Lochaber’s Ewen Henderson, one of Scotland’s finest musicians and composers has emerged as the winner of a unique competition which has been held to mark the 200th anniversary of the Royal Celtic Society and the fact that shinty has not been played this season.
The results of the final of the musical shoot-out were revealed at 1415 on Saturday afternoon (September 19) at the precise moment that shinty’s Big Day out, the Tulloch Homes Camanachd Cup Final, would have been throwing up in Kingussie had it not been for the intervention of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Three of Scotland’s oldest and most significant sporting and cultural bodies – the Royal Celtic Society, Glasgow Celtic Society and Camanachd Association - came together to offer a major set of prizes for an original musical competition marking the absence of shinty from this summer’s sporting calendar and looking forward to the return of play.
Led by the Royal Celtic Society (RCS), which is this year celebrating its 200th anniversary, and in partnership with the Glasgow Celtic Society and shinty’s governing body the Camanachd Association, supported by Tulloch Homes, the competition offered three prizes totalling £1,500 for an individual to compose an original competition.
Three finalists were chosen by a panel of judges after considerable and challenging assessment from an original entry list of more than 20. After serious and prolonged discussion, Chairman of the judges Gary Innes revealed the result, with Ewen Henderson emerging in first place, Mary Ann Kennedy
second and Chris Gray third.
Speaking of behalf of the judges Gary Innes said: “It was a hugely challenging set of circumstances and a really interesting competition which attracted a significant number of fantastic entries. We are delighted with the response we got from a wide range of musicians who made the most of the opportunities we offered them to be creative and imaginative about the situation we find
ourselves in. It was very difficult for the judges to narrow it down, but we reduced the original 20-odd to five, then three, and finally came to our decision. Ewen’s melody was key to his success but we cannot speak highly enough of the effort everyone put into the competition.”
Ewen Henderson described his entry as follows: “I’ve composed a pipe-style ¾ march in three parts. The first reflects shinty’s proud history; the darker and repetitive second part symbolises lockdown and shinty’s hiatus; the optimistic third part looks to the future and shinty’s revival. Unique to Scotland, ¾ marches are a much underrated and neglected part of our musical heritage in the same way that shinty is sometimes overlooked in the wider sphere of Scottish sport. Also, many of the best of these marches were composed by army pipers in the war years – an appropriate nod to the only other times that shinty seasons have been cancelled.”
The prizes for the competition were supported by The Royal Celtic Society, Glasgow Celtic Society and the Camanachd Association supported by Tulloch Homes. The winner receives £750, second place £500 and third place £250. The RCS had originally intended that the winner of the competition could have
performed at this year’s Camanachd Cup Final at the post-match Final Fling. That game has now been re-schedule for Kingussie in September 2021. Royal Celtic Society Chairman Alan Hay said: “We are grateful to the Princess Royal for introducing the final competition for us in our significant 200th year
when she has agreed to become our Patron. I am grateful to the Glasgow Celtic Society and Camanachd Association with the support of Tulloch Homes This was a huge undertaking for us and a unique set of circumstances against the background of a global pandemic, at a significant moment in our own and shinty’s history. I am grateful to the judges, who were unanimous that they found the entries a highly demanding challenge in terms of the separation for final choices and I know from personal experience how difficult it was to select a winner from such an accomplished set of entries. We were particularly encouraged by the number of young people who took part and also the fact
that the clarsach appeared on at least two occasions.”
The selection panel was led by award-winning musician Gary Innes of Mànran, the BBC Scotland Take the Floor presenter and former shinty captain of Scotland. Gary was joined on the panel by RCS Chair Alan Hay, Angus MacInnes of the Glasgow Celtic Society and was Claire Delaney of Lochaber
Camanachd who was representing the Camanachd Association. Click on the available link to see all three of the tremendous pieces being performed.