Glasgow tunes up for Scotland’s biggest week of bagpipes in August

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L-R Renowned bagpiper and BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2023 finalist Ailis Sutherland and Croft No. Five drummer, Paul Jennings. Renowned bagpiper and BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2023 finalist Ailis Sutherland,

Piping Live! festival and the World Pipe Band Championships get set for summer of sound

Glasgow is set to host Scotland’s biggest week of bagpipes this summer, with the return of Piping Live! from Saturday 10th – Sunday 18th August, and The World Pipe Band Championships on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th August.

The world’s biggest piping festival, Piping Live! attracts over 30,000 attendees to Glasgow each year, with an eclectic programme of events for pipers and music lovers alike to be held at venues across the city.

From left: Glasgow Skye piper Emma Hill, Croft No. Five drummer Paul Jennings, BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2023 finalist Ailis Sutherland, and piper, composer and teacher John Mulhearn, gathered to promote Piping Live! 2024

Run by the National Piping Centre and now in its 21st year, the festival will have lively concerts, captivating recitals, hard-fought competitions, engaging workshops and energetic sessions involving 700 musicians on the musical menu across its nine days, including a swathe of free and ticketed events.

Presale tickets will be available from 12noon, Tuesday 14th May to the Piping Live! mailing list, with general tickets on sale from 10am, Friday 17th May at www.pipinglive.co.uk.

General tickets for The World Pipe Band Championships 2024 – which takes place on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th August – go on sale at 10am on Tuesday 14th May and are available at www.theworlds.co.uk. (Grade 1 tickets will be released at a later date.)

The World Pipe Band Championships – a major event which Glasgow first hosted in 1948 and the city has staged every year since 1986 – attracts thousands of pipers and drummers from all over the world to compete in the ultimate ‘battle of the bands’.

Organised on behalf of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association by Glasgow Life – the charity which delivers culture and sport in Glasgow.

Social media sensation Ally Crowley-Duncan, known online as Piper Ally with a combined following of over 4 million for her innovative piping content, will be flying in to take part in Piping Live!. Originally from New York, Ally will be performing and hosting a Q&A as part of the Street Cafe, taking part in the Piping Live! Big Band, and acting as a secret judge in competitions across the week.

Ally the Piper, said: “Being part of Piping Live! is like standing on the grandest stage of bagpipe mastery. It’s where the world’s finest gather to showcase their talents and where every note carries the weight of centuries of tradition. To be invited back to this world-renowned festival is an amazing moment for me in my musical journey and I can’t wait to share the experiences I have with all of my followers. Even though my career in bagpiping largely exists outside of the traditional, I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to stay connected to the community, and immerse myself once again in the atmosphere of Piping Live! and I am really looking forward to being back in the beautiful country of Scotland and reconnecting with old friends, having first taken part with the Scotia Glenville Pipe Band (now the Capital District Youth Pipe Band) in 2012.”

The spectacular sonic week will get formally underway on Monday 12th August with the iconic Piping Live! Big Band welcoming pipers and drummers of all ages and abilities to join the festival’s mass participation event, filling the city centre streets with music as they march from Mansfield Park in Partick to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. 

•The Piping Live! Big Band 2023

That evening, Sauchiehall Street venue Nice N Sleazy will host Ceol Nua, Piping Live!’s progressive avant garde piping night, showcasing boundary pushing performances in the heart of the city and featuring The Sólàs Collective and Bede Patterson.

Buchanan Street will be awash with the sound of pipes from Monday 12th – Thursday 15th August, with free, open air performances by pipe bands from across the globe taking place each day. Including sets from the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo Pipes and Drums, the City of Angels Pipe Band from LA, and Old Scotch Pipes and Drums from Australia, these performances offer a fantastic chance to experience world-class piping in the bustling heart of the city centre.

In Glasgow’s West End, the iconic Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum will host a recital by an amazing international artist each day of the festival at 2pm, showcasing bagpiping traditions from around the world in the breathtaking Centre Hall.

•Anna Smart’s music captivated a large audience in Kelvingrove in 2023

On Tuesday 13th August, the International Quartet Competition, sponsored by R.T Shepherd and Son, will see top pipe bands send four of their best pipers to compete for the esteemed title at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s Strathclyde Suite. Meanwhile over in Edinburgh, the Scots Guards Club will host a night of International Piping with the Eagle Pipers Society.

•People’s Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia were the winners of the International Quartet Competition 2023

The Gordon Duncan Memorial Piping Competition will move into a new midweek slot for 2024, taking place at The National Piping Centre Auditorium in the afternoon of Wednesday 14th August. Supported by the Gordon Duncan Memorial Trust, the prestigious competition sees four pipers compete by playing Scottish, Irish and Breton music in celebration of the life of piping legend Gordon Duncan.

•Anna Smart, Alastair Donaghy, Austin Diepenhorst, Enora Morice with Ian Duncan in 2023

The Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies Memorial Recital Challenge returns on Thursday 15th August, when five top pipers each perform a recital of their favourite tunes. Going head to head at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s Strathclyde Suite will be Callum Beaumont, Alex Gandy, Matt MacIsaac, Angus MacColl and 2023 champion Stuart Liddell.

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•Callum Beaumont, Sarah Muir, Matt MacIsaac, Angus MacColl, Stuart Liddell, sponsor Stuart McCallum and MC John Wilson in 2023

Iconic folk fusion band Croft No. Five will get the weekend started in spectacular style on Friday 16th August when they perform a specially created set with celebrated piper Ailis Sutherland. John Mulhearn’s The Pipe Factory will open the night with a performance that will explore the sonic possibilities of the pipes. This unique night of entertainment will take place at Saint Luke’s – a new venue for the festival this year.

