If you live in London, UK, you could go along to the annual Scottish Piping Society of Londonâ€™s Bratach Gorm competition, which is actually underway as I am writing these words.
OK, so thatâ€™s a bit of a tall order. Joking apart, the Worldâ€™s best pipers do gather several times a year to compete in major piobaireachd competitions. These competitions are mainly in Scotland, but there are a handful in other countries (England, Canada, United States, New Zealand) featuring really top-flight pipers.
Before you become too despondent, the various internet radio piping shows will come to your aid. All the major competitions in the UK are recorded by the BBC and the top performances are usually featured in the week or so following the event. You can see links to these radio shows on the right, under the heading â€œListen Carefullyâ€. These radio shows feature additional performances throughout the year, so that in any given week at least one of the shows is featuring piobaireachd. For example, right now (1st week of November, 2007) the BBC show Pipeline features a prize-winning performance from last weekâ€™s Glenfiddich invitational competition.
If you donâ€™t necessarily have to hear the Worldâ€™s best pipers in action, most Highland Games have solo piping competitions, including piobaireachd, for all levels of play. These are usually in the late Spring through early autumn, but there a few indoor competitions and recitals during the winter months. Keep an eye on your local media for these events.
There is a wealth of piobaireachd already recorded on CD and other media. The difficulty here is knowing where to start, but if a CD features one of the following pipers playing piobaireachd, you probably wonâ€™t go wrong:
Angus MacColl, Mike Cusack, Gordon Walker, Roddy MacLeod, Willie McCallum, Alasdair Gillies, Bill Livingston, Jim MacGillivray, Greg Wilson, Stuart Liddell, Allan MacDonald, Donald MacPherson, John D. Burgess, Capt. John MacLellan. All top-flight, and there are more, but this is a start!
Beyond this, there are many pipers with a internet presence who have made personal recordings available online. A good resource for informally-made competition recordings in the Ontario area is the website of Ken Eller. When he attends a competition or workshop, he generally makes recordings available.
So, once youâ€™ve heard it played, surely you want to try playing piobaireachd yourself, right?