I’ve been in Scotland this past week. It’s always hard to stay connected there, and reporting on contest results is actually easier – but far less fun – when at home than being at the actual event.
The trip actually was originally just to be a no-piping journey to see friends and family and get reacquainted with my golf clubs. Weeks after booking the flights, I realized that the Northern Meeting was that week. I guess I still assume it’s always two weeks after the Argyllshire Gathering, and I forgot that the organizers had made that change – a huge convenience at least for the non-Scots competitors who want to compete at both events.
So I took the train up to Aviemore on Thursday morning and managed to hear maybe eight of the Gold Medal performances, including Iain Speirs’s stellar “Lady Margaret MacDonald’s Salute,” which I thought might win the event. Flawless pipe, technique and interpretation from one of my favourite pipers.
It was my first time to the Aviemore venue at the Highland Resort, where the Northern Meeting has been held since 2005. The place I gather is better overall for a large piping competition than the Eden Court Theatre at Inverness, what with it being a big hotel complex with an auditorium, lots of meeting rooms and good tuning rooms, all surrounding a central hotel.
But I was really disappointed with its lack of atmosphere. Compared with Eden Court, you’d hardly know there was a piping competition going on if you weren’t involved. Eden Court has a common bar and restaurant where everyone crams into between tunes. It’s great for catching up with friends and getting the scuttlebutt on who played well and who missed the mark.
Coincidentally, it was announced in the media on the same day that the three-year multi-million-pound renovation of Eden Court was finally complete. I hope that the Northern Meeting committee decide and can afford to move the contest back there. Aviemore is just not the same.