The annual conference was held in Birnam Hotel Dunkeld on the weekend of 23rd/24th March.   Members can see and hear the full proceedings here.

The first paper was given by Andrew Wright who considered the Piobaireachd Legacy of Donald MacLeod.  He played examples of some of Donald’s compositions on the electronic pipe.  His emphasis was on the originality of these compositions in that they often feature previously unused rhythms and patterns in both grounds and variations. Donald MacLeod’s compositions are now becoming an established part of the piobaireachd repertoire.

Professor John Duff, Professor of Music at the University of Florida, then gave an intriguing talk about the blood-curdling history behind the Sister’s Lament.  He played a recording of him playing the tune, with the addition of the tripling and crunluath variations which were added by David Glen in David Glen’s Manuscript.  This provoked great interest and many thought that, with variations, the tune would undoubtedly be one of the masterpieces of the repertoire.  Some thought Glen’s Variations could be bettered.

Simon McKerrell,  Lecturer in the Department of Music at Newcastle University talked in the afternoon about why he felt that the repertoire of piobaireachd would be better served and invigorated if the setting of tunes is abolished.  He drew comparison between light music composition which has continued to develop, encouraged by the medley format in pipe band competitions, the situation with the Association of Irish Musicians and also with the Norwegian fiddle tradition.  He also played a recording of Chris Armstrong’s composition LamentForMaryKerr as an example of a contemporary piobaireachd.  Here is the conclusion of his talk.  This naturally caused some debate, and was well received.

The set tunes were demonstrated by Robert Wallace (Princes Salute, Lady MacDonald’s Lament, Lament for Ronald MacDonald of Morar), Peter McCalister (Kinlochmoidart 2, Young Laird of Dunagallon, Battle of Bealach nam Brog), Jack Taylor (Lady MacDonald’s Lament, Grain in Hides and Corn in Sacks (CC setting) and Duntroon’s March ( new translation from CC).

At the AGM members learnt that progress is being made with book 16, the programme of digitalisation is moving on with book 9 soon to be available digitally, and that the set tunes for 2014 will be published soon.  Roderick Cannon has written a book about the Neil MacLeod of Gesto’s Canntaireachd book, and the Piobaireachd Society will collaborate with the publication of this.  The Society continues its donations to the Northern Meeting, Argyllshire Gathering and London Competitions and one candidate has so far been selected for tuition at the College of Piping funded by the PS bursary.  The new website is now established, and the next step is to add a Paypal facility to smooth the joining process.  We are also looking at collaborating with a project led by Barnaby Brown which “aims to make the more unfamiliar and challenging aspects of Scotland’s musical inheritance available to all”.

The office-bearers were all re-elected and thanks was given to Andrew Frater who has retired from the General Committee.