There really is nowhere you can go outside of the major competition platforms in Scotland other than Newark, New Jersey in February to hear nearly 12 hours of nonstop bagpiping of the highest caliber. The Metro Cup is one of those events that seems to get better and better with each passing year. The 2014 event was no exception. The floor at the Ramada Inn saw four, multiple Glenfiddich champions, eight gold medalists, five multiple and first-time Clasp winners and lord only knows how many Silver Stars, Silver Chanters, and former winners prizes. Throw in a few Grade 1 Pipe Majors and some “top-six” finishes and a few World Pipe Band Championships while you’re at it. Alongside this you have young up-and-coming players who are bound to have those prizes at some point in their careers. I know I’ve probably miscounted the number of total prizes, but there really were too many represented to count. This group represents the majority of the best bagpipers on the planet Earth. First-time overall Metro Cup champion Callum Beaumont took home the US Gold Eagle solid gold coin and a heaping pile of prizes with two first-class performances.
The piobaireachd contest began at about 12:30 p.m. and, as usual, was likely a near impossible feat to judge. This group truly brings the “A-game” to this event, giving many of us who may never travel Blair Castle or the Eden Court Theatre a chance to see what it is like. I’ve come to realize that, while watching live streams and YouTube videos is cool, nothing beats hearing bagpipe soloists of this caliber live and in person. I think the fact that the contest takes place in a hotel ballroom and not a performance stage, adds to the excitement. These pipers are literally inches away from you, allowing those of us in the front row of seats to drink it all in in a way that can’t be done elsewhere.
As usual, there were many performances that stood out that did not make it into the prize list. Below you can hear a couple of stand-out medleys by Jamie Troy and Alex Gandy. Though these performances did not make the prize list, they stand appart, for me, for their energy and excitement. You can also get a sense of the quality of the field in the top five in the prize list. Roddy MacLeod’s winning piobaireachd “Isabel MacKay” was outstanding, but so was Callum Beaumont’s rendition of “Ronald MacDonald of Morar’s Lament.” A very difficult decision between the two, I’m sure. Enjoy.
The Metro Cup
1. Roderick MacLeod, “Isabel MacKay”
2. Callum Beaumont, “Ronald MacDonald of Morar’s Lament”
3. William McCallum, “The Big Spree”
4. Angus MacColl, “The End of the Great Bridge”
5. Alastair Dunn, “Melbank’s Salute”
1. Callum Beaumont
2. Angus MacColl
3. Alastair Dunn
4. Chris Armstrong
5. Bruce Gandy
Overall champion: Callum Beaumont
Today’s tune is a rather old slip jig, “Jack has Got a Wife.” The tune appears in a manuscript that was originally part of the Advocates collection, now housed at the National Library of Scotland. The manuscript is a series of tunes for the pastoral pipe which would date it at around the middle to late part of the 18th century. The manuscript contains a rather substantial collection of music spanning Irish, Scottish, and English marches, jigs, reels, and strathspeys. Your guess is as good as mine what the title “Jack Has Got a Wife” might refer to. The tune title could just be a common reference that was part of common parlance at the time. Listen to the podcast for more background and a rendition of the tune on the bagpipe.
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