December 13, 2023

Oban and Inverness adjust rules to address large entries

The Argyllshire Gathering and Northern Meeting at Oban and Inverness, Scotland, respectively, are tweaking their rules to address a good problem to have: too many entries and too-lengthy events.

The world’s biggest top-tier solo piping competitions, held in late August and early September, will now require entry applications for the Clasp, Senior Piobaireachd, Highland Society of London Gold Medal, Silver Medal piobaireachd competitions and the Former Winners MSR contests to be submitted by January 31, 2024 – several months sooner to which soloists are accustomed.

As usual, the Gold and Silver Medals will be restricted to 25 contestants. To be accepted, there is no stringent qualifying process, though winning one of the Silver Medals generally assures entry to the Gold Medals for a period of time. But, once a piper wins a Silver Medal, he or she cannot compete for it again at Oban or Inverness.

Winning the Highland Society of London Gold Medal at the Argyllshire Gathering qualifies a piper to compete in the Senior Piobaireachd for the rest of their life. Likewise, winning the Gold Medal at the Northern Meeting qualifies a piper to compete in the Clasp in perpetuity.

Similarly, winning both A-Grade light music events at Oban gives that piper a lifetime bye to compete in the Former Winners MSR there, and winning the Inverness A-Grade MSR opens the door permanently to compete in the Silver Star MSR.

“There has been, over the years, a steady increase in the number of competitors playing in the senior competitions, including the Senior Piobaireachd/Clasp and Former Winners March, Strathspey & Reel competitions,” said Derek Fraser on behalf of both gatherings. “This has resulted in competitions that can approach 12 hours in duration and this presents challenges on multiple fronts for competition organisers, judges, sponsors, audiences and, not least, competitors.”

Complicating matters is implementing the Piobaireachd Society’s set list of some of the lengthiest piobaireachds for the Clasp and Senior Piobaireachd events. The “own-choice” format resulted in a larger-than-usual entry, all of whom had to be allowed to compete following the tradition of the events. The Senior Piobaireachd and Clasp events saw only about three piobaireachds an hour performed.

Unless the requirements are changed, the format for the senior piobaireachd events will continue for the next four years.

“Tradition and history associated with the major gatherings . . . must be balanced with the requirement to consider the welfare of judges and logistical constraints.”

The January 31st deadline “will now provide the competition organizers with a clear indication of the potential numbers which will need to be managed,” Fraser added, stressing that the deadline will be “strictly enforced.”

“It is important to recognize the tradition and history associated with the major gatherings, but this must be balanced with the requirement to consider the welfare of judges and logistical constraints,” the statement said.

It is unknown whether a large on-time entry to the senior events could result in some applications being rejected, despite the tradition of a lifetime bye.

At publication time, Fraser had not yet responded to a request for clarification.

Entries to the Gold and Silver medals and MacGregor Memorial piobaireachd will be reviewed in the usual manner by representatives of the Argyllshire Gathering, the Northern Meeting, the Solo Piping Judges Association and the Competing Pipers Association at a Joint Eligibility Meeting at the end of February.






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