Bill Livingstone’s 2020 vision and a postcard from 2022


In the final ever edition of the Piping Today magazine published in May 2020, a wide range of people were asked to give their 2020 vision for piping going forward. They were all sent a list of questions and asked to choose one to answer in no more than 200 words. The questions were given to people in January and February before we all realised what Covid-19 was about to do, but some people didn’t answer till March and April once we knew that the world was closing down.

Here are the list of questions:

  • What is your 2020 vision for piping? 
  • What aspects or traditions of piping would you want to preserve so that it is there for the next 100
    years or more – is there anything you would change? 
  • How has piping changed over your years of playing? 
  • What makes piping great? 
  • What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started piping? 
  • If you could, what one thing would you change to make the piping world even better?

The questions prompted a wide range of interesting and entertaining answers, and we will share them on over the rest of this year. To give the writers a chance to update their thoughts, we have asked them to write us a short and snappy postcard from 2022, letting us know their plans for this year now that piping is opening up again and life getting back to some normality.

Bill Livingstone’s 2020 Vision

I simply can’t do a piece that celebrates the huge number of pipers now in the world, or that crows satisfaction about the great strides in tone and stability. I’ve been a piper or student of it all since age five. So while there is much to be pleased about, there are matters that are concerning.

Piobaireachd: Far too much slow, dull, boxy playing. With the exception of a very few at the top of the game, there are not many attempts to provide interesting treatments of this amazing music. It’s not purely about gracenotes and the technique. It’s about making the song heard, and freeing yourself to interpret and make it your own.

Light Music: Of the thousands of pipers who exist, and whose numbers are increasing, it’s only at the pinnacle of the talent pool that one can hear sprightly engaged marches, strathspeys and reels…and even at that, it’s only at a  listen to the Former Winners MSRs that a bold and challenging performance will be heard. And even at their level it’s not surprising to hear marches at about 60 to 66 beats per minute. Hard to walk to let alone march at that pace.

Pipe Bands: Great technique, great tone. After that not much to challenge the imagination as bands fear the World Pipe Band Championships too much to experiment with fresh material, even in the MSR events where there are countless great, seldom-heard tunes to give the event some interest.

That all reads like something from an old curmudgeon…I only had about 200 words to work with, so I cut to the chase. I was not fair to myself, nor to anyone who reads this. I love this music, in all of its forms, and whether played by a band or a soloist. It has been my life and I’m thankful for having had it.

Bill’s postcard from 2022

Finishing up some new additions to The Piobaireachd Diary CD series, including my own tune titled For Ranald, my late brother.

Also getting to work doing an audio version of my memoir, Preposterous, Tales to Follow.

Live competitions returning to Ontario this summer and looking forward to judging a few of them.

Bill Livingstone