August 31, 2012

(HD video) Piping Live! 2012: a scorcher (finally) hits Glasgow

After months of seemingly endless dreariness and rain, the week of Piping Live! would appear to be taking an opposite turn, giving Scotland a much-deserved reprieve with brilliant blue skies and intense sunshine for most of Day 1 and all of Day 2.

It seemed like most of the “overseas” interlopers inhabited one or two planes from North America, landing in Glasgow on the Tuesday, powering through the jet-lag by taking in the sounds of sights of the world’s most important (read: only) festival of piping. The Monday kicked things off with such acts as the great Angus MacColl in recital, the official launch of Chris Armstrong’s all-digital collection Re:Tradition, Round 1 of Pipe Idol, and the Opening Night Concert with the John McSherry Band, Michael McGoldrick, John McCusker and Kris Dever at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s smaller Strathclyde Suite.

Day 2 brought the hordes from such wild places as Saskatchewan, New Jersey, Melbourne and Sauchiehall Street to partake in the good weather that produced a glowing complexion faster than a gulp of 18-year-old Glendidich. And speaking of the good people of Glenfiddich, is there a bigger or better patron of piping in the world? The brand is omnipresent at the festival and finally understanding the gold it has in the work of Derek Maxwell, photographer to the piping gods, whose images have captured the essence of our greats for more than three decades. A much deserved exhibit of Maxwell’s best shots from the Glenfiddich Championships are on display at George Square, where pipers and punters can pay a few pounds to see the pics while enjoying a cup or two of William Grant & Sons finest.

All over Piping Live! is royal purple, this year’s colour for the festival and, perhaps not by coincidence, the London Olympics. These are of course the pipiing and drumming world’s version of the Olympiad, although it’s more a week of cameraderie than competition. (Until that weeevent on Saturday, of course.)

George Square is bigger and better than ever. There are stands and marquee tents surrounds Glasgow’s other epicenter (next to the main one at 22 McPhater Street), and the warm weather brought out the locals and tourists alike to take in small recitals and 40-minute pipe band concerts from the likes of the Grade 1 Strathclyde Police and Grade 3 Dartmouth & District. Sales of 99’s were at an all-time high for Piping Live!

Just a bit north at the National Piping Centre was where the hard-core pipingistas gathered for an eclectic taste of truly international fare, from the Griff Trio of Belgium, the Lorne MacDougall Trio (actually a duo on the day) from Scotland, and a few creative selections from the Grade 2 City of Regina Pipe Band of Canada. The latter had the stage while the day’s sponsor, James Begg Pipe Bags, doled out free cake to honour the business’s thirtieth year making some of the world’s best sheepskin bags. After a cautious bite, fears that the icing was made from Airtight Seasoning were laid to rest. Sweet!


Pipe Idol Round Two went on with Callum Moffatt, Ailis Sutherland and Connor Sinclair of Scotland doing battle against Eilidh MacDonald of Canada, just before Sweden’s “DrÃ¥m,” playing the traditional Säckpipa of that country. The young Sinclair wnt through from his heat, joinning Graham Drummond who won his heat on Monday.

More than ever, one can’t possibly get to everything at Piping Live!, so the tendency now is to plant one’s self at the National Piping Centre and let (almost) everything come to you, which it pretty well does. You did have to travel inside and upstairs to the NPC’s warm auditorium where the Boss of Highland Piping, Roddy MacLeod, put on a solo recital for a large crowd that appreciated his wonderfully tinkly high-A, which has become part of the powerful Roderick MacLeod brand.


The sun was setting on Day Two (day one for many of us) as people went in search of eats before settling in for the International Quartet Competition, featuring eight of the World’s elite bands on the RGCH Strathclyde Suite stage, each member subjecting him/herself to a psychological torture of nerves that the Geneva Convention should have had a serious look at. One slip and it’s curtains, baby.

The weather looks good for Day 3, which is great news for the annual Pipes+Drums recital at the Street Café at 1 pm, where the pipe-major and leading-drummer of five Grade 1 bands – 78th Frasers, Boghall, LA Scots, Lothian & Borders Police, and Oran Mor – entertain in a rare opportunity – absolutely free, thanks to sponsors pipes|drums.

Stay tuned for Day 2 video highlights and more from Piping Live! 2012.




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