Piping Live – Day 4: Late-night piping at the Festival Club
One of the gems of Piping Live! is the Festival Club, which runs each night in the main hall at the National Piping Centre. Starting after 10 p.m., the club features performances by some of the featured artists of the day. Approaching the front door of the Piping Centre, the first person you meet is the club security guard, which for me brings to mind a Chewin’ the Fat skit, and no doubt he wondered why I smile broadly at him as I enter.
The ticket for the club is £5, and the hall is set up in a cabaret fashion, some tables and chairs, and lots of standing room around the bar at the side. People move from table to table, and there is a mix of performers, volunteers, organizers and other music lovers at the club. The performers are introduced by Fergus Muirhead, and there is a great sound system there that helps make it a great listening experience.
On Wednesday, I heard fascinating tunes from Georgi Makris (Greece) and Stjephan Veckovic (Croatia) on several types of bagpipes, and then a ripping set from the Angus Nicholson Trio, featuring Angus on border pipes. The club crowd was right into it, and at the same time there is a general hum of chat and discussion of the day’s events, which on Wednesday included the arrival of tartan-bonneted ScottishPower players, fresh from their concert.
Thursday night was a bit quieter in terms of people. Most of the pipe bands are getting their game faces on, and there were also a few other events on that night, at least one at the Todd Bar. A highlight of the Thursday club show was the Armagh Pipers Club, which had a 12-piece ensemble including four uilleann pipers, fiddles, guitar, harp, whistles/flutes and excellent vocals. The Armagh Pipers’ Club is 45 years old, and it’s clear to see the success of the program in the performances. The players are individually skilled, and come together beautifully as an ensemble, with lovely arrangements, and a very well arranged set.
That alone was worth £5 to see, and it was preceded by Galician piper Edelmiro Fernandez, and followed by the high-energy Anxo Lorenzo Trio, featuring the Galician gaita, with bouzouki and fiddle. Lorenzo has amazing hands, and played a varied set that included Cape Breton, Scottish and Irish tunes, on pipes and whistles. They had people on their feet dancing, and whooping and cheering at the obvious energy and fun in the music.
As Piping Live! continues to expand, it gets more difficult to catch all the performers you’d like to see in a day, and the Festival Club gives folks a second chance to hear some great music, while unwinding and chatting with friends.