June 07, 2020

Aboyne Games face virtual reality with 2020 solo piping events

Jack Taylor competing at the 2017 Aboyne Games.

The Aboyne Games in the tranquil village in Royal Deeside might well be the most Highland of Highland games on earth, and even it has decided to carry on with its solo piping competitions by taking them online.

Piping organizer Jack Taylor said the games will take a decidedly realistic approach by having all contestants submit their tunes in advance. On August 1st, the day that the in-person games would have been held, pipers will be told which tunes were selected by a ballot draw and be ready to play at an assigned time by video.

They will make an audio recording of their performance. The steward will make contact by video and introduce the competitor onto their separate audio recorder, and say thanks at the end, which will verify authenticity – “not that anybody would ever use a score, have another go or slip in a recording of Calum Piobaire,” Taylor quipped.

The competitor will immediately upload the file to a file sharing service like WeTransfer or DropBox. Taylor will then share the videos with the judges, who will be standing by at their computers.

“I’ve specified six piobaireachd and three MSRs” Taylor said. “I realize that the piobaireachd component is a big ask, but I hope it will be attractive to those who would otherwise have been competing for the Gold and Silver medals at Oban and Inverness, as well as to other professional pipers wanting something to get their teeth into.”

Aboyne has had a reputation for its stringent piobaireachd requirements. For many years, pipers had to submit twelve tunes before the judges, who picked one to play.

The events will have a maximum of thirty pipers. If more than thirty enter there will be a draw after the June 17th entry deadline for who gets in. If there are more than 15 entries there will be two heats, with five from each going to a final. But pipers won’t have to perform again since the same performances will be assessed for the final.

Prize money that had been planned for the live games will hold true for the virtual version, and the contests will run from 9:30 am to 6 pm UK time. Aboyne Games are in usual times popular with non-UK pipers over for the Scottish solo circuit.

According to the online entry form, “non-UK time zone competitors will be accommodated if possible.”

As if the new format weren’t already a radical departure from Aboyne Games’ standard format, competing pipers won’t even have to wear Highland dress, which will be “at competitors’ discretion.”

The virtual format is yet another new approach to holding a solo piping competition during the global pandemic. Some contests have tried live-streamed performances in real-time, while others have used pre-recorded videos posted to YouTube.

Most solo events in Scotland have not announced their full cancelation, but both the Inveraray Games and the Northern Meeting at Inverness have stated that they will not hold any competitions, in-person or virtual, this year.



Northern Meeting not opting for online; Argyllshire Gathering still scheduled
May 23, 2020

No meeting in Inverness, but Oban gathering still a glimmer
April 14, 2020

Inveraray games among outdoor UK solo piping events to cancel




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