The Friday solo piping competitions at the Glengarry Highland Games at Maxville, Ontario, have received a major injection of prize money, elevating the competition to possibly the richest purse ever offered for a single event.
The Bar to the Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal (Canada), competition in 2019 will offer a total purse of almost $5,000, with a first prize of $3,000, second, $1,000 and third $750. In addition to previous winners of the Piobaireachd Society (Canada) Gold Medal, the event will be open to pipers who have won a Highland Society of London Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering or Northern Meeting in Scotland.
Organizers are hoping that the elevated prize money and the availability to Inverness and Oban Gold Medalists will attract the interest of more contestants.
The Gold Medal event will offer prizes of $700, $500, $300, $200 and $100. The winner will also receive a one-ounce solid gold medal.
The rules for the August 2 competitions have also been adjusted. In the Bar event, contestants must submit tunes from the list of prescribed by the Piobaireachd Society for the Clasp at Inverness and the Senior Piobaireachd at Oban. Similarly, competitors in the Gold Medal event will have to submit for the set tunes for the Highland Society of London Gold Medal. In an attempt to broaden the appeal of the events in the past, the contest had opened submissions to an own-choice approach.
Entry to each event is being restricted to 15 pipers, and the Glengarry Highland Games will “make the sole determination of which players are selected for the competition in the event of greater entries.”
The increased prize money was made possible when the organizers were approached by the Clan Donald Land Trust of Scotland, the group that also underwrites the Clasp at the Northern Meeting and the Donald Macdonald Cuach Invitation in Skye. The organization is also contributing a new Sir John A. Macdonald Targe.
Robert Wilson, the new chair of the Maxville Gold Medal events and a former competitor in the contest, said that solo piping was not one of the Clan Donald Trust’s original areas of interest, “but the Bar to the Gold Medal was eventually seen as an excellent fit. [They] were seeking established, high level North American events to sponsor, and the Bar needed some increased profile, as eligibility criteria was restrictive, but entries could be higher, and a generous donation could go directly to the top prize as the Glengarry Highland Games was already supporting the other overhead costs and has an established organizing group.”
Originally held in Ottawa in the 1970s and first organized by the late Major Archie Cairns, the Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal (Canada) competitions moved to Cambridge, Ontario, in the 1980s, until moving to Maxville in the late 1990s.
The judging panel for each event will also increase from one to three. Judging the Bar to the Gold Medal will be Colin MacLellan, Jim McGillivray and Bob Worrall. The bench for the Gold Medal will be MacLellan, Worrall and Jim Stack.
“I had been wanting to expand to a panel for a couple of years,” Wilson added. “The Piobaireachd Society Gold Medal (Canada) and the Bar have always been judged by a Senior approved judge from the Piobaireachd Society, or more recently the Solo Pipers Judging Association, accompanied by a reader. This was a condition of sponsorship by the Piobaireachd Society. While the contest has tried to bring over Scottish based adjudicators, to help increase the exposure of North American based players, travel costs for judges has been significant and we have been fortunate to have a number of Senior qualified judges in Ontario.
“While a single judge with the assistance of a reader has proven effective over the years it has been recognized that senior solo piping events in Scotland have a panel, preferably of three to avoid split decisions. With the Clan Donald Trust sponsorship, some budget reallocation, and coordination with the Pipers & Pipe Band Society of Ontario we were able to establish two panels.”
Wilson said that the contest will be held again at the Anglican Church In Maxville – “so far” – but other options are being considered. Acoustics and temperature can vary widely in the church venue, creating challenging conditions for players.
Further elevating the stature of solo piping, the winner of the Bar to the Gold Medal will be presented with his or her prizes at the Glengarry Highland Games Tattoo that night before an expected audience of more than 10,000.
Wilson said that the entry form and registration will available soon on the Glengarry Highland Games website.
Derek Midgley of New Jersey won both the Gold Medal and the Bar to the Medal at last year’s competitions.
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