John MacLellan Medal to launch in Edinburgh Oct. 15
One of history’s greatest contributors to piping, Captain John A. MacLellan MBE, will be honoured with an annual piobaireachd recital competition and dinner in Edinburgh that showcases the late piper’s music in performance by four of today’s leading players.
The inaugural event will take place at 7 pm on Saturday, October 15th, at the Royal Scots Club at Abercrombie Place in the New Town. Each of the invited performers will play a piobaireachd composed by MacLellan, who died in 1991 in his seventieth year after a prodigious career as a solo competitor, teacher, historian, adjudicator and author.
The competitors and their MacLellan-composed tunes are Murray Henderson, Kirriemuir, Scotland, “The Edinburgh Piobaireachd”; Angus MacColl, Benderloch, Scotland, “Farewell to the Queen’s Ferry”; Roddy MacLeod, Glasgow, “Salute to the Great Pipe”; and Iain Speirs, Edinburgh, “A Lullaby for Iain.” The contest will be judged by Major Gavin Stoddart BEM. Each player will receive an appearance payment for taking part.
The competition dinner is being organized by the Captain John A. MacLellan MBE Memorial Trust, which was started in 2000 by Captain John MacLellan’s widow, Christine, and which is now administered by his son, Colin MacLellan, and the renowned Edinburgh-based piper, Euan Anderson, who will be Fear an Tighe on the night.
“Edinburgh is currently seeing a significant resurgence of piping through high quality teaching in schools and the community,” said Colin MacLellan. “The city has lacked a major piping competition for many years, and this was an ideal opportunity to establish a unique and prestigious event.”
The winner will receive a medal especially designed for the event and struck in Edinburgh depicting John MacLellan and Edinburgh Castle.
The Captain John A. MacLellan MBE Memorial Trust lists its mandates as 1) To foster, encourage and promote the composition of piobaireachd; 2) To encourage excellence in the playing of piobaireachd; 3) To encourage excellence in composition for, and in the playing of the Highland Bagpipe and its various forms of music; 4) To promote the Highland Bagpipe and its music through competitions, exhibitions, research, compositions, publishing and teaching.
Organizers say that a website for the event will be live soon at www.johnmaclellanmemorial.com. Tickets are available for £35 and seating is limited to only 90. Sales are in advance only and will not be available at the door due to the planning for the dinner. They may be reserved by contacting the trust by e-mail.
Edinburgh piping and drumming has enjoyed resurgence recently with the re-emergence and popularity of the Eagle Pipers Society, the success of top-flight solo pipers like Iain Speirs, Jenny Hazzard and Cameron Drummond and a lively social scene.
I went to the Eagle Pipers last night and thoroughly enjoyed a great night and some great piping from Iain Speirs and others. Its great to see the Edinburgh piping scene buzzing again!
This is a great development it seems, and here’s hoping it goes from strength to strength. I’m not sure whether the Trust is primarily to promote the compositions of John A MacLellan, or whether or in what way it can also support us less lofty souls who for some odd reason are compelled to also try composing piobaireachd. It also raises all the old questions. It’s a competition again. I was walking along the road at Oban, and suddenly it struck me as really odd, that the bagpipe world is so geared towards competition. But as someone said ‘who would come if it wasn’t a competition?’ And maybe that’s true. Maybe it makes it more exciting, or maybe there’s something to play for. Certainly at one point in the Argyllshire Gathering competitions I felt like I was at a horse racing event as I saw people with what looked like betting slips, and other people giving each other the wink about who was in the running. Anyway back to piob composition, I think it’s quite exciting that this event is happening and also that people are interested in writing new works. Some say ‘there are already so many to study and learn, we don’t need any more’. Others say ‘it’s irreverent to write new piobaireachd, leave it to the old masters’. Others say or imply, ‘if you’re not a Gaelic speaker, don’t bother’. Others say ‘if you’re not a top piper, nobody will want to play your music’. And yet serious musicians, some with academic degrees in composition and music, continue to experiment with the form. And this event can only help I think. Best wishes for it!