April 18, 2024

Serious fun sets the tone for 2024 Pipe-Major’s Wheel of Fortune on April 21st

2023 Pipe-Major’s Wheel of Fortune winner Cameron Drummond on his way to some serious glory.

Sure, you might prefer the typical Piobaireachd + MSR template that 99% of top-tier solo piping competitions require. After all, you’re almost guaranteed to have an opportunity to hear a whole load of foot-stompin’ piobaireachds. Nothing wrong with that.

Or you might prefer something not only different but genuinely unique in the annual Pipe-Major’s Wheel of Fortune Invitational Solo Piping Competition put on by the City of Edinburgh Pipe Band on Sunday, April 21st, at the Danderhall Miners’ Club, just outside of Edinburgh.

The unusual elements of humour and (depending on your definition) fun make the event unique, qualities lacking at most traditional events.

Contestants have to spin the Golden Chanter on a Wheel of Fortune to determine what they have to play.

No joking. Well, actually, there are lots of them since every piper also has to tell a joke to the audience.

Eight top-flight players are in:

  • Cameron Drummond, Edinburgh
  • Ben Duncan, Edinburgh
  • Craig Muirhead, Glasgow
  • John Mulhearn, Glasgow
  • Angus Nicolson, Fort William, Scotland
  • Ciaren Ross, Glasgow
  • Craig Sutherland, Perth, Scotland
  • Callum Wynd, Stirling, Scotland

Here are this year’s rules as spelled out by the organizers:

Each competitor plays two sets of tunes – an MSR of their choice and a selection of tunes, with four of the five tune categories determined by competitors spinning the Golden Chanter on arrival at the competition. The final category of tune is determined by a member of the audience spinning the Golden Chanter as competitors take the floor.

The Wheel of Fortune tune categories:

  • A tune composed by Allan MacDonald.
  • A Donald MacLeod tune.
  • A tune named after a female.
  • A Gaelic or Irish slow air.
  • A tune composed by Gordon Duncan.
  • GA tune by G.S. McLennan.
  • A hornpipe.
  • A tune composed by the piper spinning the wheel.
  • The ground of a piobaireachd.
  • A polka.
  • Two Irish jigs.
  • Two Irish reels.

Each competitor has a Joker that they can play to deselect a tune category on the Wheel of Fortune. Competitors can play the Joker at any time, but only once. When a tune category is deselected, the Golden Chanter will be spun again to provide an alternative.

The tune categories selected by the Wheel can be played in any order, but they must be combined to form one continuous medley.

Each competitor can add a maximum of three tunes of their choice to those selected by the Wheel. These tunes can also be played in any order but must form part of the continuous medley.

“We always ask the pipers who join us to tell us how to improve our event. We really appreciate the support of the pipers who have agreed to join us this year.” – Paul White, City of Edinburgh

The competition has three judges: Robert Barnes, Ian Duncan, and the audience.

All competitors are invited to tell a joke at the end of their performance, with the best joke determined by an audience vote.

“We’ve changed a couple of the tune categories, bringing in an Allan MacDonald composition and a tune with a female name in it, at the suggestion of Jonathon Simpson, who took part in last year’s competition,” said City of Edinburgh’s Paul White. “We always ask the pipers who join us to tell us how to improve our event. We really appreciate the support of the pipers who have agreed to join us this year. Cameron Drummond will make a welcome return after winning the competition in 2023, while three pipers – Craig Muirhead, Ciaren Ross and Callum Wynd – will make their Wheel of Fortune debuts.”

The event was first held in 2006, and the winners are some of the most talented – and wittiest – pipers on earth:

  • Chris Armstrong (2007)
  • Ben Duncan (2017)
  • Brian Lamond (2006, 2015)
  • Stuart Liddell (2008, 2009, 2013)
  • Dougie Murray (2014, 2016)

Reigning champion Cameron Drummond will defend the title.

Gary West will lend his rich baritone voice as host throughout the competition.

At the doors, which open at 11:15 am, it’s £15 for those 16 and older and £7.50 for those younger, with everything beginning at noon at the Danderhall Miners’ Club, 88 Edmonstone Road, Danderhall, EH22 1QU.

Unison Lothian Health Branch, which also sponsors City of Edinburgh, is sponsoring the medley competition, and the Eagle Pipers Society is providing the prize money for the MSR winner.

“We’re looking forward to the event,” White added. “One advantage of holding the competition in the Miners’ Club is that you can buy a pint without taking independent financial advice.”

The city of Edinburgh’s roots go back to 1947 when Woolmet & Danderhall was formed, which took its name from Woolmet Colliery and the Midlothian village where the band still practices. Woolmet & Danderhall eventually changed their identity after the colliery shut down in 1966, along with other colliery-sponsored bands. The band was a frequent prize-winner in Grade 1 in the 1970s and ’80s and currently competes in Grade 2, finishing eighth in the grade at the 2023 World Championships.






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