The popular Street Cafe returns for 2024, running from midday each day at the National Piping Centre, McPhater Street with an array of emerging talent, international styles of bagpipes, live podcasts, pipe band practices and showcases, all free to attend.

•The Big Street Cafe Session in 2023

The week will come to a fitting crescendo with The World Pipe Band Championships at the iconic Glasgow Green on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th August. 

This year’s ‘Worlds’ promises another fiercely-fought competition involving the very best pipe bands on the planet.

Finlay MacDonald, Artistic Director for Piping Live!, said: “We are proud and excited to be able to bring the 21st edition of Piping Live! To the city of Glasgow. We are thankful to our supporters, performers, participants and funders who have continued to support this event through some challenging times for the creative industries.

“As the popularity of piping and traditional music continues to grow and thrive, we have created a diverse, inclusive and engaging programme, showcasing the breadth and depth of the piping traditions whilst celebrating world, indigenous and modern traditional music. There are opportunities for pipers of all levels and ages, whether in competitions, at our Big Band event, or for those who fancy a go, our come and Try Sessions. You don’t have to be a piper to enjoy and take part in Piping Live!, Piping is for everyone and we look forward to bringing the sound of the pipes to the streets of Glasgow.”

Glasgow Life Chair and Glasgow City Council Convenor for Culture, Sport and International Relations, Bailie Annette Christie, said: “As a UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow has a great international reputation as a fantastic destination for lovers of all types of music, and there’s certainly nowhere better to enjoy world-class piping. 

“With the city hosting both the world’s biggest piping festival and the pinnacle of the global piping competitive calendar, Glasgow is looking forward to resounding with our national instrument’s very best talent in August.

“Celebrating Scotland’s culture and music and providing fantastic entertainment, Piping Live! and the Worlds are firmly established highlights of the city’s summer events programme. Attracting thousands of pipers and spectators, boosting Glasgow’s visitor economy and further enhancing its international profile, these much-loved events are extremely important to our city.  

“We are therefore proud to continue our support of these outstanding piping extravaganzas, and look forward to welcoming audiences from near and far to enjoy the incredible experience the two events offer.” 

Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events at VisitScotland, said: “Piping events in Scotland offer the perfect fusion of both traditional and contemporary culture, evoking a deep sense of pride for both locals and enthusiasts worldwide. They play an important role in our communities, enabling us all to connect, enjoy and share memorable experiences.”  

•Pipe Major Ross Harvey of Peoples Ford Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia winning the Worlds for the first time in 2023 with Jackie Bird

“Both Piping Live! and The World Pipe Band Championships offer incredible displays of talent, skill and expression, drawing pipers and audiences from far and wide.   Glasgow’s renowned warm welcome and vibrant venues provide the perfect stage for two of the city’s most cherished summer events, and further strengthen Scotland’s position as a world-leading events destination.”

Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association Chief Executive, Colin Mulhern, said: “Last year’s spectacular World Pipe Band Championships, which attracted a fantastic attendance from bands from almost every corner of the globe as well as spectators from near and far, demonstrated just how much this iconic event means to the international piping community, and how much interest there is in the music of Scotland’s national instrument.

“This year’s ‘Worlds’ promises another superb showcase of piping and drumming, and – judging from the number and very strong contingent of bands already signed up – we can look forward to an incredible, hard-fought contest. We’re expecting a tremendous turn-out at Glasgow Green on Friday 16th and Saturday 17thAugust, so are urging everyone planning to attend not to delay in booking their tickets so they don’t miss out on a truly unforgettable experience.”

Piping Live! 2024 takes place from Saturday 10th – Sunday 18th August. Tickets and more information is available at www.pipinglive.co.uk

The World Pipe Band Championships take place on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th August. General tickets for The World Pipe Band Championships 2024 go on sale at 10am today, 14 May, and are available from www.theworlds.co.uk

Piping Live! programme highlights

Monday 12th August

●      R.G Hardie & Co. Masters Solo Piping Competition, The National Piping Centre

●      Ceol Nua, Nice N Sleazy

●      Pipe Bands, Buchanan Street

Tuesday 13th August

●      International Quartet Competition, Strathclyde Suite at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall

●      Lunchtime Recital

●      Pipe Bands, Buchanan Street

●      Late Night Session, The National Piping Centre

●      International Piping with the Eagle Pipers Society, Scots Guards Club, Edinburgh

Wednesday 14th August

●      Gordon Duncan Memorial Piping Competition, The National Piping Centre

●      Lunchtime Recital

●      Pipe Bands, Buchanan Street

●      Late Night Session, The National Piping Centre

Thursday 15th August

●      Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies Memorial Recital Challenge, Strathclyde Suite at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 

●      Lunchtime Recital

●      Pipe Bands, Buchanan Street

●      Late Night Session, The National Piping Centre

Friday 16th August

●      Croft No. Five feat. Ailis Sutherland with The Pipe Factory, St Luke’s

●      Big Street Cafe Session, The National Piping Centre

Recurring throughout the festival

●      The Street Café on McPhater Street, every day from midday and free to attend, features an array of emerging talent, international styles of bagpipes, live podcasts, and pipe band practice.

●      The National Piping Centre Museum Tours, from Monday to Friday by Professor Hugh Cheape; Come and Try Sessions enabling attendees to try their hand at the bagpipes and beginner instrument the practice chanter; Gaelic Taster Sessions run by South Uist’s Ceolas.

●      Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, daily 2pm recitals featuring international artists showcasing bagpiping traditions from around the world.

●      Lunchtime Recitals at The National Piping Centre on Tuesday 13th, Wednesday 14th and Thursday 15thAugust, with performances from talented pipers including Callum Beaumont, the current Glenfiddich Piping Champion, and renowned recording artist / reedmaker James Duncan MacKenzie.