Celebrate 20th Piping Live! at these vibrant events

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Glasgow’s much-loved Piping Live! festival is gearing up for its 20th edition, promising a captivating showcase of bagpiping and traditional music from around the world from Saturday 12 – Sunday 20 August 2023.

Drawing around 30,000 attendees annually, the grand celebration has become a cornerstone on the Scottish cultural calendar. This year, the Piping Live! team aims to surpass all expectations with an array of incredible events, marking two decades of music and culture.

Among the diverse lineup of the festival, there are many incredible performances set to immerse audiences in the vibrant world of piping. Here are 10 stand-out events from the festival’s 10 days not to be missed.

1. Piping Live! Big Band 

The Piping Live! Big Band, a fan-favourite event, returns for its sixth showcase at this year’s festival. Kicking off at noon on Monday 14 August, 150 pipers will gather in Glasgow, ranging from young learners on chanters to seasoned professionals and parade through the streets playing their instruments in unison.

The inclusive event invites participants of all ages who play practice chanters, bagpipes, snare, bass, tenor drums, or serve as drum majors. The Big Band will embark on a new route for 2023, starting from Mansefield Park in Partick, parading through Glasgow’s streets, and culminating with a salute to the Chieftain outside the iconic Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

•The Piping Live Big Band in 2022

2. Ceol Nua 

Ceol Nua will take to Glasgow’s Nice n Sleazy on Monday 14 August, for a night of innovative and avant-garde piping. Fraser Fifield, Graeme Stephen, and Estonian piper Caatlin Magi will take to the stage, presenting new music that pushes the boundaries of traditional sounds. 

An over 18s event at £17.50 per ticket, this promises to be a vibrant evening of original compositions that appeal to both the connoisseurs and those eager to explore new dimensions of piping music.

3. Canntaireachd

Join in a celebration of Gaelic song and piping’s beautifully intertwined roots with the remarkable event Canntaireachd. Taking place at The National Piping Centre on Tuesday 15 August, this exciting collaboration brings together the talents of multi-award-winning singers and pipers, including Kathleen MacInnes, Kim Carnie, Brìghde Chaimbeul and Ailis Sutherland, along with the incredible collective, Staran. 

With a shared passion for preserving and exploring the deep relationship between piping and Gaelic song, Canntaireachd embarks on a journey to breathe new life into centuries-old melodies, tunes, and captivating stories. Infusing their performances with fresh, innovative material, this unique project promises to be a truly unforgettable female-led celebration of Scotland’s rich musical heritage.

4. Learn@Live! 

The Learn@Live! workshop series returns this year with three days dedicated to different piping traditions. These sessions will provide attendees with valuable insights into various piping techniques and styles, enriching their overall understanding of various ancient art forms.

Held at The National Piping Centre and costing just £5 a ticket, this year’s workshops will cover Northumbrian Piping on Tuesday 15 August, Uilleann Piping on Wednesday 16 August and Simple Approaches to Performance of an MSR on Thursday 17 August. 

5. Lowland and Border Pipers’ Society presents inB

inB are set to enchant audiences at The National Piping Centre on Wednesday 16 August with their beautiful harmonies and unique tonal textures. This exciting collaboration celebrates the rich sounds of the Uilleann pipes and Scottish smallpipes, all pitched in the key of B. 

Award-winning Brighde Chaimbeul and Fin Moore from Scotland, along with Ireland’s Louise Mulcahy and Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn, create a rich sonic tapestry as they perform together, paying homage to the historical and musical ties between the musicians’ two home countries. 

6. The Street Café

Located at The National Piping Centre on McPhater Street, The Street Café is back for 2023, hosting a range of events showcasing piping and traditional music acts. 

Open to everyone from 10.15am on the festival’s Monday to Friday, this year’s gatherings promise an exciting array of entertainment, from book signings with celebrated artist Malin Makes Music on Monday, to performances from emerging talent Tarran on Wednesday and multi-instrumentalists Kenneth I MacKenzie and Will Marshall on Friday. 

Free to attend, The Street Café offers a brilliant setting to meet friends, eat, drink and soak up the brilliant atmosphere of the festival.

•Malin Makes Music. Photo by Martin Shields

7. Gig in the Gallery

Piping Live! returns to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum this year with a series of free-to-attend concerts featuring international performers. From the Armagh Pipers Club showcasing the traditions of Irish music, to Estonian duo Duo Cätlin and Marko Mägi performing the Estonian bagpipes and jawharp, each gig promises an extraordinary showcase of talent.

 8. Trade Fair

The Piping Live! Trade Fair returns to the schedule for 2023, with a fantastic line up of crafters, including pipe makers and piping goods, as well as books, beautiful crafts and much more. Held at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Thursday 17 August, the Trade Fair is an excellent opportunity for businesses to network, sell, and organise meetings with industry contacts and international visitors attending Piping Live! Free to attend, this is a bustling hub with a community atmosphere, where exhibitors can showcase their products and services to an eager audience.

9. Friday Night Folk: Project Smok and Eryn Rae

The annual Friday Night Folk gig will open the final weekend of Piping Live! with the progressive neo-trad trio Project Smok performing at Stereo. Known for their ability to effortlessly blend trad music with contemporary new-age pop influences, Project Smok are at their most comfortable pushing boundaries.

Supporting the celebrated group will be former BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician Eryn Rae and her band, promising an unforgettable night of top-notch traditional music.

•Project Smok

10. Pipe Idol

The eagerly anticipated Pipe Idol competition is back for 2023, featuring the best young pipers from around the world. The festival’s Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will see four competitors showcase their skills in separate heats, and the winner from each will advance to the grand finale at The National Piping Centre’s auditorium on Thursday 17 August.  The heats, held at The Street Café, are free to attend, while tickets for the final are £5.

Tickets and more information on where and when each performance is happening are available at www.pipinglive.co.uk.