Published: August 31, 2009

2009 Piping Live! – the p|d magazine picks

It’s officially now upon us. Glasgow becomes the centre of the piping and drumming universe with the week-long Piping Live! Glasgow Festival of International Piping boasting the biggest and best line-up yet of acts, artists and all-out fun. Visitors to Scotland’s biggest city will be spoiled for choice from August 10th to 16th, and you can’t really go wrong whatever you choose to attend, especially when many events are free to all.
 
pipes|drums, the official media partner of Piping Live!, thought we’d pick out the ones in which we’re particularly interested. But be sure to check out the full schedule; there’s something for everyone.
 
The festival kicks off Monday with a bang and a bunch of pipe bands performing in George Square, starting at 11 am and continuing throughout the day. But the first events that caught our attention are the Live Music acts at the National Piping Centre’s Street Café, featuring an array of piping and drumming, namely Bodega (noon), Annie Grace (4:45 pm) and the Grade 1 Oran Mor Pipe Band of New York (5:30 pm). It’s all free.
 
At 1 pm Monday is a recital by the uncanny Chris Armstrong at the National Piping Centre. You’d pay $16 for the world’s greatest fireworks show, right? Armstrong is sure to provide a per-gracenote-cost of about $0.0001 when it’s all done.
 
Because all pipers and drummers should appreciate the strong tradition of the Highland pipe, we’re intrigued by “John MacKay of Raasay – A Link with the Past” at the National Piping Centre every day at 2 pm. Piping scholar and St. Andrew’s bunker namesake Hugh Cheape guides what is sure to be an illuminating discussion. Again, free.

Piping virtuoso Fred Morrison seems to be everywhere at this year’s Piping Live! To hear him for free is an unmitigated bargain, and he plays at the NPC’s Street Café on Monday at 2 pm. He’s launching a new CD.
 
We like the 7 pm Monday “Piping on The Clyde” event featuring Brian Lamond, Australia Highlanders, Fife Constabulary and others at the Renfrew Ferry. Some kind of talent from this line-up.
 
The big Opening Night Concert is at 7:30 at the Old Fruitmarket, where red-rockers the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Bodega are sure to burn down the house. Tickets are £15 and £10 and should probably be bought ahead of time.

Tuesday brings another world-class piper to the Lunchtime Recital at the NPC, with Jack Lee doing his Jack Lee thing, i.e., faultless playing on a flawless pipe.
 
The drummers finally take over at 4 pm at the Lord Todd Bar at University of Strathclyde at the “Todd’s Bar Master Drumming Recital – A Tribute to Alex Duthart.” Tickets are £10 to hear four World Solo Champions Jim Kilpatrick, Barry Wilson, Gordon Brown and Steven McWhirter, and multi-World Drum Corps winning Reid Maxwell. OMG! That’s $4 a World Champion!
 
The crazy nerve-racking (for them anyway) Quartet Competition goes on at 7:30 at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Gluttons for punishment this year are Australia Highlanders, Field Marshal Montgomery, Manawatu Scottish, Simon Fraser University, St.Laurence O’Toole and ScottishPower. One blooter and they’re toast! This is definitely one for those who love both terrific technical accuracy and are just a shade sadistic. £15 and £10 for this one.

While the quartets are hammering away, Fred Morrison again plays, this time at the Lord Todd Bar at 8 pm, for £10 a ticket. He’s playing with “friends,” and who they are we’re not sure. But we are certain that any musical friends of Fred are going to be pretty dern good.

Wednesday sees Brittany’s Patrick Molard take the NPC auditorium for the £8/£6 Lunchtime Recital. A great chance to hear a distinctly Breton take on the Highland pipe.
 
At 1:15 it’s another free CD launch (the launch is free, not the CD) at the NPC Street Café, with New Zealand’s Manawatu Scottish performing to kick off their Twelve Thousand Miles project.


For those who couldn’t get tickets to the SFU concert and/or simply prefer something non-pipe band, the day closes at 7:30 with “From Battlelines to Barlines” (that’s barlines, not Barlinnie) a concert featuring a host of virtuosos, namely, Margaret Stewart, Bonnie Rideout, Roddy MacLeod, Allan MacDonald, Iain MacDonald (Glenuig) and James Ross at the lovely venue, St.Andrew’s in the Square, just by Glasgow Green. Tickets are £15 and £10.

