I apologize for the delay in getting some news out to you, but this website has been down for quite a few weeks due to some updates which were needed – and were not caught until some news posting was needed. Fortunately those have been rectified by our webmaster Tom Crawford and we are once again operable. Thank you Tom for your help and troubleshooting to find the problem! We’re baaaack…..
First off, let me say that it has been great seeing many of you already this season on the Southern Branch circuit. Since our last “news” there have been a few events in the Branch. First off, since our last, was the Dunedin Games – where branch band Atlanta challenged up and took 2nd place in the Grade II contest held there. Of course i’d be remiss in not mentioning the winners – the hometown crew at Dunedin – but this contest was important in that it was one of the first Grade II events held in the Branch in many years….and was also attended by the newly upgraded MacMillan Pipe Band of the Mid-Atlantic Branch. Let’s hope this is a foreboding of good thing to continue within the Branch. Way to go Dunedin folks!!
The Smoky Mountains Games in Maryville, Tennessee saw a day of mixed weather – some showers for the soloists….including young Tim Hinson who reportedly played a full piobaireachd in a complete downpour, but clearer conditions for the bands which attended. It is unfortunate that this event conflicts with the weekend of the Fair Hill Games in the Mid Atlantic Branch – which was attended by the Grandfather Mountain band. There was no Grade III competition at Maryville as a result….and the same held true the following weekend at Greenville – both having only one Grade III band attending and playing for comments only. It makes one wish that there could be some coordination between these bands so that viable contests could be held in all grades. Any ideas anyone?? Congratulations to John Rose for what was apparently another good event.
This past weekend was the third of the “late Spring” Games of our Branch at Greenville. Though band attendance was down a little over previous years, those 13 bands and many soloists present would no doubt attest to the great work done by Nick Williams and crew there. Special thanks too to Jimmy and Joyce McIntosh, who hosted special guest Robert Wallace from Glasgow for his first ever taste of Southern piping and drumming. Wallace, along with Sandy Jones, judged the Professional events held on the Sunday following the Games. This brought added prestige to the event as well as the opportunity for exposure for an outsider to some of the great things going on with playing in our Branch. Thanks for the opportunities…
SUPPORT YOUR GAMES – and WHY…..
Dunedin was able to survive what could have been a nearly-disastrous rain event (so I understand) and i’m sure that all understand what that can do to a Games! Loch Norman, however, the next event on the Circuit had the first rain-free weekend in recent memory with a great attendance of Branch bands. It seems that there is always a shower at Maryville and maybe the East Tennesseans are just accustomed to it? One of the points to be made here is that rain events can truly be disastrous for a Games. Few can afford rain insurance which is exorbitantly expensive, and so a rain event can truly wipe away a year’s financial surplus (as was the case with Scotland County last year) or force them to the point of having to make open solicitation just to keep viable (note Loch Norman’s appeal of the winter). The point i’m getting at is that we take chances in attending Games as solo players and bandsmen/women – but we would NOT have any opportunities to enjoy good music, the challenge of competition, and the associated friendship and fellowship if it were not for THE GAMES. It is imperative that we continue our attendance and support of these events – and once again I will say that if there is a competitive event within 150 miles of your band and your band is NOT there then there is something not right with that picture! Sure there are sometimes personnel issues, sickness, that “must do” parade, a big paying gig, or other conflicts which sometimes arise…..but think about it. Without the Games our individual members and bands would not have the opportunities to challenge themselves and support the very movement and cause which we sometimes claim (sometimes with breast-beating voracity) to champion – the appreciation and perpetuation of our art and Scottish music and culture in general. So….I hope that folks will indeed think about this – and come out to support the events which have been created to showcase us! And showcase it IS…..to those who complain about prize monies, travel funds, whether you are plyaing in front of the reviewing stand and being heard by Sir Angus MacPhartin and the rest of his feather wearing clan or not aren’t getting the picture. Piping and Drumming is the TOP expense item of EVERY Highland Games in the country – a fact echoed by the Council of Scottish Clans and Aasociations each year. If you’re just doing it for the money, then go play every Pumpkin Queen crowing and Turnip Festival you can find – and charge them a lot as a GOOD pipe band is worth it. BUT….if you want to challenge yourself to do something more – to help raise the standard of music, to create a true goal to work for, and to please a crowd who is SPECIFICALLY there in many cases to hear you then SUPPORT YOUR GAMES! GO….ENTER…..ATTEND….PLAY….SUPPORT!
