March 31, 2006

John Cairns retires from solo competition

John Cairns of London, Ontario, has decided to retire from solo competitions after more than 30 years of competing at the top level. His solo career reached its highest points in the last eight years and, in 1999, he wrote his name into solo piping history by winning both Highland Society of London Gold Medals at the Argyllshire Gathering and the Northern Meeting, a feat accomplished only 10 times before in the last 150 years.

“You know, I feel that I am playing fairly well right now and I thoroughly enjoy competing – I will miss it,” Cairns said. “But since I had a really good year last year, I feel that it is time to stop competing, no pun intended, on a good note.”

Cairns also captured the Bratach Gorm at London in 2004, and has won nearly every professional solo piping award on the Ontario circuit, including overall PPBSO Champion Supreme titles several times in both light music and piobaireachd. He also has the Piobaireachd Society (Canada) Gold Medal and several Bars to that medal on his list of big prizes.

He will continue to play with the 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band, in which he plays a strong role in developing the band’s repertoire. Before joining the 78th Frasers he had served as Pipe-Major of the Grade 1 Scotsaire Pipe Band of London.

Cairns continued, “As far as the future goes, my focus will still be on playing at as high a level as I am capable. All of the workshops that I do require me to play at many recitals – which will keep me on my toes and hopefully keep my standard up. I have competed every summer for 33 years now and look on this decision as the end to one of the chapters in my piping career. There are many other goals that I have with my piping and I look forward to tackling them all one by one.”

Until the Canadian government pulled the plug on it in the 1990s, Cairns was director of the Canadian Forces’ Cadet Pipes and Drums Training Program. Many of his teaching and training methods are now a part of his Bagpipe Solutions series of tutor books and exercises for pipers.

John Cairns’s final solo competition was the March, Strathspey & Reel at the Glenfiddich Invitational Solo Piping Championships at Blair Atholl, Scotland, in October 2005.


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