2024 – A Year in Piping & Drumming

Last year was a special year, with so many piping and drumming events around the world back to full strength, with musicians travelling across the world to perform, compete and see friends again. Looking ahead to 2024, we are sure that this year there will be more of the same!

The first piping and drumming event of the new year happens in the Southern Hemisphere, with the Waipu Highland Games, which encompasses the New Zealand Open Solo Piping Championships taking place on 1st January.

The National Piping Centre’s home city of Glasgow comes alive at the darkest time of year, as the UK’s premier celebration of Celtic music, Celtic Connections presents a full 17-day programme from 18th January – 4th February celebrating 31 years of world music. Piping and drumming features across the programme, in so many forms from emerging talent on the Danny Kyle stage through to headlining traditional music concerts from Breabach, Project SMOK, Finlay MacDonald with Jose Manuel Tejedor and a concert by 2023 world champions People’s Ford Boghall and Bathgate Pipe Band and the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland. Head over to the website now find out more – www.celticconnections.com.

As well as Celtic Connections, solo pipers are heading to Kansas City once again this January as Winter Storm, organized by Midwest Highland Arts Fund, returns from 11th – 14th January, after a successful return in 2023. The Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers also returns in January, with an in-person event in Glasgow on 13th January. This league has an overall and online-only titles so you can compete as an amateur solo player from anywhere in the world. The latest online event saw competitors from Hong Kong to Hawai’i join the event! If you are an amateur player and would like to find out more go to www.theclasp.co.uk.

Southern Hemisphere

The New Zealand Pipe Band Championships.

With summer in full swing in the Southern Hemisphere there is a plethora of pipe band events, solo competitions and more. After the Waipu Highland Games on 1st January, comes Turakina Highland Games on the 27th January. From the 10th – 14th January, the Royal New Zealand Pipe Band Association will host its summer school in Christchurch for young musicians. This Summer School is the perfect opportunity to learn from world class tutors, and it showcases some of the best talent New Zealand has to offer.

On 17th February the National Piping Centre Junior Piping Championship returns, one of a host of fantastic contest for young pipers aged Under 18 across the country every year. It aims to encourage all young players to compete, with chanter competitions through to Piobaireachd events.

In Australia, Ballarat Grammar School in Victoria will host its annual pipe band contest on 2nd March and Haileybury Pipe Band Contest takes place on 17th March. Back over the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand Pipe Band Championships will take place in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland with over 50 bands registered to take part in a huge two days of contest on 15th – 16th March.

On 23rd March, the adult solo piping season kicks off in Scotland with the Duncan Johnstone Memorial Competition which is held at The National Piping Centre and managed by the Competing Pipers’ Association for B and C graded pipers. On 24th March the Victorian Pipe Band Championships take place at the Melbourne Highland Games and Celtic Festival and the Hastings Highland Games in NZ takes place over Easter Weekend, with a huge focus on solo piping with their Commun na Piobaireachd Clasp, Gold and Silver Medals and Premier light music competitions taking place.

The bi-annual Australian Pipe Band Championship will return om 13th April 2024 in Maryborough, Victoria, with bands from across the country as well as the Australian Drum Major Contest taking place. Also in April will be the inaugural World Amateur Champion of Champion Solo Piping Competition, which will feature the 10 top amateur solo players from around the world being invited to take part. This event is designed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the launch of The Competition League for Amateur Solo Pipers (CLASP), and will be online and available to watch worldwide. Find out more at www.theclas.co.uk

World Pipe Band Championships

Piping Live!

As we move into the Scottish summer (keeping everything crossed for some sunshine!) the piping season begins in earnest with a huge range of Highland Games across the country, all of which feature some kind of piping with pipe bands, solo piping and ceilidhs across Scotland. August 2nd -3rd sees the 75th Glengarry Highland Games, which includes the North American Pipe Band Championships. This year’s World Pipe Band Championships has been announced as the 16th and 17th August. Keep up with all the pipe band news at www.rspba.org

Piping Live! returns in full force to the streets of Glasgow in the run up to the World’s once again as Glasgow hosts the world’s biggest week of piping! This year, we are celebrating the 21st edition of our festival running from 10th – 18th August, which attracts performers and audiences from across the world. In 2023, we welcomed performers from Estonia, Ireland, Brittany and Northumbria performing on their own styles of bagpipes, as well as Scottish Pipe Bands from Malaysia, USA and Canada and from across Scotland. We can’t wait for the this year’s festival – keep up with what’s happening and register for email updates at  www.pipinglive.co.uk

At the end of August, the piping world turns its focus to top level solo competition, with the Argyllshire Gathering taking place in Oban on 21st and 22nd August, and the Northern Meeting in Inverness happening on 29th – 30th August. These see the world’s best solo performers gather to compete for the most prestigious solo piping prizes, as well as a chance to qualify for the Glenfiddich Piping Championship.

The Glenfiddich Piping Championship takes place at the end of October each year, and in 2024 will celebrate its 51st event on Saturday 26th October. 10 competitors will gather at Blair Castle to compete in Piobaireachd and March, Strathspey and Reel disciplines to be crowned champion. As it is a special year there will be a host of extra special moments planned. Tickets to join us in person at Blair Castle or to watch through the livestream will go on sale around mid-July through the National Piping Centre website. Over this same weekend, the New Zealand Silver Chanter competition takes place on 26th and 27th  October for this 48th event.

Massed bands at the Glengarry Highland Games, Canada. Photo: Glengarry Highland Games.

But October isn’t all about solo piping, as on Saturday 19th October, the World Solo Drumming Championship takes place, here in Glasgow, with the best drummers gathering to compete of several rounds to be crowned the best. In a year of firsts for Boghall and Bathgate, who won their first World Pipe Band Championship, their Lead Drummer Kerr McQuillan won his first World Solo Drumming title, edging out the champion of the previous 10 years, Steven McWhirter. This will be a hotly contested event in 2024, that’s for sure!  The Glenfiddich Piping Championship marks the end of the 2024 season, only for the 2025 season to start the very next weekend in London with the Scottish Piping Society of London’s annual competition, which celebrates its 86th year in 2024.

Also, in the USA and Canada there are a number of piping events through November, with the An Crios Gréine – Sun Belt Invitational Solo Piping Competition taking place in Florida and the George Sherriff Memorial Invitational for amateur players taking place in Hamilton Ontario. Dates for these events will be confirmed later this year.  So, if you are travelling this year, come and hear piping in Scotland – or look out for it around the world!

You can find out more about all The National Piping Centre’s projects at www.thepipingcentre.co.uk or get the latest news and results from the piping world at www.bagpipe.news which will give you details of events happening across the globe.

Text courtesy of The National Piping Centre, Glasgow. Main image: The World Pipe Band Championships. Photo: Glasgow Life.

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