October 30, 2014

London goes “modern” with Bratach in 2015

SPSL-logoA day before the Scottish Piping Society of London’s annual competitions on November 1st, the organization has announced the 2015 Bratach Gorm piobaireachd – the contest’s signature event – will shift to a list of tunes composed in the last 100 years, considered “modern” by ceol mor standards.

“The background to this decision dates back to the London Competition 2012, after which a conversation took place with a couple of senior adjudicators,” organizer Roddy Livingstone said. “It was commented that the ‘Bratach Gorm’ was an event of a consistently high standard usually attracting between 15 and 20 of the world’s premier solo competitors. However, as the event allowed competitors to submit seven tunes of their own choice, there was a tendency for pipers to submit pieces with which they were very familiar and which adjudicators and audiences had heard from the contestants a number of times before.”

Next year the elite pipers who qualify for the Bratach Gorm by having won one of the Highland Society of London’s Gold Medal at Inverness or Oban and other top contests, will have to submit four from the list of modern tunes:

  • “A Lament for Angus Campbell” by Archibald Campbell
  • “Am Bratach Gorm” by Captain John A. MacLellan
  • “A Son’s Salute to His Parents” by Donald MacLeod
  • “Ceol Na Mara” (The Music of the Sea) by John M. MacKenzie
  • “Farewell to the Queen’s Ferry” by John A. MacLellan
  • “Lament for John MacDonald, Inverness” by Donald MacLeod
  • “Lament for the Earl of Seafield” by Willie MacLean
  • “Lament for the Iolaire” by Donald MacLeod
  • “Salute to James Campbell” by Archie Kenneth
  • “The Raising of the Standard at Glenfinnan” by Hugh MacCallum

In addition to the printed collections in which the tunes might have already been published, they will be made available from the SPSL and Piobaireachd Society.

The Bratach Gorm means “blue banner” in Gaelic.

“The Scottish Piping Society of London has always tried to encourage piping to the highest standards whilst also maintaining the identity of ‘London’ as being slightly different from Oban or Inverness,” Livingstone added. “In order to move forward with this environment we looked to ways in which we could encourage and promote the playing less well known tunes, providing a ‘stretch’ for these top competitors.”

He said that the list of tunes was determined in consultation with a number of people who included senior judges, Premier-Grade solo pipers, and the Piobaireachd Society, and that they reflect compositions that “have enjoyed a reasonable degree of exposure over the last 20 or so years, with other tunes which we believed to be of merit that have not enjoyed the same level of popularity.”

In 2008 the Piobaireachd Society set a selection of tunes composed in the 20th century for the major competitions, and the move was seen by many as a breakthrough for the typically tradition-bound organization.

Livingstone said that the format for the Bratach Gorm competition has not yet been determined for 2016 and beyond.

“The Bratach” is the first qualifying competition for the Glenfiddich Piping Championship, aside from the winner of the Glenfiddich itself, who, in 2014, was Stuart Liddell.






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