Tonight’s Piping Live! concert by the Lowland & Border Pipers’ Society (LBPS) is something of a milestone for the Society and for Scotland’s bellows-blown bagpipes in general.
The LBPS was formed in the summer of 1981 and constituted formally two years later. Its aim was to revive Scotland’s bellow-blown lowland bagpipe and its music by means of publishing tune books and a journal as well as holding regular teaching get togethers, an annual conference – a ‘collogue’ – and an annual competition.
Convenor, Stuart Letford, said: ““Scotland’s lowland piping tradition had, by the late 1970s, pretty much disappeared. This was a tradition utterly of the people. The music comprised beautiful Border airs and dance music. There was not a kilt to be seen. The instrument was played, for example, at seasonal rural pastimes and at weddings, and was the bagpipe heard in the towns of the lowlands.
“Ffrom Dumbarton to Perth, from Dalkeith to Brechin, Aberdeen to Galashiels, Rothesay to Wigton and so on, this was the bagpipe heard. As far back as 1487, Edinburgh employed three town pipers. The highland pipe became dominant much later.
“The successful revival of Scotland’s bellows-blown bagpipes is a significant cultural phenomenon really. It was 40 years ago that a small number of individuals got together and formed the LBPS with the aim of reviving the instrument and the music played on it.”
Those individuals include Mike Rowan, Gordon Mooney, Hugh Cheape, Jim Gilchrist, Paul Roberts, Mike Ward, Robbie Greensitt, Jim Eaton, Jeannie Campbell, Captain John MacLellan, David Hannay, Iain MacDonald (Neilston), Colin Ross, Jimmy Wilson, David Taylor, Andy Hunter, Julian Goodacre, Ian MacInnes, John Swayne, Jimmy Anderson, Jock Agnew and the late Nigel Richard and others.
Mr Letford explained: “For most of this period, the revival was pushed by pipe makers themselves, some of whom made a good living as demand grew. Highland pipe makers soon tried to muscle in on this new market – and why not? The instrument is now past the revivial stage. Thanks to the LBPS, it has now became a firm feature of Scotland’s traditional music scene again.
“We now focus our attention with a renewed sense of vigour to the music itself. Much of the organisation’s activities have been in that direction these last few years. The LBPS has always been an outward looking organisation in that it has looked to other European bellows traditions for inspiration. We continue to do this, too.”
For tonight’s concert, the LBPS president, Gary West, has curated a bill crammed with superb lowland music, much of it from the 17th-18th century, although Gary has composed a new tune that will air tonight.
At the conclusion of the show, there will a tribute to the aforementioned Iain MacDonald who died last year. Iain was an early promoter of European bagpipe traditions and dance music. In 1983 he was one of the pipers who played on Temple Records’ influential recording, A Controversy of Pipers from 1983. On the recording, Iain and Dougie Pincock played a highland pipe duet set comprising eight European dance tunes. This track will be revived tonight by a quartet of bellows pipers that includes Finlay MacDonald, Iain’s son.