Published: August 31, 2011

Piping Live! – Day 1: Fred Morrison, Angus MacKay, LA Scots and much more

Iain MacDonald, Regina, Saskatchewan, reports from Glasgow . . .

The Glasgow International Piping Festival, Piping Live!, got off to a great start on Monday with a wider array of events than ever seen before. The festival now incorporates more than 150 events over seven days, and includes many “side” events such as the “Pipes of Peace” concert, that are almost becoming a piping “fringe festival.”

Among the changes to this year’s edition of the festival is an expanded program at George Square, with more pipe band, solo piping and other music and showcase performances.

The primary venues for most of the Festival offerings throughout the day are the National Piping Centre and George Square, with some other events scattered throughout Glasgow. This year’s Street Cafe started off with a bang as virtuoso Fred Morrison took the stage for tunes, and if you could pry yourself away from that, then Gold Medallist Alastair Dunn was the featured recitalist in the noon-hour recital series upstairs at the Piping Centre.

Throughout the week, noted author and historian Dr. Hugh Cheape will be conducting tours of the National Museum of Scotland collection on loan to the Piping Centre Museum, and these twice-daily tours kicked off today, along with the first in the Pipe Up! Talk Series: The Piper’s House. As a special feature of this discussion National Museum of Scotland Collections Director, Jane Carmichael was on hand with Piping Centre Principal Roddy MacLeod, M.B.E. to receive the gift of Angus MacKay’s practice chanter, which is being donated to the National Museum’s piping collection. Following this presentation, Dr. Cheape summarized for those in attendance a lot of the current research going on into the life of Angus MacKay and his father, John MacKay of Raasay.

While many people filled the Street Cafe to hear the first round of the Pipe Idol contest, other events were happening concurrently at George Square and in other parts of the Centre. The sad and happy truth is that one person can no longer take in the entire festival. There is just too much to do and se on any given day. So, I settled back with many others to enjoy the piping of Joseph Stewart [USA], David Shedden [Scotland], Bradley Parker [Northern Ireland] and Ben McClamrock [USA]. Four excellent young pipers played to an appreciative crowd, and the secret judges chose David Shedden to advance to the final, in what must have been a tough decision.

While people discussed the results and congratulated the players, Austrian folk/roots band Hotel Palindrome set the stage alight in the Street Cafe with some highly entertaining sets featuring the music of at least two kinds of traditional bagpipes. They barely had the set done, when the Los Angeles Scots fired up for a rehearsal on the steps of the Piping Centre, where they entertained a large crowd of people with their preparation for the big show on Saturday.

While that closed off the main activity of the day, the evening of Day 1 brought at least two more concert presentations, and the popular Festival Club at the Piping Centre, which tends to go into the early hours of the next day.

Altogether, it was another excellent launch to Piping Live!, and there is a huge energy around the many events upcoming, and the ongoing preparation of bands for the World Championships on Saturday.

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