A world of piping and bagpipes: that is what Glasgow becomes for a week in mid August every year.
The world of bagpiping, in fact, as a week of concerts, talks, exhibits, competitions and other events leads up to a qualifying round and then the finals of the World Pipe Band Championships.
Wait, you may be saying: I don’t like bagpipes — or I don’t know a thing about bagpipes. Why should I care?
There are plenty of reasons. Consider these ideas:
At the World Pipe Band Championships and through the week at Piping Live events, you will hear the very top class of players, both in the band competitions and in solo, quartet, and other formats. You can hear up and coming junior bands too, top class on their own. The best of the best, really.
Bands come from across the world to compete and enjoy the activities. In 2018 there are more than two hundred bands representing communities in more than a dozen countries. The usual suspects of New Zealand, the United States, Canada, and Northern Ireland are well represented, of course, and there are many close to home musicians from Scotland. Bands from Zimbabwe, Oman, and Denmark are among those coming from places you might not think of as having a strong presence of bagpiping.
It is a colorful event – many events, actually. The pipe band finals on Glasgow Green and the qualifying rounds the day before are perhaps the most impressive. Through the week though there are concerts and competitions for other ways the pipe is played, solo and quartet piping concerts, pipers from different traditions trading tunes, pipers collaborating with players of other instruments. One of the concerts this year features a pairing of the pipes with the music of renown Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes.
There will also be a concert by Breabach. While pipers are in its line up, they are by no means a pipe band. Though there are pipes on Hamish Napier’s new album The Railway, they are part of the tapestry of music, not the primary focus – Napier’s main instrument is the flute. There will be a night of international piping early in the week at Drygate, with Fred Morrison of Scotland, Asturian Gaita played by the Borja Baragano, the Morvan Massif from Central France and Uillean Pipe music from Jarlath Henderson, who comes from Ireland. To close things there will be a pipers’ gathering with Finlay MacDonald, Ross Ainslie, Brighde Chaimbeul, Anxo Lorenzo and Andy May and guests, and an after party featuring Hamish Napier and friends with the launch of Napier’s album The Railway.
Update: The colourful excitement of pipe bands is a constant. Individual featured artists change each year. You may find out details about this at the PipingLive! website. In 2019 they will include Maeve MacKinnon, Dougie MacLean, Flook, and Beolach.
You will gather from this that there is plenty of music to enjoy, whether you know your blowstick from your bass drone from your chanter or not.
Love kilts? You will have much opportunity to see folk in kilts and tartan, too, as well as international bands perhaps wearing their own national dress.
Most of the events are ticketed. Prices are reasonable. There are free events too.
The Street Café, which runs from noon each day of Piping Live week in front of the National Piping Centre, sees up and coming artists as well as concert headliners including Breabach and Napier performing. George Square will be the home for larger groups as visiting pipe bands and artists offer free taster concerts of their work.
If you are still not sure you want to give the pipes a chance, though – maybe you’d like to come along as your child gives them go? The National Piping Centre will be set up to offer this. Your children may try out drums, too, and there will be craft activities as well.
Prefer something a bit quieter? Also at the Piping Centre there is a special exhibit of photographs tracing the role of pipes and pipers during World War One. Tours of the museum at the Piping Centre (it’s brilliant on its own, even without a tour guide) will be offered and there will be talks and question and answer sessions also. While you are at the Piping Centre, you may wish to stop by their excellent restaurant, The Pipers Tryst.
At the weekend on Glasgow Green you can watch and hear many bands, and on the final day, in addition to band action, there will be Highland games events, Highland dance competitions across six styles of dance, a zone of children’s activities, and plenty of vendors offering food, drink, and souvenirs. Reels, marches, strathspeys along with other sorts of music will fill the air.
If you are intrigued by all this but won’t be in Glasgow while Piping Live is going on from 13 to 19 August this year, keep an eye on the Piping Live site, as some events may be streamed on line. The World Pipe Band Championships and Piping Live are active through social media too, so you may be able to see photos and video that way.
There’s good chance all this will have you planning to visit in person in future.
However you may choose to experience it, the week of Piping Live and the World Pipe Band Championships offers chances to see culture and heritage being passed on and celebrated first hand. They are markers of the heritage, history, and present day of the culture of Scotland – and of the world.
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