March 11, 2015

Belfast borrows from KC for contest-workshop hotel Gatherin’

It’s said that imitation is flattery, so the organizers of the decade-old Winter Storm weekend of piping and drumming competitions and workshops in Kansas City, Missouri, will be blushing from providing inspiration to The Spring Gatherin’, a new event April 24-26 in Belfast.

As with Winter Storm’s hotel venue, The Spring Gatherin’ will take over the Ramada Hotel Shaw’s Bridge for the multi-day event “for piping and drumming exhibition, competition and education” that “will provide a new and fresh platform for UK and Republic of Ireland piping and drumming talent to develop and perform, in a relaxed, classy and comfortable setting.”

The competition aspect will be held without the administration of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, a rare occurrence in the UK where the association has become the de facto organizer of contests, occasionally allegedly putting pressure on organizers and RSPBA member bands to toe the sanctioning line.

The Spring Gatherin’ has created events “to provide maximum entertainment value for the audience,” with the crowd having an opportunity to vote for their favourites, the tally added with those of two piping judges and one drumming judge. Combined piping marks will account for 50%, drumming 30% and the audience vote 20%.

Additionally, bands can perform in a formation of their choice of crescent-moon, V-shape, something called “starburst” – almost anything except the prescribed backs-to-the-crowd circle required in RSPBA events.

“The event concept was derived from the idea of Winter Storm in America and why no such event existed here in the United Kingdom and, more importantly, Northern Ireland, which has such a large number of participants in the piping community,” said Colin Wasson, the visionary behind The Spring Gatherin’. Wasson has in the past organized the highly successful Belfast Tattoo.

“We thought there was a niche in the market for something new and fresh, where players could appear in relative comfort, the audience would also be in relative comfort, not the draughty school halls these types of events generally take place it over here. We also wanted to make the event a more relaxed type of event less rigorous and straight laced than current events. The aim of our event is to give the musicians and bands a platform to show their talents in a positive way and in a way to increase the standard of musicianship of your average player by letting them see at close quarters what is possible with work,” Wasson continued.

The organizers of Winter Storm, which takes place in early-January each year, have no problem with having their concept adapted 4,000 miles away.

“It looks like The Spring Gatherin’ 2015 is going to be a fantastic event with a terrific line-up of talent,” said Beth Wilson, the newly-appointed president of the Midwest Highland Arts Fund, the group that puts together Winter Storm. “We in Kansas City can . . .





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