SCOTS Heritage Magazine - - Contents -

The pipes are hav­ing a rock­ing Re­nais­sance in the trad mu­sic scene

Blaz­ing bag­pipes, loud and proud with daz­zling lights, fiery fid­dles and a full rock back­line, The Scott Wood Band opened this year’s Scots Trad Mu­sic Awards with an elec­tric per­for­mance that rocked the Caird Hall stage in Dundee.

Now in its thir­teenth year, the Scots Trad Mu­sic Awards on the first Satur­day in De­cem­ber were an­other roar­ing suc­cess, hon­our­ing the very best of our Scot­tish mu­si­cians for their con­tri­bu­tion to pre­serv­ing our tra­di­tional mu­sic and cul­ture. Hav­ing at­tended be­fore as a per­former, win­ner, au­di­ence mem­ber and em­cee, it was a plea­sure to re­turn now as a spon­sor and to present The Glen­tur­ret Whisky Pipe Band of the Year award to North La­nark­shire Schools Pipe Band.

The rous­ing per­for­mances of The Scott Wood Band and the new all-star pip­ing group Tryst demon­strated how in­te­grated pip­ing now is within our tra­di­tional mu­sic scene in Scot­land. Twenty years ago, there were a few pipers play­ing with folk groups such as The Bat­tle­field Band and The Tan­nahill Weavers but on the whole pipers kept to their pip­ing scene of pipe bands and pi­obaireachd com­pe­ti­tions, cov­et­ing Gold Medals as recog­ni­tion for mu­si­cal prow­ess.

Gen­er­ally, bag­pipes were still seen as a novelty in­stru­ment to be used in pa­rades and only to be played when the player was suit­ably dressed in full High­land at­tire with ex­tra points be­ing given for the best spor­ran! Although very much in tune with them­selves, the pipes weren’t in tune with other in­stru­ments in the stan­dard­ised west­ern tun­ing/con­cert pitch, so play­ing along with pi­anos and brass could be painful to lis­ten to for those with an at­tuned ear. Even the fid­dlers and box play­ers who en­joyed pipe mu­sic and bor­rowed tunes heav­ily from the pip­ing reper­toire, weren’t al­ways par­tic­u­larly wel­com­ing to pipers want­ing to join in at mu­sic ses­sions.

It’s all changed now – bag­pipes are wel­come. Other mu­si­cians have the ut­most re­spect for bag­pipes and bag­pipers, and the most pro­gres­sive mu­sic groups in Celtic mu­sic have var­i­ous types of bag­pipes at the front of their sound. I’m a mas­sive fan of The Treach­er­ous Or­ches­tra, Rura, Sk­er­ryvore, Man­ran and of course The Scott Wood Band, and would urge you to see them should they be ap­pear­ing some­where near you.

The Treach­er­ous Or­ches­tra are the ul­ti­mate trad/ folk su­per­group fea­tur­ing top pipers Ross Ainslie and Ali Hut­ton with some of the best mu­si­cians Scot­land has to of­fer – a fu­sion be­tween high-en­ergy folk mu­sic and techno dance that whips young crowds into frenzy. Rura are ex­tremely clever mu­si­cians with in­tel­li­gent ar­range­ments where Steven Blake’s pipes sit seam­lessly as an ac­com­pa­ni­ment to great songs. Sk­er­ryvore, boast­ing pipes, an ac­cor­dion and fid­dle, are now main­stream, sell­ing

out venues world­wide and are this year’s win­ners of Live Act of the Year at the Trad Awards. Man­ran are the new Gaelic boy­band and Scott Wood is tak­ing the bag­pipes to a dif­fer­ent level al­to­gether with a stage show that’s destined for Madi­son Square Gar­den. The pip­ing world has never been so vi­brant and the pipes have never been so cool.

‘How did this hap­pen?’ I hear you say. Well I be­lieve The Na­tional Pip­ing Cen­tre in Glas­gow is very much at the heart of this pro­gres­sion in pip­ing. In par­tic­u­lar, their part­ner­ship with the Royal Con­ser­va­toire of Scot­land has given young pipers the op­por­tu­nity to flour­ish as skilled mu­si­cians im­mersed in all gen­res and styles of mu­sic and part of a melt­ing pot of great mu­sic in Glas­gow.

This new-found un­der­stand­ing of mu­sic has spread through pipers like wild­fire and now many pipers across the world are ca­pa­ble of play­ing in tune with other in­stru­ments and all bag­pipe man- ufac­tur­ers are mak­ing chanters and reeds specif­i­cally to do so. I have a dream that one day we’ll hear bag­pipes per­form­ing all va­ri­eties of mu­sic on our ra­dios as fre­quently as we hear gui­tars.

Cel­e­brat­ing 20 years of pro­mot­ing pip­ing this year, The Na­tional Pip­ing Cen­tre is also re­spon­si­ble for the for­ma­tion of The Na­tional Youth Pipe Band of Scot­land and the ex­cel­lent Pip­ing Live! fes­ti­val based around the World Pipe Band Cham­pi­onships held in Glas­gow ev­ery Au­gust. How very fit­ting that the win­ner of Event of the Year at the Scots Trad Mu­sic Awards was in­deed Pip­ing Live!

To the Na­tional Pip­ing Cen­tre, Slainté Mhath and Lang May Yer Lum Reek!

Stu­art Cas­sells BA Scot­tish Mu­sic – Pip­ing, BBC Young Tra­di­tional Mu­si­cian of the Year 2005, founder and orig­i­nal Mu­si­cal Di­rec­tor of The Red Hot Chilli Pipers.

The pip­ing world has never been so vi­brant and the pipes have never been so cool No longer just for out­doors, pipes are tuned in and rock­ing with the best of the trad groups Words Stu­art Cas­sells

Top left & cen­tre right: New all-star pip­ing group Tryst. Top right & bot­tom left: The Scott Wood Band open­ing the Scots Trad Mu­sic Awards. Far right: Stu­art pre­sent­ing the Glen­tur­ret Whisky Pipe Band of the Year award which went to North La­nark­shire Schools Pipe Band.

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