The annual day of total immersion in piping for enthusiasts in the Western Isles and beyond is fast approaching.
The 21st Pipe Major Donald MacLeod Memorial Competition is scheduled to be held in the Caladh Inn on Friday 4th April.
Donald MacLeod was one of the most famous pipers of the 20th century. He was born in Stornoway and after a long and distinguished career in the Army he died in Glasgow in 1962.
He was a highly skilled player and won all the prestigious prizes on the competition circuit. But in addition he was a prolific composer of new tunes and an esteemed and respected tutor. It was to commemorate his consummate skills that the Lewis and Harris Piping Society decided to hold an invitational piping competition in his native town some twenty years ago. And it is to their credit that they have been able to keep the event going every year since then.
Although an invitational competition the pipers are chosen according to their success in the main competitions in the preceding year, such as the Northern Meetings and the Argyllshire Gathering. So they are the current best pipers in the world. Some of the names on the programme are very familiar having been at the top of their game for a long time, but because of the selection criteria there are always newcomers to the scene
Some of Donald MacLeods tunes are very well known such as Crossing the Minch and the Man from Skye. But he also composed over twenty piobaireachds, the oldest form of classical music known in Europe. His inspiration came from diverse sources, family and friends, nature and historical events, such as Lament for the Iolaire.
The pipers play one of his piobaireachds in the morning, and in the afternoon they play a March Strathspey and Reel selection, with one of each a MacLeod composition. To round off they play a Jig of their own choice.
It is usually a very pleasant way to spend a day. the pipers are well prepared with their instruments finely tuned. But being a competition prizes have to be awarded, and this year the panel of expert judges are joined by Willie Morrison originally from Loch Eynort in South Uist but now living in Glasgow. He teaches at the College of Piping and was a competitor at the early Donald MacLeod competitions.
An informal ceilidh is held in the evening at which the pipers play in a more relaxed setting, and for those who are able there is the opportunity to dance as well.