair and Secretary. 

Joint Eligibility Meeting
Prior to our own meeting, Colin MacLellan, Jack Taylor, and Neill Mulvie represented the SPJA at the Joint Eligibility Meeting of the Northern Meeting and the Argyllshire Gathering which decides the final entrants to those competitions. It was felt that this meeting was extremely successful, and in particular the CPA are thanked for the many hours and rigorous procedures undertaken in compiling their grading lists. The opportunity arose at this meeting to discuss briefly other piping matters, and it was felt that the input of SPJA judges of performances which were either outstanding of alternatively not of required standard might be fed back to CPA. They have agreed to set up an online method for SPJA judges to record these on a private page on their website. 

Tunes at Oban and Inverness
At the Joint Meeting in November it was agreed that competitors should be aware that all tunes submitted at both Oban and Inverness are considered for selection.  It will be arranged that Oban informs Inverness of the tune played at Oban, and that Inverness judges will be given this information in order to assist with tune selection.  

The Committee presents these updates as a way of fully informing SPJA members of all matters pertaining to the Association and wishes to solicit and consider the views of all of its members. Consistency and transparency are a priority and as such ideas, concerns, and input is invited from everyone so that the Association can represent the views of its members to the benefit of all. 

Scots Guards Knockout - Results and Final details

This weekend, Sgt Ben Duncan narrowly beat our teacher, Dan Nevans at the second semi-final of the Scots Guards Knockout Competition. The final will be between Ben and Jonathan Simpson on Sunday 22nd April. Tickets are £5 on the door. 

The National Piping Centre exists to promote the study of the music and history of the Highland Bagpipe.
Patron HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, KG, KT, GCB.
Founders: Sir Brian Ivory, CBE, FRSE - Lady Ivory, DL - Sandy Grant Gordon, CBE

Read More

HRH The Prince Charles,
Duke of Rothesay, Patron

with Founders, Sir Brian and Lady Ivory and the Lord Provost Bob Winter on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Opening of The National Piping Centre.

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