UPCOMING EVENTS and NEW DIRECTORS….
The Branch Circuit will again come to life in July at Grandfather Mountain – traditionally one of the more popular solo competitions in the whole EUSPBA. As previously reported, there WILL be an EUSPBA PREMIER Professional event at Grandfather Mountain this year, however the judges are still TBA – as unfortunately the previously announced Bruce Gandy has a conflict. Nonetheless, there WILL be good playing and opportunities available in EVERY grade…..INCLUDING “OVER 50 EVENTS” – an opportunity which I hope some of our members will take advantage of this year. You said you wanted it……we created them…..now come on out! Entry deadlines are coming up soon….and they will be strictly enforced (y’all know Sally Warburton…. 😉 – so enter now: http://www.gmhg.org/pipinganddrumming2016.htm
A new band-only contest is being held in Raleigh on July 23 honoring the late Mike Murphy – a long time branch member and member of the Citadel, Charleston Police, and City of Washington bands. This event is an apprently an indoor event – with no Games, solos or other events associated with it. For further information and entry for visit: http://raleighpipeband.com/raleigh-indoor-pipe-band-competition/ It will be interesting to see how this inaugural event fares – particularly in that it is not associated with any other traditional “Games” events. BYOMP (Bring yer own meat pies!) 😉 Kudos to those trying to organize this “different” event for pipe bandsmen/women – on a weekend that used to be a favored event on the circuit….the old Virginia Games in Alexandria. And, good for honoring one of the Branch’s good guys who was taken from us much too early.
The Charleston Games will start their events “ON TIME” this year – or so it has been heard – thanks to the naming of a new Piping and Drumming Director. We are truly glad to hear that Peter Armstrong has agreed to come back on board as the event’s organizer this year after a few years of well-intended yet quite disorganized events. Peter will be sacrificing his own business time – as proprietor of High Country Scottish and Irish Shoppe – to run the events this year. THANK YOU PETER for stepping up to the plate! I’m sure this will renew the confidence of many in that event. Now….the big mystery…..IS Charleston actually changing their date for 2017 or not??? Keep appraised for news….. Entry forms at: www.charlestonscots.org “OVER 50″ EVENTS HERE TOO!!” Come on seniors…. 😉
Scotland County promises to be a blowout this year as opposed to the “almost rainout” of last year. Despite a substantive financial loss, the Games has agreed to try to “replay” what was missed last year by offering the BRANCH CHAMPIONSHIP BAND EVENTS FOR GRADE IV and V once again this year. The Games felt bad that those who attended were not offered the opportunities which they had hoped for, so have agreed to keep their upped prize monies for 2016 just as they had for 2015. Special Guest Gold Medalist this year is Mr. Donald MacPhee – the reknown reedmaker, former member of the Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band, and now fully qualified RSPBA and CPA QUALIFIED JUDGE! You’ll get a fair hearing and great appraisal from “Big Donald” and he will also appear in concert on Friday night before the Games. Special THANKS are in order to Mr. Thomas Hahn – who has agreed to step up and be the new Director of Piping and Drumming for the Games. Thomas has learned well from his hard-working and ever-dedicated parents John and Deb, and will no doubt be assisted by his great wife Caris who has also been a behind the scenes volunteer at many Branch events for years. We welcome Thomas to our team of Games organizers….and thank him for stepping up to the plate! “OVER 50” Events here too…. Entries will be open there within the week: www.schgnc.org
THE BIG ONE……
Okay…..just because you haven’t seen news (or lack therof) being spouted on some website on a daily basis doesn’t mean things haven’t been happening in our Branch! I am happy to report one of the most SIGNIFICANT developments in contests in our Branch in a number of years.
