Pipers to play with other instrumentalists for first time


PIPERS and drummers will play with other instrumentalists at one of Scotland’s biggest pipe band competitions – for the first time in the country’s history.

The spectacle, which will take place at the North Berwick Highland Games this weekend, will see pipers compete alongside guitarists, trumpets and trombones.

It is expected to send shockwaves through traditional piping circles, where any deviation from standard formats is frowned upon.

Children playing alongside other instrumentalists at the school's Championships this year
Children playing alongside other instrumentalists at the school’s Championships this year


But organisers hope to “shake up” the piping world with the freestyle showcase.

Young pipers and other instrumentalists already play together at The Championships – the world’s biggest schools piping event held each March in Edinburgh.

But this will be the first time adults are able to perform alongside other musical instruments.

Games organiser Patrick Gascoigne said: “We aim to shake up the piping world with our freestyle showcase.

“It has proved immensely popular at our schools’ championships and could bring a whole new audience to adult pipe band events.”

The Championships was set up to promote piping in state schools, where the vast majority of Scotland’s pupils do not have the opportunity to learn pipes and drums on the same basis as other instruments.


Mr Gascoigne said: “It is absurd that across Scotland our young people are denied the chance to learn the country’s national instrument in school.

“Lots of parent groups in many parts of the country are working hard to redress this imbalance but for far too many of our young people the opportunity is denied because local councils say they have no money or there is no demand.

“However we have proved there is huge demand and have projects running in 16 different areas to help ensure our heritage is passed on.”

Bands from Preston Lodge High School in Prestonpans, Davidson’s Mains Schools in Edinburgh, and the Feis Rois schools ensemble from the highlands will be performing at the games on Saturday.

Robert Wallace, editor of the Piping Press blog and Pipe Band Magazine said: “Anything which encourages youngsters and the public to enjoy piping has to be welcomed.

“It was not so long ago that playing pipes with other instruments was frowned on. Provided they do not divert young pipers away from their core studies, freestyle events are to be heartily welcomed.”

At this year’s schools’ championships 16 pipe bands teamed up with other instruments to compete against each other.

Mr Gascoigne said: “Rather than detracting from the mainstream pipe band competition it really adds to the day and wowed the audience, giving a great afternoon’s entertainment.

“We believe that anything that gets pipes and drums into the classroom is to be welcomed and encouraged – even if it does upset a few traditionalists.”