The first live streaming of the P/M Donald Macleod MBE Memorial Competition has been hailed a great success, with around 1,800 viewers tuning into the piping event from around the world.
Viewers of the competition, held in Stornoway on Friday, April 5 and sponsored by Point and Sandwick Trust, came from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.
The Lewis and Harris Piping Society, who run the competition, believe the live audience in the Caladh Hotel was also bigger this year, particularly for the ‘light music’ in the afternoon, when the Garry Room had to be opened out at the back, to allow for extra seating.
In another first, a series of workshops were also held yesterday morning (Saturday) as part of the competition weekend, with players from the Lewis and Harris Youth Pipe Band and the Lewis Pipe Band receiving tuition from three of the Donald Macleod competition stars – Stuart Liddell, Callum Beaumont and Roddy Macleod MBE.
The P/M Donald Macleod MBE Memorial Competition is an invitational competition, with eight pipers invited to take part based on their form at major competitions through the year, and it celebrates the musical legacy of Donald Macleod – a famous piper, composer, tutor and Pipe Major of the Seaforth Highlanders – who came from Stornoway.
Competitors play mostly Donald Macleod compositions and holding the event in Stornoway is a crucial part of the competition’s heritage. Community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust have committed £25,000 to the competition over five years to ensure it can continue to be held in Stornoway as there had been fears it would have to be moved to the mainland to cut costs.
The pipers taking part this year were Willie McCallum, Roddy Macleod MBE, Callum Beaumont, Stuart Liddell, Glenn Brown, Finlay Johnston, Iain Speirs and Dr Peter McCalister – with Finlay Johnston winning the competition overall and Stuart Liddell coming second overall.
Finlay also won the March, Strathspey and Reel section, while Stuart won the Hornpipe and Jig. The Ceol Mor (piobaireachd) was won by Callum Beaumont.
The prize for second overall winner was presented to Stuart Liddell by Gordon Mackay, a Point and Sandwick Trust board member, while the prize for the overall winner was presented to Finlay Johnston by Fiona Macleod, one of the daughters of Pipe Major Donald Macleod.
Gordon Mackay said he felt “proud of Point and Sandwick Trust for supporting this fabulous event for the next five years” and enabling it to continue being held in Stornoway. He added: “It’s a day of great music and keeping it in Lewis is really important.”
Dr John Smith, chairman of the Lewis and Harris Piping Society and Fear an Tighe of the competition, said afterwards: “The standard of piping was excellent and one of the judges, Dr Angus Macdonald, whispered to me, when they came back after deliberating on the March, Strathspey and Reel section, ‘that was very difficult’.
"And I think they would have had the same difficulty in the morning, because the standard of playing was very high.
“In fact, one of the audience – who is a piping expert – did say to me, ‘that was the highest standard of piping I’ve heard for a long time’.”
Dr Smith added: “I’m very pleased with the way the live stream went. I think it will generate more support for what we consider to be one of the most important competitions in the piping circuit.
“We had a full capacity audience in the afternoon and everybody I’ve spoken to so far said there was a nice buzz about the place.
“The piobaireachd doesn’t attract the same size of audience but we did have quite a sizeable turnout in the morning. We were happy with that.”
He also praised the committee for their organisational skills and thanked Point and Sandwick Trust as the main sponsor.
“Everybody on the committee knew their exact duties and everybody fulfilled their functions very well. We are hugely indebted to Point and Sandwick Trust for their generosity and for ensuring the competition can be run in Stornoway where it should be run – Donald Macleod’s birthplace.”
The live streaming was managed by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Multi-Media Unit, with sound engineering by Keith Morrison of Wee Studio, and worked well after some initial glitches where the connection dropped in the first half hour.
Martin Macleod of the Multi-Media Unit said: “It was a really good day. A really good experience. It went really well and the sound was really good from Keith, which makes it a lot easier.”
Keith Morrison, who runs Wee Studio and plays keyboards with Face The West, said: “It was good. I like a good piobaireachd.”
He hopes to be back next year, as sound engineer for the second year of live streaming the Donald Macleod competition – helping to ensure consistent sound across pipes and human voices and ensuring the pipes are not “too sharp in the ears”.
The live stream was broadcast on www.piobdm.com and will be retained for future reference and accessible via the Multi-Media Unit’s e-Storas website.
Pictures from the competition by Derek MacKinnon Photography.