Thursday’s a big day, what with the brilliant Alasdair Gillies, who has won the Silver Star at Inverness at least a thousand times in recital at 1 pm at the NPC, with tickets the usual £8 and £6, while a half-hour later out on the street the Australia Highlanders will perform for free at the Street Café as they too launch a new CD project.
 
Of course anyone going to Piping Live! will want to attend the second annual pipes|drums Pub Quiz either just to watch or be on a team of anywhere from two to four people. The winning team will get £200 for their effort, runner-up £100, and third-place £50. Not only that, but pipes|drums is buying a pint or glass of wine for every person on a team! It’s all absolutely free.
 
We like this new Silver Cap Piping Competition at the College of Piping, featuring a host of celebrated solo pipers, playing familiar fare as well as new original compositions. It’s at 4 pm and tickets are £10. It’s not true that the hubcap that inspired it all is the prize, but a total purse of £3,250 – with £1,000 going to the overall winner – is at stake.
Axl Rose took a decade to make Chinese Democracy. While Bill Livingstone has been at working on Northern Man CD only since 2005, to his fans it seems at least 10 years. It’s finally being launched at a free shin-dig at the National Piping Centre at 5 pm where you, too, can be among the first to hear it.
 
Thursday evening and everyone will be absolutely torn as to what to attend, with three events starting at 7:30.
 
First, “Pipes and Strings” featuring Gary West and Wendy Stewart, Iain Morrison, Gordon Walker, Raemond Jappy and Bonnie Rideout will dominate the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in a concert priced at only £15 and £10.

And simultaneously “Pipes of Peace” with the aforementioned Manawatu Scottish will be at the classy Oran Mor restaurant venue (massive selection of malts, BTW). That’s £12.
 
But then the event that some say sparked the whole concept of Piping Live!, the University of Strathclyde Piping Recital Challenge, goes on at the Todd Bar. This year’s line-up pits Angus MacColl, Stuart Liddell, Alan Bevan and Alasdair Gillies against each other in a piping smack-down of show-stopping, heart-pounding brilliance. You’d be advised to get a £10 ticket in advance, though.
The last Lunchtime Recital at the NPC is on Friday at 1 pm and this time it’s Stuart Liddell doing his uncanny impression of a genius all-round piper, and, unless you’ve had enough of Fred Morrison (impossible) he plays another free show at the NPC Street Café at 1:30. Did you know Stuart tunes pianos for a living?
 
The long-awaited collection by Roddy “R.S.” MacDonald finally comes out, and the celebrated composer makes an event of it at 2 pm at the Street Café. Bring cash, because there is a high likelihood that you will want to buy this book. You can then dash over to the Todd Bar where Willie McCallum demonstrates why his one of the greatest solo pipers ever with a free recital starting at 2:30.
 

Question: has a Hollywood filmmaker who has won Emmy Awards ever before made a movie about a pipe band? Not until now. John McDonald of Pasadena, California, will premier On The Day, the documentary about the Spirit of Scotland Pipe Band‘s 2008 one-week push to compete at the World’s. [Disclosure: the editor of pipes|drums plays with the band] Admission is £6.50 / £5 (about the price you’d pay for any first-run movie in the cinema), and the event is at the Glasgow Film Theatre at 5:30 pm. Rumour has it that Pipe-Major Roddy MacLeod and Leading-Drummer John Fisher will arrive by stretch limo, signing autographs as they blow air-kisses down the red carpet.
 
Friday night wraps with the International Piping Concert (£15/£10) at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with Homebound, Paddy Keenan and the ubiquitous Fred Morrison showing their stuff at 7:30.
 
Some little pipe band competition is on Saturday.
 
And if you manage to wake up on Sunday, head over to the NPC for the Masters Invitational Solo Championship (£8/£6) that starts at 10:30 am. What a line-up: Angus MacColl, Jori Chisholm, James Murray, Niall Stewart, Murray Henderson, Niall Matheson, Alan Bevan and Willie McCallum vie for the title.
 
There are dozens more events at Piping Live!, so be sure to check out the full schedule and get to the stuff that turns your crank. These are just a few of the ones that especially caught our eye.

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