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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 21/08/2023

The world renowned Piping Live! festival celebrated a successful 20th edition last week. The sounds of piping and traditional music filled Glasgow's streets and venues. There were around 30,000 attendees at 127 performances. The event involved over 900 musicians and participants.

The 2023 festival closed last night with a spectacular sold out concert. This perfectly rounded off a jam-packed eight days. The schedule included live performances, free events, signings, recitals, competitions, workshops and more.

The closing concert welcomed some festival favourites to The National Piping Centre stage. This included the hugely talented multi-instrumentalists Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton. The duo have been involved with Piping Live! since its earliest days.

Their dynamic performance wowed audiences. They delivered a thrilling and passionate set filled with energy. Uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson and celebrated guitarist Innes Watson joined them. Jarlath is a veteran of the inaugural Piping Live! festival. These artists brought the final showcase of the festival to a spectacular close.

I am delighted that EventScotland could support Piping Live! in delivering their 20th edition. The festivities were certainly a fitting celebration of this milestone event with a huge number of attendees and musicians enjoying the sound of the pipes across the city. Uniquely Scottish events like this can only strengthen the country’s position as a world-leading events destination and Glasgow once again provided the perfect stage for this fantastic showcase of music, culture and tradition.

Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events

Pipers in matching t-shirts marching through a city while playing

The Piping Live! 2023 Big Band marching through Glasgow (credit: Piping Live!) 

As we reflect on the success of the 20th edition of Piping Live!, all of us at The National Piping Centre have been overwhelmed by attendees’ enthusiasm, passion and love for the national instrument of Scotland. We’ve been able to nurture and respect piping’s traditional roots, while pushing the boundaries and championing experimental and contemporary music within the global scene. The festival's ability to draw such a diverse crowd year on year is a testament to the enduring appeal of piping, its rich musical heritage and the huge amount of talent we have within the genre.

We are so grateful to every individual who played a role in making this milestone event such a resounding success. From the talented performers who graced stages and streets across Glasgow, to the dedicated organisers and volunteers who worked behind the scenes, this celebration would not have been possible without your collective effort. To welcome 30,000 attendees was fantastic.

We look forward to forging new connections and horizons with future editions of Piping Live! as we continue to see a sense of unity and appreciation for an art form that will inspire generations to come.

Finlay MacDonald, Artistic Director for Piping Live!

Piping leaning back as he performs on stage with a band

Band performing at Piping Live! 2023 (credit: Piping Live!)

The wealth of piping events that the city has hosted over the past ten days has been outstanding in both quality and variety. They have showcased superb talent and the passion of pipers playing at all levels of skill across all genres of music – proving that there is no better place than Glasgow to celebrate Scotland’s national instrument.

The 20th anniversary of Piping Live! delivered a vibrant and inclusive programme that delighted audiences from near and far. From parades and performances to practise sessions, Piping Live! shone the spotlight on how versatile the pipes are. This special anniversary of the festival filled our streets and venues with inspirational sounds that built up a wonderful atmosphere in the city for The 2023 World Pipe Band Championships. The spectacular event, which was first held here 75 years ago, highlighted just how expansive and far-reaching is the interest in and appeal of piping. This year’s World Pipe Band Championships attracted 190 competing bands from 15 countries and an audience on Glasgow Green of around 35,000. Both the major contest and Piping Live! demonstrated why Glasgow is internationally renowned for piping and why piping is so important to the city.

Bailie Annette Christie, Glasgow Life Chair and City Convenor for Culture, Sport and International Relations

A cultural highlight

Piping Live! has consistently maintained its reputation as the world’s largest piping festival. This year marked two decades at the heart of Scotland’s cultural calendar.

Some of the best acts from Scotland’s piping and folk music scenes took to stages across the eight-day event. An incredible 59% of the programming was free-to-attend.

The Street Café outside The National Piping Centre hosted daily gatherings. This gave piping fans the chance to sample some delicious food and drink while enjoying the free entertainment. This included everything from music sessions to book signings.

Stand out performances

A performance from 2022 Young Musician of the Year finalist Malin Makes Music was another highlight. Scottish and Irish traditional music outfit inB, and the avant guard Ceol Nua concert, also returned for its second year. This time it featured Fraser Fifield, Graeme Stephen and Estonian piper and jaw harp player Catlin Magi. Catlin used loop pedals to create an incredible soundscape.

Project Smok delighted crowds at Stereo with their Friday Night Folk gig. They effortlessly blended traditional folk music with contemporary new-age pop influences. The trio were joined by former BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician Eryn Rae and her band.

Brand new collaborative event Canntaireachd thrilled audiences with a spellbinding set of music. This intertwined Gaelic song with Scottish piping in a sold out concert. This all-female performance brought together the talents of multi-award-winning singers and pipers. This included Kathleen MacInnes, Kim Carnie, Brìghde Chaimbeul and Ailis Sutherland. Staran, the incredible collective, joined them and left crowds in awe.

Serious competition amongst the music

Competition was fierce throughout the week. The best competing pipers of this generation battled it out for coveted trophies and medals.

Bruce Gandy won this year’s Overall Prize at the Masters Solo Piping Competition (Piobaireachd). Alasdair Henderson took the crown at The Masters Solo Piping Competition (March, Strathspey and Reel). People's Ford Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia won The International Quartet Competition.

Alastair Donaghy won the internationally renowned Gordon Duncan Memorial Piping Competition. Jean-Sébastien Gamache was crowned CLASP overall Grade 1 winner in the CLASP World Amateur Solo Piping Competition. John Nevans was CLASP overall Grade 2 winner and Kathryn Todd was CLASP overall Grade 3 winner.

Plans for 2024

Piping Live! will return next year from 10 - 18 August 2024. The World Pipe Band Championships will take place on 16 - 17 August 2024.

Visit the official Piping Live! website for more information on upcoming events.

Piping Live! is a charity. Visit the support us page on the Piping Live! website to make donations and support its world-class programming in the future.

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