I have always sat at work the week before the World Championships and envied the guys who were sitting in George Square supping a latte and enjoying the atmosphere as the city filled with pipe bands from across the globe.
Well this year I bit the bullet and arranged to spend the week of Piping Live in George Square watching the proceedings. I’d heard a rumour that there was to be a Big Band on the Monday and along with some bandmates signed up to be one of the 100 pipers and drummers raising funds for Asthma UK. When we turned up at Pitt Street the staff quickly got us tuned and organised. There has been no sightings of a bass drum so far. Roddy MacLeod, event organiser and piping guru, is our PM and as he arranges us the big glittery bass drum of Spirit of Scotland hoves into sight towing Tyler Fry behind it. Wendy Tenor reverts to a drivelling teenager and starts making moon eyes at him. Our Lead Drummer is Jim Kilpatrick and Mags tries to smash his drum in her fluster. We are in the big league, did I tell you about that time I played in Roddy MacLeod’s pipe corps? Aye? There really is no better feeling than stopping traffic in a busy city centre, the march down to George Square had its moments but thanks to the hard work of Pipeys all over the world everyone had an idea of what was wanted and we all arrived intact and able to give a short performance. We then spent the day supping lattes and even the occasional beer as band after band paraded in and played and Melissa lost her hat.
You would need Time Lord technology to get to all the events on the program but there was to be a member of this band in George Square for the next 3 days soaking up the piping, beer and coffee in equal measure. The array of talent on display is breathtaking, bands and performers from New Zealand to Northern Ireland. I enjoyed the United Maniacs Pipes and Drums from Switzerland and it wasn’t only pipe bands, Lubomir Tatarka introduced us to the Slovakian piping tradition and the biggest flute I’ve ever seen.
The festival is keen to highlight emerging talent and the David Shedden Trio were awesome. There is so much to do, so much to see, hear and taste that I really would have liked to have been a visitor from abroad. There are people who don’t like the tartan shortbread haggis and whisky image of Scotland and that is their prerogative but this festival shows that that image can drive a tradition full of vitality and if that’s what it takes to progress and enhance our national music then sign me up for a braw bricht moonlicht nicht. Ye ken!
Eventually Tweedie got pressure sores on his bum from sitting watching bands and we dragged him away to the Piping Centre at the invite of the Glasgow Gin Club for an evening of wonderful Scottish gin. They gave us a G’n’T each and then handed wee tasters which Wendy Tenor just cowped straight into her glass. The one flavoured with hops was a big hit and so was the seaweed one. We were inspired and set up the Kilbarchan Gin Society before we left the college, some to see Field Marshall and others to try and find the station.
For us the Friday G1 qualifiers were a must see and as I sat percolating rain through my trousers I reflected on my response to James the Hat’s final question as I left the house, ‘I’ll not need my cape, this rain won’t come to anything.’ The music was sublime, I’ve no idea how the bands held it together, they were universally drenched and all played in varying sizes of raindrops. I hung about with Irene until the qualifiers were announced but that was more a desire to be polite that anything else. I was cold and wet and beer only made me need the toilet. Tomorrow is the World Championships, rain or shine.