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The Clan Donald Lands Trust aims to preserve traditions relating to Clan Donald and the Gaidhealtachd (Highlands and Islands) by supporting the music traditions of the Highlands, and by holding the Donald MacDonald Quaich Annual Piobaireachd piping competition at Armadale Castle.

Supporting Young Musicians

In 2016, as a celebration to mark the 30th anniversary of the Donald MacDonald Piobraireachd Competition, the Clan Donald Lands Trust will launch the first Young Musician Scholarship. Prizes will be offered for the best young piper and player of the Clarsach and the winners will be announced at the Piping Competition to be held in the Stables Restaurant on Friday, 3rd June, 2016. Details of how to enter will be posted on the website in September, 2015.

CDLT also sponsors junior piping competitions at the Isle of Skye Highland Games and the Northern Meeting in Inverness, funds local clarsach (Highland harps) tuition and has provided twelve clarsachs on long-term loan to local schools.

Donald Macdonald Quaich Annual Piobaireachd Competition

Donald MacDonald, born about 1750, became a pupil of the MacArthurs, hereditary pipers to the MacDonalds of Skye. He later moved to Edinburgh, establishing himself as a maker of Highland and other bagpipes. At that time, the premier award for playing of the piobaireachd was a Prize Pipe, awarded annually by the Highland Society of London, which Donald won in 1817.

In 1822, he published a book of piobaireachd, written in a staff notation of his devising, which has remained the basis on which subsequent editors of piobaireachd have worked. Although well received, the book’s financial return prevented publication of Donald’s projected second volume.

Donald therefore presented the manuscript to the grandfather of General C.S. Thomson. Thomson used the MS as a reference in compiling ‘Ceol Mor’, a comprehensive collection of piobaireachd published in 1900.

Donald died in 1840 but his book has been reprinted and several of his arrangements have been played on Radio Scotland. By his own account, Donald embraced several schools or styles of playing and the way in which he wrote the standard movements in different tunes varies, providing scope for individual interpretation and expression.

Without his work, it is conceivable that much Highland musical heritage would have been lost. Although the piobaireachd arrangements usually heard today are those published by the Piobaireachd Society, derived mainly from the collection of Angus MacKay, the Donald MacDonald Quaich honours the memory of this revered piping pioneer.

The 29th competition was held held on Friday 5th June 2015, the winner was Bruce Gandy from Nova Scotia. Presentation of the Donald MacDonald Quaich was by Jan Wallwork Clarke, Chief Executive Officer.

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