Top pipers vie for Skye’s legendary silver chanter

Benderloch's Angus MacColl winning the Silver Chanter in 2021. NO_T24_Silver Chanter_01_Angus MacColl

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The prestigious Silver Chanter competition will make a welcome return to the Isle of Skye as part of this year’s Piping Live! festival.

The pioneering piping event, now in its 56th year, is the annual invitational Piobaireachd competition, which was established by Dame Flora MacLeod, the 28th Chief of MacLeod, alongside John MacFadyen and Seumas MacNeill, in 1967.

The primary purpose of creating the competition was to encourage more top-class pipers to compete at the Skye Gathering. Due to several rising costs faced by the Isle of Skye Piping Society, alongside diminishing income, the prestigious competition came under the stewardship of the National Piping Centre in 2018 and became part of the Piping Live! festival for the first time in 2019.

It will now make a welcome return to Skye, when it will take place in Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on Wednesday August 3 ahead of the Piping Live! festival officially starting later that week.

The Silver Chanter is an invitational competition, however each player competing will have won one of the major accolades for piobaireachd the previous year. This year is no exception and six of the world’s top pipers will compete in the 2022 event.

Competitors include the 2021 winner of the Silver Chanter Angus MacColl, plus Finlay Johnston (the 2021 Glenfiddich Piobaireachd winner), Willie McCallum (the Glenfiddich March, Strathspey and Reel winner), Callum Beaumont (the Piping Live! Masters Solo Piping Competition Overall Winner), Glenn Brown (2021 Bratach Gorm winner at the Highland Society of London Annual Competition), and Jamie Forrester (2021 Gillies cup winner at the Highland Society of London Annual Competition).

As is customary for every Silver Chanter competition, each competitor will play a tune that has been attributed to the legendary MacCrimmon family. The MacCrimmons were the hereditary pipers to the MacLeods of Dunvegan.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Dr Decker Forrest said: ‘We are delighted to be part of bringing the prestigious Silver Chanter back to Skye, its true and spiritual home. This world-renowned and long-established competition showcases excellence in piping by some of the biggest names in the art.

‘The pipes, the historical landscape of the Highlands and Islands and of course Gaelic language and culture are all inextricably linked so it is wholly appropriate that this competition is held at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.

‘We’re looking forward to having the college filled with the beautiful music of the MacCrimmons in August and we hope many take the opportunity to experience this special occasion to welcome the Silver Chanter competition home.’

Finlay MacDonald, director of piping at The National Piping Centre, said: ‘The piping centre was honoured to play its role in ensuring the Silver Chanter competition could continue back in 2018, however we are delighted to see this historical competition make its way home to Skye this summer. I have always felt it was vitally important to facilitate this return in any way possible and so I am delighted to see this come to fruition this summer.’

To coincide with the return of the Silver Chanter to Skye, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig will host an art exhibition with work by the Gaelic visual artist Mairi Gillies this August. Over the course of six months in 2021 Mairi was artist in residence with the online resource, Tobar and Dualchais, where she was able to explore fieldwork recordings from prestigious sound archives such as the School of Scottish Studies.

As a starting point, Mairi used the story of a piper from Uig in Lewis, who, following the Reformation, would play his pipes in a cave away from the village to avoid their confiscation. She was also inspired by stories of ‘Uamh an Òir’ (The Cave of Gold) and tales about the connection between the MacCrimmons and the Gaelic otherworld.
The result is a beautiful sculpture based on the rhythmic patterns of ‘Cha Till MacCriomain’, a well-known ceòl mòr melody.

As part of the exhibition opening Mairi will give a talk about her creative journey, touching on the different stories that inspired her. Musical examples will be provided by a piper.

Tickets for all events taking place at Piping Live! 2022, including the Silver Chanter in Skye, are available at www.pipinglive.co.uk