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Below are 2 documents which made it possible for the Piobaireachd Society of Antigonish to be formed. Both are authored by Scott Williams.

   

PIOBAIREACHD SOCIETY

 An Open Letter to pipers and others who might be interested in the promotion and preservation of the playing of Piobaireachd.

43 Hillcrest Street
Antigonish, Nova Scotia
B2G 1Z2
(902) 863-1654

 

Dear Sir/Madam,

Over a span of eleven years before his return to his native Scotland in 1993, world renowned piper Dr. Angus MacDonald conducted a series of Piobaireachd workshops at the Antigonish Highland Society office. These workshops attracted a large number of young players from Cape Breton, Antigonish and Metro Halifax/Dartmouth. A few came all the way from Fredericton, New Brunswick and other distant points to benefit from his instruction in this ancient musical art form.

With Dr. MacDonald’s advice and financial support, the Nova Scotia Pipers and Pipe Band Association (now the Atlantic Canada Pipe Band Association) began hosting annually a Silver Medal Piobaireachd Challenge Cup Competition which, only a few short years later, attracted more than twenty entries. The response was so good in fact that a decision was made to offer a separate event - the Bronze Medal Piobaireachd Challenge - for the junior amateur pipers.

Since Dr. MacDonald’s departure, however, Piobaireachd instruction in Nova Scotia has been drastically cut back. This has resulted in a serious decline in the number of pipers playing Piobaireachd at all competitions, including the Silver and Bronze Medal Piobaireachd Challenges which, in 1996, attracted only three entries in each event. This prompted the judge, Gold Medalist (Inverness, Oban) and Clasp winner Mr. Jim McGillivray of Aurora, Ontario, to write an article for the ACPBA Newsletter (Vol. 1, Issue 3) which was titled: Lament For Piobaireachd: Is This Another “Species” On the Road to Extinction?

The continued promotion and preservation of Piobaireachd must find new shoulders upon which to lean for support. With this in mind, I propose the founding of a Piobaireachd Society made up of piobaireachd players, learners, other pipers, and non-piping supporters who will come together once each month to devise ways of furthering the goals it will set, and to enjoy the playing of bagpipe music, each meeting featuring the performance of at least one Piobaireachd. Such a Society could provide financial and moral support for Piobaireachd workshops to be conducted by prominent players from within/without our region with evening recitals by the instructor(s) open to the general public. It could help support the annual Silver and Bronze Medal Piobaireachd Challenges, and, perhaps at some point in the future, assist the best of our young pipers to travel to competitions of national and/or international significance. It could disseminate information about piobaireachd through a newsletter and/or other mailings to members and could assemble and house a library of materials related to piobaireachd.

I would like to call all those interested in forming a Piobaireachd Society to a foundation meeting to be held at the Antigonish Highland Society Office, 2nd Floor, 274 Main Street, Antigonish on Saturday afternoon, November 16th, at 2 PM. I will try to have a piper on hand to play for us - a piobaireachd to be part of the presentation, of course - and will arrange for coffee and doughnuts. Any new undertaking such as this will need some up-front money, so I suggest that you might come prepared to pay an interim membership fee at the first meeting. I suggest $25.00 with a junior membership for those 16 and under of $10.00. This is a suggestion only, however, so don’t stay away just because of the suggested interim fee. Your participation is more important than your money!

This first meeting might elect a slate of officers - President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer - and might lay the groundwork for what would eventually become a constitution and by-laws. It should begin the task of determining the needs of pipers young and old who are interested in learning/playing piobaireachd and come up with some strategies which might help the Society meet these needs.

Please try to attend this very important foundation meeting, and bring as many others with you as you can. Let me know that you are coming, and how many in your party so I can have refreshments ready for you when you arrive. (My phone number is at the top of this letter.)  And bring along your pipes if you are a player. Perhaps you might give us a tune or two?

I look forward to hearing from you soon and seeing you on November 16th.

 

Sincerely yours,

Scott Williams

 

 

PIOBAIREACHD SOCIETY

FOUNDATION MEETING

 

2 p.m., November 16, 1996
Antigonish Highland Society Office
274 Main Street, Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Preamble by Scott Williams, Director
Antigonish Highland Society School of Piping and Drumming

 

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank you for coming out today in support of this effort to found a Piobaireachd Society for the preservation and promotion of this ancient and most splendid of musical art forms.

Piobaireachd is the music which stirred the blood of our Highland ancestors, which honoured their heroes and mourned their dead, and which followed them to the four corners of the world in the aftermath of the defeat at Culloden and the Clearances. In that sense, piobaireachd is our music - the music of our own people. Would that we could hear it more often and not be forced to listen to the music of our neighbours to the south  twenty-three hours a day on the radio (‘Ray Mac’s Ceilidh’ being the welcomed exception). Indeed, American music has taken such a strong hold on our society that it is even taught in place of our own music at our local schools and university.

I should report that I’ve had a number of phone calls from people who wish to assure us that they are in support of this great effort today, but are unable to attend this meeting due to prior commitments. I would also like to take a moment to thank Iain MacInnes for coming out to be our first official guest piper. I am sure you will all enjoy his performance a bit later on.

