Piping Live! – Day 2: fun in the sun with GS, Pipe Idol, Kyle Warren and Oran Mor

Published: August 31, 2011
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The second full day of the Piping Live! Glasgow International Festival of Piping and there was a palpable air of anticipation beginning to build in warm and sunny weather that pervaded throughout the day. Large crowds were in good fettle as the National Piping Centre again proved that it is the middle of the piping universe.

The Street Café outside of the Centre was another hub of activity, beginning with Kyle Warren of composing talents, accompanied by a band producing driving rhythms and pulsating energy to kick off the day. Kyle released a book of his tunes at last year’s festival, and this year he is performing them with a very tight ensemble that features his piping in the forefront. Kyle is a currently a member of the Red Hot Chili Pipers and the Field Marshal Montgomery, so he has a very full week, and still he managed to play some great music, and deliver it in a friendly, relaxed style.

More cursed overlap, with Piping Live! bursting at its seams with acts, and this time it was Alan Bevan of Surrey, British Columbia, recitaling at the Piping Centre auditorium before a crowd that clearly was picking-and-choosing what to see.

Meanwhile, a decidedly more studied feel was going on across the street at the Theatre Royal with the unveiling of the fascinating “Tunes From a Silent Chanter” exhibition of historical memorabilia and artifacts from the life and times of the great George Stewart “G.S.” McLennan, certainly one of the greatest composers of light pipe music. This was a joint project involving several organizations, including the Piobaireachd Society and the McLennan family, showcasing original manuscripts of some of the greatest tunes in the piping repertory in the composer’s hand, his letters, and even the contents of pipe boxes left behind when he died in 1938.

Down at George Square at about the same time was the intimate Glenfiddich Recital Series featuring the renowned Gordon Walker. These recitals are new to Piping Live! and provide space for only about 60 souls, lucky enough to secure a £6 ticket.

And then, back at the bull’s-eye at 30 McPhater Street, the second round of Pipe Idol commenced at 3 pm, with another four fine up-and-comers taking the stage. This installment saw Craig Sutherland of Vale of Atholl, Sarah Muir of Inveraray & District, Graham Drummond of Field Marshal Montgomery and Scott Wallace of St. Laurence O’Toole showing their stuff. Each of these pipers is only 19 or 20 years old and already chapping on the door of greatness. Ultimately, the judges decided that Muir would go through to the Friday final.

We were then able to take in a bit of Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton gi’in’ in laldy, kickin’ oot the jams from their work with the Treacherous Orchestra. There’s something in the water in Perthshire that produces players fair reeking with music.

And then on come the Grade 1 Oran Mor of New York for a public practice on the Piping Centre steps, attracting a large crowd in the remaining sunshine of the day. Oran Mor seems to have a buzz going on as they attempt to peak for Saturday, and certainly they impressed many here. It seems to be just as much fun for people to predict the five bands that will qualify for the Final, and more than one listener touted OM to get the nod on the day.

A quick bite, and then the International Quartet Competition at the Strathclyde Suite of the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, with eight Grade 1 bands putting in a foursome. Is there a more nerve-racking experience in the pipe band world than this MSR + Medley event? Pure, naked exposure, and one slip and you’re pretty much gone. As usual, the £16 tickets were sold out for this event, with all entries impressing.

Day 2 is generally a Tuesday when nerves start to show, and the 2011 edition didn’t disappoint in that regard. With Day 3, the weather is forecasted to change for the worse for the rest of the week, including the big Saturday. Rain gear is set to make an appearance, but everyone of course hopes otherwise.

Wednesday is another huge day, including the ScottishPower “Energy” concert and the pipes|drums sponsored day of the Street Café, with a recital by Michael Grey at 1:15 and the unique Pipes+Drums duets of four pipe-majors and their leading-drummers taking the stage for an hour that’s sure to impress and entertain.

Stay tuned, my friends.

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TIP OF THE DAY
Play each two-bar-phrase in a jig like a strathspey – accent pattern Strong, Weak, Medium, Weak. It will transform your tune musically.
Colin MacLellan, Edinburgh