Earlier this year I was personally approached by a member of the Board of Directors of the Clan Donald Lands Trust – an organization which has had a dramatic impact on the preservation of Scottish heritage in Scotland – particularly on the Island of Skye with the development of the Clan Donald Center in Armadale, which is a world-class museum and visitor center as well as gardens. Some of you may also know that one of the Trust’s most important members were Americans – the late Ellice McDonald, Jr (CBE) and his late wife Rosa Laird McDonald – of Delaware. Their long-time commitment to the preservation of Scottish culture is known to many who are long-time members of this community.
One of the projects of the Clan Donald Trust of recent years has been the sponsorship of the Clan Donald Quiach piping competition held at Armadale Castle in Skye each year. An invited list of top competitors must choose from a list of tunes from the Donald MacDonald piobaireachd manuscripts for this competition. It has become a truly world-class compettiion/recital and an important one on the solo calendars in Scotland.
The Clan Donald Trust wished to do something for piping here in the USA – and in particular the South – an area which was very beloved to the McDonalds and one which they visited frequently as “guests of honor” at various Games and events. Through initial conversations which I had personally with the Trust, as well as with their own goals and aspirations in mind – a special event will be offered for 2016 honoring Ellice and Rosa McDonald.
As the Trust wanted specifically to do something for the top level in the South – particularly for pipe bands – a special event has been created for 2016 which will serve as the SOUTHERN BRANCH GRADE III BAND CHAMPIONSHIP. Thanks to negotiations between the Clan Donald Trust with Games President Norman Livermore at the Stone Mountain Highland Games THIS GAMES will serve as the Grade III Branch Band Championship. This will be a rotating championship event and award which will be rotated betwen Stone Mountain, Charleston, and Scotland County (the Branch’s Fall Games) over the coming years.
The Ellice and Rosa McDonald Award will be presented to the winning Grade III band at Stone Mountain this year. The award will be a $1000.00 Prize……awarded ON TOP of the prize monies already being awarded by the Stone Mountain Games. Winner take all! This will make this event the largest prize contest ever offered in the Southern Branch (to my knowledge…..anyone correct me if i’m wrong). So……i’m certain that there will be some good medleys to be heard at Stone Mountain this October – and someone will be walking off with a nice financial boost for their trip too! I also understand that the 15 slots for travel money have already been filled….so should be a great close to the Southern Branch Season there. It has been exciting to work with the Clan Donald Trust on this project and I hope that we will show that their investment is well-placed and a great way to honor two really great champions of the Scottish community.
If this inaugural event goes well, it is my hope that we may be able to secure a further commitment from the Trust which may help fund other Grade Championships or events in the future. Though I had discussed with the Trust the possibility of spreading their funding out among all places in that Grade – or perhaps doing the same for Grades IV and V, it was THEIR WISH to keep this as a winner-take-all opportunity. If nothing else, it sure does make it a good thing to strive for….and will no doubt mean there should be some good performances (and possibly some new bands) in appearance there due to this opportunity!
SO…..that’s the news from the South. I am happy to bring GOOD NEWS, even if it is a little later than some may have hoped for.
REMEMBER – THIS is the place for OFFICIAL BRANCH NEWS. I’ll post as needs warrant. Though I will be away for part of the summer – first with my family on a pleasure trip to Scotland, and then teaching at a summer school (Sandy Jones’ North American Academy of Piping….an organization and institution of which the Branch can be quite proud due to its contributions to the standards of play among players of ALL levels over 40+ years), I hope to cross paths with many of you during the summer. Know also that you may contact me at any time and I will return your inquiries or messages as soon as I possibly can. Thank you for your support….and let’s all have a GREAT Summer and Fall in the Branch! Play well……be nice……and SUPPORT YOUR GAMES!!
Chairman, Southern Branch EUSPBA