‘Piping brings a special fraternity because there are no class boundaries’

Piping Live! takes place from 13-19 August in Glasgow
Piping Live! takes place from 13-19 August in Glasgow
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As musicians around the world prepare for this year’s Piping Live! in Glasgow, we catch up with some of those taking part to hear what makes it so special

Roddy MacLeod, Piping Live! festival director

When did you first get into piping?

“My interest in the pipes goes back as far as I can remember because of my Hebridean family background. My father’s side of the family is from the Isle of Lewis and my mother’s is from Benbecula, so there was always an interest in Gaelic music and island music. My father was keen that my older brothers learn the pipes before I did and I used to go along to their lessons and was very keen to learn the chanter from the age of five or six. When I got to the age of 10 I started to get regular lessons. I have always loved the sound of the pipes and the music means a great deal to me. Pipes have given me a great connection with people throughout my life and I have made some great friendships with people who were similarly learning the pipes like me.”

What do you love about it?

“The music is the most important thing. The Highland Bagpipe is a powerful instrument and when someone is playing the bagpipes it is not something you can easily ignore. In Scotland when the pipes are played at certain occasions such as weddings or funerals you can be sure there will be a few tears because people find it such an emotive instrument.

“Piping brings a special fraternity because there are no class boundaries. In my experience you join a pipe band and you could find you would have accountants, teachers, plumbers, painters or doctors and it does not matter what you do or who you are, you are connected to each other by the enjoyment of playing the music. That is one of the greatest things I feel about piping. When you are in that band it becomes an extended family and for many people a great support mechanism for them. I have had so much fun whenever I have been in bands and really enjoyed it. It is great to see more and more young people in Scotland getting involved in pipe bands. It is also wonderful to see the friendships and opportunities that derive from pipe bands and I can only hope this continues to thrive.”

What’s your favourite tune to play?

“There are too many to choose from – Piobaireachds that I have won major events playing, pipe band medleys I have led bands performing and music I play because I love playing. I couldn’t pick just one!”

What is so special about Piping Live!

“Piping Live! Glasgow International Piping Festival is the only festival of its kind in the world, where we celebrate all types of bagpipe, including the Great Highland Bapgipe. It is the world’s biggest bagpipe festival and attracts an audience of more than 50,000 music fans from all around the world. Music fans, families and tourists come together to learn more about this instrument, see music played, learn about the history and try the bagpipes for themselves. During the week-long celebration of piping, there are performances from trad heavyweights to artists who have travelled across the globe from as far as New Zealand and Canada to join us.”

Tell us a secret about the piping world.

“It’s not really a secret but the piping community is very welcoming, whatever your level or interest we welcome everyone to enjoy the music, take part and learn new skills.

“During Piping Live! we’ll be running a series of come and try sessions to encourage people to give piping a go. We’re also working in partnership with the Scottish Association for Mental Health (Samh) on our big band project. The Big Band gives everyone the opportunity to experience playing in a pipe band no matter their skill level or experience. The parade will see pipers both new and established take to the streets of Glasgow.”

Eilidh Wynd, volunteer at Piping Live! and tenor drummer with the Glasgow Police Pipe Band and the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland

When did you first get into tenor drumming?

“Growing up I watched my older brother, Callum, perform with his pipe band at various different events including Piping Live! In 2011, when I was 11 I remember watching a few Grade 1 bass sections perform at an event and I was fascinated by them. I couldn’t wait to be involved. I joined the Stirling and District Schools Pipe band and was there for six years before I progressed to play with Glasgow Police Pipe band in 2016, under the direction of Ian McPherson and David Henderson. I’ve also been lucky enough to represent Scotland at various performances and tattoos as part of the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland. I’m really looking forward to representing my country and competing at this year’s World Pipe Band Championships.”

What do you love about it?

“It’s a week-long celebration. I’ve met so many great friends from all over the world through Piping Live! and, every year the festival gives us a chance to get together. I love the variety that Piping Live! has to offer, we don’t just have acts from Scotland but as far away as New Zealand. It’s a great way to experience different cultures and meet new people.”

What’s your favourite tune to play?

“A tune called Pressed For Time. It’s a jazzy feel good tune and I always love playing it.”

What is so special about Piping Live!

“It’s not like any other music festival. Piping Live! offers an interactive and hands on experience for people of all ages and experience, whether you’re looking to try out the instruments yourself at a come and try session or want to see some of the world’s top trad acts perform on stage. It’s the highlight of the trad music calendar. Myself and the majority of the pipe band community have had the week booked off work for months.”

Tell us a secret about the piping world.

“It’s not a secret but drummers are better than pipers!

In all seriousness, being involved in a pipe band is more of a science than people think. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into these performances, everything from timing to where you’ll store your instruments (they need to be kept out of sunlight) needs to be considered.”

Scott Figgins, Piping Live! piper

When did you first get into piping?

“I got into piping at the age of nine, which was 13 years ago. I learnt to play through my local band: Irvine and District Pipe Band.”

What do you love about it?

“I love the many different styles you can play in and different avenues you can go down with your playing. I’ve been lucky to play in pipe bands; as a solo player; in traditional and folk music; classical music; and even in jazz ensembles as well.

“I think that Piping Live! does a great job of showcasing the diversity of the piping world. There’s such a variety of events happening throughout the week. The After Worlds Shindig is always a great night, this year Hamish Napier and Assynt will be performing.”

What’s your favourite tune to play?

“This changes regularly, but at the moment it’s a reel written by Ross Ainslie called Mairi’s Tune. It’s got a great syncopated rhythm in the first part. Ross’s playing and writing has inspired a lot of my own compositions.”

What is so special about Piping Live!

“Piping Live! is a great way to experience piping and its music in all its forms from all over the world. It brings all these elements into the one place which is a priceless experience for all involved – whether performing or listening.

Tell us a secret about the piping world.

“There are many secrets, although I’m not sure there are many that are suitable for printing!”

Piping Live! takes place from 13-19 August, www.pipinglive.co.uk