Islanders take to the stage for Piping Live!

James Mackenzie
James Mackenzie

The biggest piping week in the world is coming up in Glasgow this month and islanders will be making themselves heard.

Glasgow’s International Piping Festival, Piping Live! is celebrating its 10th birthday - and with the World Pipe Band Championships running over two days for the first time ever - it will be a week to remember.

Making sure he is there to take part in the birthday celebrations is a Lewis piper whose solo career is really talking off.

James Duncan Mackenzie from Back, who launched his first solo album at this year’s HebCelt Festival, is gearing up for the big event.

Performing twice at the Glasgow festival he will be opening up for Julie Fowlis on Thursday, August 15th before showcasing his solo material at the Street Cafe, by The National Piping Centre at midday on Friday 16th.

It is not the first time the talented musician and member of the folk band Breabach, has played at the festival.

He explained: “I played at it a number of times when I was a student in Glasgow, over the years I’ve done various gigs there. I played with Breabach here last year.”

He continued: “There is a real buzz about the whole city in the lead up to the World Championships - there is a great atmosphere and so many pipers from all over the world.”

For this year’s Piping Live! performances James will be joined by some of the musicians who featured on his self titled album.

Fellow islander Alastair White from Tong, a fiddle player who plays with the folk group Battlefield Band, Hamish Napier on piano and Matheu Watson on guitar will all be joining him on stage.

Speaking about his solo album James explained: “It was in the planning for quite a few years, I’ve only finally managed to get it all together this year.”

His island heritage shines through the recordings, as his homeland continues to influence his work.

James said: “It’s a piping based album themed on the Lewis piping tradition. I composed many of the tunes myself based on my own piping style which has been influenced by my upbringing on Lewis.”

He described the process of recording the album as “intensive” - recorded over just one week in April. But with airplay on BBC Scotland, BBC Radio Nan Gaidheal and Radio 3 and a great reception from the HebCelt audience - it is all going to plan for the musician from Back.

It is not just piping that this year’s festival has in store. Also performing at the 10 year Piping Live! anniversary is South Uist singer/songwriter Kathleen MacInnes, from South Uist.

Kathleen, who first hit the limelight in the Gaelic soap opera Machair, has gone on to become one of Scotland’s best known and respected Gaelic singers. In 2006 she was voted Gaelic Singer Of The Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards .

Kathleeen is playing Thursday 15th August 5pm-7pm at BLAS Festival at Piping Live! with Darren Maclean and Feis Ghlaschu.

Piping Live! takes place from 11th to 18th August with over 150 events in various venues. On offer this year is everything from family fun days and free performances in St Enoch Square to concerts by the best contemporary and traditional pipers in the world.

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