The concept of a Piobaireachd Society is not a new one.  The Piobaireachd Society of Scotland was founded on January 19th, 1903 following a series of articles which appeared in the Oban Times predicting the end of piobaireachd playing in Scotland. The article stated that almost all knowledge of piobaireachd rested with four men and if they should pass away before their knowledge could be passed on, that tenuous connection with the past would be severed forever. It is interesting to note that the anonymous articles were likely written by Archibald Kenneth Campbell of Kilberry, brother of Captain John Campbell who founded the Piobaireachd Society. Whether or not this is true, the articles certainly helped stimulate people to action, and on January 19th, fourteen men sat together and founded the Piobaireachd Society which has, over the past 90 years, worked long and arduously to save piobaireachd playing from its predicted demise. Indeed, the Society can be credited with the growth of interest in the music which has seen it spread to all corners of the world to such an extent that many of the most famous exponents of the art are to be found in Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Can we draw a parallel with our own situation here in Antigonish? The Casket  tells us that the Antigonish Highland Games held piobaireachd events at infrequent intervals from 1863 into the 1970’s and annually from then on. In 1919, first prize went to George Dey of Halifax. In 1952 it was P\M Mitchelson of the NB Scottish, with our own Andrew Braid placing second. In 1953, Peter Morrison of Sydney won the top honours and in 1956 the premier prize went to Archie Cairns. In the 1960’s, piobaireachd prizes went to Alexander Sinclair of Massachusetts and William Gilmour of Oromocto, NB. Billy Gilmour tied with a young Scot, Angus MacDonald of Glenuig, in 1970, the first we heard of the young man who would later lead us into what might be called the ‘Golden Age’ of piobaireachd in Nova Scotia.

Dr. Angus MacDonald came to live in Cape Breton in 1982, already a recognized world-class piobaireachd player. Finding little or no piobaireachd played by local pipers, except those taught at St. Ann’s Gaelic College during their summer schools, he agreed to begin a series of workshops with the hopes of interesting some of the region’s young players in the music. The workshops were usually held in the Antigonish Highland Society Office and were a tremendous success. In all, he offered more than forty workshops during his eleven-year stay in Nova Scotia. He was the driving force and principle supporter of the NSPPBA’s Silver Medal Piobaireachd Challenge Competition which has been held for a number of years in conjunction with the Antigonish Indoor Meet and which, a few short years ago, attracted 20 entrants. So successful was it that, two years ago, the event was divided into two sections - the Silver Medal for Senior Amateur and Open players, and the Bronze Medal for Junior Amateur players. Dr. Angus returned to Scotland in 1993 and, sad to say, piobaireachd began its rapid decline. In 1996, the Silver and Bronze Medal Piobaireachd Challenge Competitions attracted only three entrants each which prompted the judge, Jim McGillivray, to report that Piobaireachd may well become extinct in the Maritimes.

A sorry picture, it is true, but the situation is not really that bad. The Gaelic College summer schools are attracting larger and larger numbers of young pipers who are being introduced to, and becoming proficient in the playing of piobaireachd under the capable guidance of Bob Worrall. Scott MacAulay is teaching piobaireachd in Prince Edward Island, John MacLean and Robyn Whitty have students in Metro Halifax, and we have a thriving program of piobaireachd instruction here in Antigonish. Piobaireachd is surviving, but does it have a future?

My own experience in piobaireachd is rather limited. Though I competed and won prizes in the 1970’s, my own tuition was not consistent. I studied briefly with P/M Bill Magennis, and then for several summers with Finlay MacNeill at St. Ann’s. As local organizer for Dr. Angus’ workshops, I attended all of them with my students and was put through, altogether, about three dozen tunes - not a great number, and certainly not enough to make me an expert by anyone’s measuring stick. While living and working in Scotland (1993-94), I attended a great number of competitions, concerts and recitals and managed to acquire a rather comprehensive library of piobaireachd tapes. I used them to create a Piobaireachd Tape Library for the NSPPBA with 172 tunes played by a number of the great masters of the 20th century.

Before going to Scotland for the year, I had been teaching piobaireachd to some of my students at the Antigonish Highland Society School of Piping. Upon my return, I picked up again with considerable success. Heather MacIsaac, for example, won the Jr. Amateur Champion Supreme title for both 1995 and 1996. Charles Baldner won the Bronze Medal Piobaireachd Challenge in 1996, and Andrea Boyd, entering piobaireachd competition for the first time at St. Ann’s, placed 2nd against seven more experienced players. This year, eleven students of the AHS School are studying piobaireachd. At the Annual General Meeting of the ACPBA in October, I put forward a motion that the Association offer a Grade 5 piobaireachd event where these beginning pipers would play a ground only. This received the unanimous support of the meeting and will be offered by Highland Games across the region in 1997.

It is my hope that we will be able to form a Piobaireachd Society this afternoon that will serve the piping community in the following ways:

1.  provide an opportunity for piobaireachd to be played in a non-competitive atmosphere before persons interested and supportive of this ancient musical art form.

2.  provide an opportunity for patrons and others interested in learning more about piobaireachd and pipe music in general to hear it being played on a regular basis.

3.  provide a body of interested individuals who will help to arrange and finance piobaireachd workshops and piping recitals by the finest players and teachers from across the region and beyond.

4.  help make it possible for young pipers who are successful in advancing their knowledge and skill in piobaireachd to attend courses of instruction and/or competitions of regional, national and international importance, with the long term goal of producing a Gold Medalist from among our charges.

5.  gather together and make accessible to our members and piping students a library of books, reports, article, magazines, records, tapes and videos of piping with a special emphasis on piobaireachd.

The list could go on and on, but I’d better cut it off there before I frighten you all away. The task is a large one, but we can take small steps and perhaps we will ultimately reach these and other goals that the Society might set from time to time.

Before entertaining any motions, I would like now to open the floor to discussion on the points I have raised or any others that you might think are relevant.  Before doing so, however, I would like you to think about the Society we hope to form and whether it should be local, regional or provincial in scope.

 

I now open the floor for discussion.

Call for motions

Election of Officers: President:

                             Vice President:

                              Secretary:

                              Treasurer:

 

Set fees

Determine first objective
Introduction of guest piper (Iain MacInnes)
Adjournment

 

                 

                                                                          

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