Wednesday at Piping Live! Drumming mayhem and a standing O
The third day of the Piping Live! Glasgow International Festival of Piping was chock-full of so many events one couldn’t possibly cover them all, but we did our best to get out and around. It’s hard to tell what is or isn’t officially part of the festival this year. More than ever, there’s a sense of everyone coming together across the city centre, and it’s just one big positive pipe band party. Here are a few highlights.
An overcast and intermittently raining day clouded Glasgow in the morning, but the Grade 1 Manawatu Scottish of New Zealand and Vancouver’s Dowco Triumph Street were the first bands to play for the free George Square performances. Large crowds lined the perimeter. While Dowco Triumph Street had the misfortune of being hit with a downpour, both bands served notice that they will be in the tick of the Qualifier hunt on Saturday, and if it’s chilly and wet, they’ll have been there, done that.
It was then on to the Lord Todd Bar at the University of Strathclyde for the Drumming for Drinks extravaganza of percussion mayhem. As one attendee said, “This thing has outgrown its venue,” and the place was packed throughout the nearly four hours of performances. The boisterous audience soaked up every second of the bass, tenor and snare acts that ranged from the sophisticated and sublime to the positively acrobatic.
Highlights were many, but Nathan McLaren’s DCI-influenced techno-snare display was an unqualified crowd-pleaser, as was Graham Brown’s performance of two-halves: the first, a rigid display of snare playing with his Peel Regional Police corps, the second an insanely funny hip-hop tribute to the Drumming for Drinks cast and crew. The gang from the Pipeband Club of Australia got, um, on top of things, with the accompanying piper/drummer midway through climbing onto the shoulders of the main act and finishing the performance Cirque de Soleil-style as the mid-afternoon crowd went berserk. Eric Ward’s family act was sublime and the organizers’ securing Switzerland’s Top Secret corps, performing down the road at the Edinburgh Tattoo, for a 10-minute show that included fire and fencing, was a coup.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch that is the National Piping Centre, the aforementioned Manawatu Scottish made the launch of the band’s new recording official with a lunchtime performance on the steps of the building, while inside Brittany’s Patrick Molard took the auditorium stage with his Balmoral-infused style of piping.
Probably the biggest event of the week, outside of the World’s itself, is the “Pre-World’s Concert” (can we not get a better name for this?) that by now everyone and their uncle Jack know the World Champions (at least for two more days), Simon Fraser University, performed its much anticipated “Affirmation” concert to a rapt, packed hall. More on this later in a full report, but suffice to say, no one was left wanting this night. The band’s pipe-section and chorus (yes, vocals) rendition of Donald MacLeod’s piobaireachd, “Field of Gold,” was a collective jaw-dropper. Incomparable compere, Neil Dickie, provided a litany of laughs, leaving almost no taboo topic untouched. After nearly three hours, the sold-out crowd was completely sold on SFU: a standing ovation.
We’re seeing more overlapping events than usual this year, and the Piping Live! attendee can feel torn several times a day. While SFU was doing its thing, a concert with virtuosos Margaret Stewart, Bonnie Rideout, Roddy MacLeod, Allan MacDonald, Iain MacDonald (Glenuig) and James Ross were doing theirs a kilometer or so away at St.Andrew’s in the Square. They’re either going to have to make more hours in a day or find a way to time-travel. It’s a killer to be frequently torn, and there’s no sign of that letting up.
Thursday’s much more of the same of rich, choice-spoiling options. After checking out a band or two at George Square, we’re looking at the Alasdair Gillies recital at the NPC, the pipes|drums Pub Quiz, the top-secret launch of Bill Livingstone’s long-developed Northern Man CD, a hoped-for drop-in to the Silver Cap solo piping event and the Todd Bar Recital Challenge at night. And all through that there are at least four other events that we’d love to attend, too.
Piping Live: living it up in sunny GLA.