Jim McGillivray’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 prompted a wide range of interesting and entertaining answers, and we will share them on bagpipe.news 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.

Jim McGillivray’s 2020 Vision

I think we’re experiencing a sea-change with both the instrument and the music. 

As technicians and overall musicians, the good players we see today are streets ahead of where my generation was 50 years ago. A widening chanter scale is being adopted by more and more young players whose hands seem capable of doing whatever their musical minds can conjure within and without the Celtic idiom. And conjuring they are: previously unexplored technical movements, unusual time signatures, unusual treatment of common time signatures, and harmonies and arrangements with true musical depth.  It’s taking us to interesting places, while the heart of the traditional repertoire still beats strongly.

The quality of the instruments we hear in most professional competitions today would have left us agog in 1970: everyone is a Donald MacPherson. Synthetic components are the heroes in this story and I see this circle closing with a successful synthetic chanter reed on the market in the next 10 years.  This will bring better tuned instruments to a much larger and wider range of players – just as synthetic bags and drone reeds have in the last 35 years. And that can only be good for our instrument.

Jim’s postcard from 2022

We’re gearing up for a normal outdoor competition season here in Ontario, and many are already planning their Scotland trips.

Solo pipers and drummers who have been able to do multiple takes of their competition videos will be back on the field with only one try to get it right. 

Questions remain: have bands lost players?  Have we lost bands? Certainly we’ll lose some players who were perhaps on the fringes of playing and who have been lured during the pandemic by other hobbies. I deal in vintage bagpipes and I’ve had at least two people in recent months contact me to buy their old pipes because the pandemic marked the end for them. That’s sad.  On the other hand, sales of practice chanters and beginner packages soared for McGillivray Piping during the pandemic as a world full of pandemic thumb-twiddlers searched for new hobbies. Let’s hope we see these beginners make an impact in the near future! 

Jim McGillivray

•Bill Livingstone’s 2020 vision and a postcard from 2022
•Keith Bowes Jnr’s 2020 vision and a postcard from 2022