WHAT’S THE STORY?

PIPERS from all over the world are flying into Scotland as the biggest piping festival on the planet begins a week long celebration.

Last year 41,000 people flocked to Piping Live! Glasgow International Piping Festival, generating £2.3m for the city’s economy. This year equivalent numbers are expected to attend the 200 events from today until August 13.

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International acts from countries such as Estonia, Argentina, Canada, the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Australia and Italy will perform in various venues across the city in the run up to the World Pipe Band Championships this weekend.

Highlights will be the fiercely contested Master Solo, International Quartet and Pipe Idol competitions and acts include well-known names like the Peatbog Faeries, Tejedo and the Battlefield Band, who are closing this year’s festival on Sunday.

Based on the Isle of Skye, the Peatbog Faeries are one of Scotland’s best-known names in contemporary folk music. Last year saw their 25th anniversary, and in June the band were presented with the Landmark award for their contribution to Scottish music by Hands Up For Trad. Spanish trio Tejedo will be playing alongside them on Friday.

WHAT ELSE IS ON?

CLOSING the festival are the Battlefield Band and it is appropriate the band have top billing as they have done much to fuel the Scottish cultural scene, particularly with regard to piping.

“It’s great that Piping Live! has been connected to the World Pipe Band Championships,” said manager Robin Morton. “Now the championships are a huge event but when I first came to Glasgow in 1971, I was amazed they were so low key. The pipes were still considered a bit of a joke by many in Scotland but now they are not and it was bands like the Battlefield Band that did a lot to improve the situation.

“The Battlefield Band was one of the first to start using bagpipes. Now you are tripping over bands with pipes but back then it was very unusual. You still get some pipers not happy about bands like the Battlefield Band but they are in the minority. “It’s great the band are closing Piping Live! because they are one of originators of that whole thing.”

HOW DID IT ALL BEGIN?

THE Battlefield Band has been a bedrock of talent for over four decades now and it is fair to say they are regarded as an institution when it comes to Scottish traditional music.

Named after the Glasgow suburb of Battlefield, where the group was formed by four student friends in 1969, they have been on the world’s roads for nearly 50 years, pioneering many new directions which others have followed.

Their seamless fusion of ancient and contemporary music and song has continually evolved, inspired by their heritage and fired by the strength and vibrancy of today’s Scottish cultural scene, which they have done much to create.

Battlefield Band’s Room Enough For All was awarded Album of the Year at the MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards in 2013, making it the third time the band have been recognised by the awards, having previously been awarded Best Live Act at the inaugural awards ceremony in 2003 and Scottish Folk Band of the Year in 2011.

During the years there have been many line-up changes but these have taken place smoothly and in an organic way.

WHO ARE THEY?

AT the moment the line-up consists of Kieran Munnelly a flute player/singer/bodhran beater from the west of Ireland, piper Mike Katz, fiddler Alasdair White and guitarist and singer Sean O’Donnell from Northern Ireland.

“The members are spread all over the world so getting them together is like getting the Beatles together except not for the same money,” said Morton wryly.

“Mike is American but lives in Edinburgh and is married to a Scot from the Black Isle while Alasdair is from Lewis and has just got his Green Card as he is married to an American. He was worried he wouldn’t get the card when Trump got in but then Trump’s mother was from Lewis so maybe he used his Gaelic influence. He happened to be coming home which is why we are doing the gig.”

Morton has been managing and producing the band since 1980 after leaving Boys of the Lough.

He recently chose 19 of his favourite tracks all featuring individuals who have played with the band for a Producer’s Choice album which is winning great reviews.

“The band have made something like 40 albums — it’s amazing actually,” said Morton. They play on Sunday evening at the National Piping Centre.

ANY OTHER HIGHLIGHTS?

MIKE Katz is also taking part in this year’s Lowland and Borders Pipers’ Society Concert on Wednesday alongside multi-instrumentalist Fraser Fifield, and Curmudgeon which consists of Laurie Brett on guitar and vocals, Donald Gorman playing fiddle and mandola and Andrew Macintyre on Scottish smallpipes and whistles.

Also playing will be Harta, a new trio from Skye and Lochalsh who play an intriguing mix of old Scottish melodies and dance tunes alongside music drawn from the Nordic traditions. Christine Martin plays nyckelharpa, Ross Calderwood plays smallpipes, and Jack Evans plays guitar, bouzouki, and whistles. As well as being a musician and music teacher, Martin runs the music publishing house Taigh na Teud, and has produced many popular and successful books of traditional music. Calderwood is an experienced piper but also a highly regarded pipe maker based in Balmacara. He uses native Scottish woods to create his pipes, which he sells all over the world.

The Pipe Major Alasdair Gillies Memorial Recital Challenge at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall is also certain to be a popular event after selling out last year. At this event, four top pipers are pitted against each other as they take to the stage to perform a medley of their favourite tunes. Confirmed to play this year are returning 2016 Champion Stuart Liddell along with Angus MacColl, Finlay Johnston and Ian K MacDonald.

For more information on the above and other piping-related events go to https://pipinglive.co.uk/