It was only earlier this summer that the Paris Port Dover Pipe band was the opening act for Sir Rod Stewart in Toronto and London. Now they have traveled to Scotland for the Edinburgh Tattoo.
Unquestionably, this is the most prestigious Military Tattoo in the world and performed at the base of Edinburgh Castle.
Where else but Scotland, the heart of world bagpiping imagery, would 20,000 people arrive for each performance and from around the globe to be entertained over the month of August?
The Paris Port Dover Pipe Band is there, the only Canadian Pipe Band representation, and under the direction of Pipe Majors Gordon Black and Brad Smith. This band was invited by the tattoo organizing committee in Scotland to perform this year. The process is rigorous with learning new music, two nights week, months in advance at the St. George Historical Hall. Number One uniforms were fitted including the black feather bonnets and white spats, high lift epaulets and a full horsehair sporran while wrapped in the traditional Lamont tartan pleated and draped over the shoulder.
The commitment required lodging in the University of Edinburgh residences, while performing up to two shows a day, six days a week and for the month of August. Hardly a vacation but certainly an honour.
They present themselves as a majestic sight. Twenty pipers, and a half dozen drummers march across the wooden draw bridge into the Parade Square of Edinburgh Castle joining several hundred international pipers and drummers. The historic walls and ramparts are swathed in coloured lights, trumpets blaring and cannons bursting. Joining them are the finest bands from the United Kingdom and around the world. Hundreds of other performers, highland dancers, fiddlers and a variety of cultures are celebrated.
The week before the opening performance everyone fevourishly practiced the complex choreography of entrances, exits and mass crossovers with over a thousand professionals collectively during the mass finale and fireworks
This year also celebrated, through British war bird flyovers, the 100th Anniversary of the Royal Air Force and the end of WWI with several military brass bands. One pipe band from Oman marched in on horseback and cultural regalia.
The Highland, cultural dancers and fiddlers had separate performances.
A most unique drum corps from Switzerland, ‘Top Secret’ dazzled the crowd with intense skill, discipline and pyrotechnics.
And another group of fyffe and drum corps from the U.S.A.
One Paris Port Dover piper, Justin Willson, was selected to represent Canada by joining an international corps to pipe for the highland dancers. As a personal disclosure, Piper Willson, this writer’s Grandson, celebrates his 17th birthday at the base of the Edinburgh Castle and 20,000 people from around the world will sing Happy Birthday to him!
Sunday as their only day off they do manage a few hours of sightseeing and souvenir shopping. FaceTime, Skype, texting and phone calls keep them connected to loved ones, providing they can fit that into their rigid schedule, and needed sleep. The City responds admirably to manage these guests including closing the Royal Mile access to the castle to allow the performer’s buses to arrive as a convoy in order to have time to warm up and prepare back stage.
The Paris Port Dover Pipe Band has a variety of fundraisers to offset these kinds of events including public performances and a new ‘Find The Ace – 50/50 draw’ each week.
We have every reason to celebrate the PPD successes and the professionalism they share with us in Highland Game competitions, Robbie Burns events, Remembrance Day, convocations, parades, and individual performances through out the year for weddings, celebratory events, sporting events and funerals.
Well done Director Gordon Black and the new Pipe Major, Brad Smith, along with the raft of band mentors you have encouraged equally. Your legacies have given Brant youth the opportunities of new aspirations and development of unique skills and experiences that will carry them to great accomplishments as they move on.
Truly, they all inspire ‘Amazing Grace’.