Q6. How many pipe bands have you played with over the years?
Five. The very first was the band my father ran and it was called the Coppercliff Highlanders Cadet Pipe Band. There were no grades back then but if there were they would likely be grade 5 or grade 4.
Q7. What qualities does a pipe major have to have?
A. You’ve got to be a very good player, first and foremost. You also need the patience of a saint. You have to administer psychological counselling to the wounded egos that you'd deal with. Most good pipers find their way to a leadership style that works for them. The days of the screaming bullying pipe major have long since gone and I was never one of those in the first place.
Q8. How many times have you been to Scotland?
A. I cant count. It’s between 70 and 80 times. It’s always related to piping.
Q9. Do you have a favourite part of Scotland to visit?
A. Everything about Scotland is wonderful. Glasgow is wonderful, Edinburgh is great. The lowlands, where my father was from, is incredible and the western Highlands are breathtakingly beautiful.
Q10. You’ve competed in the World Pipe Band Championships in Edinburgh a number of times. Do you have a favourite memory from there?
A. Of course. Winning it in 1987. It changed the course of pipe band history forever. We were the first non-Scottish band to win the world championship at the Grade 1 level. I think it’s been won 18 or 19 times since by Grade 1 bands outside Scotland. Our win opened the door for judges to be more open-minded and say “God almighty, these guys can really play.” We competed against a dozen other bands back in 1987 and it was pouring buckets of rain the entire time. Today there are at least two dozen competing at the Grade 1 level.
Q11. You gave up being pipe major of the 78th Frasers. How come?
A. I stepped away in 2010. My reasons for doing so are detailed in great particularity in my memoirs.
Q12. Ah yes. Your memoirs are coming out and will be available at the Highland Games.When did you start writing them and what’s the name of the book?
A. The first note of first draft is dated January, 2011, when I was on vacation in Barbados. So this was a long time coming. The title is Preposterous: Tales to Follow. I have a dear friend in piping who is in love with Italy, as Lilian (my wife) and I are. We went on a trip to Italy and my friend asked how it went and I replied “Preposterous: Tales to Follow” and he told me that should be the title. After all, I was the son of a coal miner and I somehow managed on a career in law and a great passion for piping and then to have I had the temerity to pen a memoir. The whole thing is not the normal run of events and I would call that preposterous.
Q13. How long is the book and what does it cover?
A. 276 pages. It covers pretty much the entire arc of my life. From the very get-go up until the present time. There’s one chapter called Piping Guys I Have Known and it details all the wonderful, difficult, and funny characters you meet in piping and that was a lot of fun to write. Some sections weren’t all that fun though. I’ve had a lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression. I don’t have a billboard to talk about it but I’m not ashamed about it because it’s a disorder and it’s completely outside of my control.
Q14. What would you say to people about depression?
A. Depression isn’t just for losers. You can’t just pull yourself up. People would say to me that I have a beautiful wife, a successful law practice and a great piping career and they’d say “just get on with it.” But the thing is you can’t pull yourself together. It’s a condition that needs to be treated and I am grateful that my doctor has found med-
ication that works for me.
Q15. Will you be selling the book at the Games?
A. Yes, I hope they’ll have a table set up for me so I can sign the book and maybe they’ll bring me some glasses of Chardonnay.
Q16. Advice to young people starting in piping?
A. You’d better make sure you have a natural musical ability and a natural physical aptitude with your hands. Once you’ve got that, you need great instruction. Then you need to realize that great music will sustain you forever. I’m a case in
point. I’m 75 and I’m still playing at a grade 1 level.
Q17. Outside of piping, do you have any other passions?
A. Physical fitness. I’ve spent entire life running, playing squash, weight lifting cycling.
Q. 18. Do you have any favourite movies or TV shows?
A. I was a fanatic for Breaking Bad. And if I’m thinking foolish, Blazing Saddles rises to the top of the movie list. If I’m thinking dark and heavy and great moviemaking, the first two Godfather movies qualify.
Q19. If you were a Highland Game athlete, what would be your specialty?
A. Cycling. They do that in Scotland. They just don't do it at the Canadian Highland Games and I won’t say anything more about that.
Q20. How did you feel about being asked to be guest of honour?
A. Maxville Games are pinnacle of Highland Games competition in Ontario and perhaps all of Canada. Being asked to be the guest of honour in Maxville, which is the pinnacle of small town rural Ontario, is an amazing gift.
PREPOSTEROUS, Mr. Livingstone’s Memoir