Every year the Piobaireachd Society publishes 3 lists of about 8 tunes it “recommends” for performance in solo piping competitions in the coming year. The lists are for Senior, Gold and Silver Medal competition level. The Society’s recommendations are basically the de facto tune list for solo piping in piobaireachd.
Some have complained these lists exemplify the Piobaireachd Society’s rigid control of what tunes (and which versions of those tunes) get played by the top players; others say the lists ensure a good rotation, so that the more obscure tunes get a periodic airing on the boards. Either way, you can expect to hear selections from these lists played over the next competition year, because, after 100 years in this position, the Society is unlikely to lose its influence any time soon.
The list of tunes for 2008 is out and it makes very interesting reading. No big surprises in the Silver and Gold Medal tunes; they represent the usual trip through the repertoire, with some nice highlights I’ll mention later. The big shake up is in the Senior list. This is the list of tunes we can expect to hear played by the top players at the prestigious competitions. The list is composed entirely of 20th century tunes, including a tune by a French composer, Patrick Molard, who is actually still alive! It seems that perceptions of the Piobaireachd Society, as a cartel of old guys determined to freeze the music in late 1800s time, are increasingly invalid.
That said, the old tunes in the silver medal list are pretty darn cool as far as I am concerned. Included for 2008 are The Rout of the MacPhees and I Am Proud To Play a Pipe. Obviously, I Am Proud To Play a Pipe needs no explanation – it’s my theme tune! The Rout of the MacPhees is a tune I have written about before. As a descendant of the Clan Macfie, I have been on a quest to find a good recording of this tune. More on this in a later post!