Donald Macleod piping event to go ahead ‘behind closed doors’

Finlay Johnston (left), overall winner of the 2019 competition, with second overall, Stuart Liddell. Photograph: Derek MacKinnon NO F38 PIPE7448-min
Finlay Johnston (left), overall winner of the 2019 competition, with second overall, Stuart Liddell. Photograph: Derek MacKinnon NO F38 PIPE7448-min

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The Pipe Major Donald Macleod MBE Memorial Piping Competition, supported by Point and Sandwick Trust, is to be held behind closed doors this year, with the performances from the invited pipers to be broadcast online at a later date, due to the ongoing situation with coronavirus.

The Lewis and Harris Piping Society had initially postponed the competition, originally due to be held on April 3, to November 27, but the organising committee reluctantly agreed it would be impossible in the circumstances to hold the usual live event with an audience in Stornoway.

The event is now to be held in The Piping Centre in Glasgow on November 27. There will also be a junior competition for the first time this year – held entirely virtually– with recordings of performances to be invited from eight selected young pipers and again broadcast online at a later date.

Dr John Smith, chairman of the Lewis and Harris Piping Society, said in the current circumstances organisers felt they needed to try and keep some semblance of routine by organising the only thing they can possibly do, which is recording performances and broadcasting them on social media.

‘We are aware that pipers at all levels will be missing the opportunity to perform both for the judges and the audiences and we know for a fact that the pipers who were invited to the Donald Macleod competition are very sad that they will not be coming to Stornoway this year, because they always enjoy it,’ said Dr Smith.

‘However, we feel that we have arrived at a reasonably practical solution which complies with the current regulations and we are grateful to The Piping Centre for its help and special thanks to the director, Finlay MacDonald.

‘We have negotiated with The Piping Centre to hire the main hall for the day and the pipers will attend in pairs at regular intervals and play their tunes in front of a panel of three professional judges sitting in the hall.

‘The Piping Centre has run a few events in recent weeks, having undertaken a full risk assessment, and comply fully with all the regulations currently required for the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘The Lewis and Harris Piping Society is very grateful that our main sponsor, Point and Sandwick Trust, is still going to fund us to the tune of £5,000 despite the fact the competition is not taking place in Stornoway and we have given a clear undertaking that the event will be back to normal next year, all things being equal. The next Donald Macleod competition in Stornoway is planned for April 2, 2021.

‘The sponsorship from Point and Sandwick Trust covers the cost of The Piping Centre hire, technical support and appearance fees for the pipers and the judges, together with prize money.’

The eight pipers invited to take part this year – based on their wins on the competition circuit in the previous year – will be Willie McCallum, Gordon McCready, Sarah Muir, Connor Sinclair, Iain Speirs, Stuart Liddell, Angus MacColl and Niall Stewart.

For the junior competition, eight of the most accomplished young players from the Outer Hebrides will be invited to submit recordings of themselves playing a piobaireachd ‘ground’, plus a march, Strathspey and reel and a hornpipe and jig, in line with the structure of the main Donald Macleod competition.

Judges for the junior event will be Ian Duncan from The Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust and Iain MacCrimmon from The MacCrimmon Foundation – both organisations which also sponsor the main Donald Macleod competition – and the main prize will be a silver engraved long practice chanter, donated by McCallum Bagpipes. The closing date for submissions is November 1.

Point and Sandwick Trust committed £25,000 to the competition over five years to ensure it could continue to be held in its home town – Pipe Major Donald Macleod being one of Stornoway’s most famous sons.

He was an outstanding piper and prolific composer and the competition, now in its 27th year, was created to celebrate his musical legacy.