The Keith Highlanders Pipe Band 2004 Trip to Scotland
Planes, Steam Trains, Buses and Two Trophies Too!
by Darlene Lewis-Chinn (KHPB Piper)
The Keith Highlanders Pipe Band completed a second trip to compete at the World Championships
in 2004. The 10-day trip to Scotland was filled with many activities leading up to the 14 August 2004 competition, including visits with our band patrons, many tourist activities, and intensive final practices. Thirty band and family members went on this trip, including 13 pipers and 9 drummers, under the direction of Pipe Major Greg MacDonald and Drum Sergeant Justin Williams. Pipers included: Pipe Sergeant Jim McKnight, Pipe Corporal Neil Hubbard, Pipe Corporal Larry Koch, Todd Bolduc, Derrick DesVoignes, Darlene Lewis-Chinn, Alan MacDougall, Michael Martin, Colin Merry, Cameron McColl, John MacMaster, and Chris Thompson. Side drummers included: Kiki Bentzen-Francis, Tim Flanagan, Curt Maslen, and Alison Webb. Tenor drummers included: Pipe Corporal Leisl Petrakis, Inge Bentzen, and Doris O’Connor. Our new bass drummer, making her first trip with the band to the Worlds, is Lizzie Rieke.
The band left Seattle on Friday, 6 August, with arrival at our hotel in Stirling planned by 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, 7 August. Due to flight delays, the last members of the band finally arrived in Stirling at 12:30 a.m. on 8 August! The first competition would come much too soon with little rest.
On Sunday, 8 August, we traveled three miles up the road by coach (bus) to the Bridge of Allan Highland Games for our first competition in Scotland since August 2002. We drew first out of 27 bands in Grade 4, meaning a 10:00 a.m. start time for us. Although more than a bit groggy from travel and lack of sleep, we went into high gear and psyched ourselves up to playing well. It was a sunny day, so after competing we enjoyed watching many of the other seventy bands that were competing. Lord and Lady Kintore, patrons of the KHPB, and their daughter Iona, traveled from Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, for a very enjoyable visit with us that afternoon. By 5:30 p.m, we found ourselves marching in front of the huge crowd to the massed bands location in centerfield. It was great to hear the enthusiastic crowd shouting “U-S-A” when we passed the reviewing stands. After all the bands were lined up, the awards announcements began. We heard our name called out but we had no idea what we won since the public address system was difficult to hear. When our Pipe Major returned with a huge trophy and bottle of Jura Whisky we found out that we won the trophy for “Best Overseas Band Marching and Deportment”. (Side note: During a practice session two weeks prior to going to Scotland our Pipe Major told us “We’re not going to Scotland to win a marching and deportment award so let’s just look good and focus on our music.” After winning this huge trophy, taunting of the Pipe Major was inevitable.)
The KHPB placed 7th out of 27 bands in Grade 4 that day, which we thought was a good lead-in to Worlds since we competed less than 10 hours after arriving in Stirling. We found that a majority of the Grade 4 bands that placed ahead of us would be competing in Grade 4A rather in our Grade 4B division, giving us more reason to look forward to the Worlds.
Monday, 9 August, was a day for tourist activities. We boarded our bus for a 2-hour drive to Ft. William and then boarded the famous Jacobite Steam Train for a rainy ride to the coastal village of Mallaig. The train ride is popular due to the beautiful scenery of the West Highlands and novelty of it being a coal-powered steam train. More recently, it has been popularized because this train is seen in the Harry Potter movies, taking Harry and his classmates to Hogwarts School. The rain subsided after having lunch in Mallaig so the views on the train back to Ft. William were improved. Due to the steady rain en route to Mallaig, the return trip included many vistas of waterfalls.
On Tuesday, 10 August, we bussed our way to Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, to picnic with our patrons at their estate. Lord and Lady Kintore, their son Jamie and daughter Iona, and the entire band with families enjoyed a sunny afternoon eating, talking and playing. The band played a short set, including a new arrangement of Lady Kintore’s favorite tune “Highland Cathedral”. On our trip back to Stirling, we stopped in at the Glenfiddich Distillery and for an interesting tour. We were pleasantly surprised to walk into the lobby at the start of our tour and see a photo of Jack Lee, after winning the 2003 Glenfiddich Trophy, prominently on display.
Although we practiced our Worlds set on Monday and Tuesday, the band held intensive practices Wednesday through Friday, beginning each morning with a warm-up and tune-up session. Our piping instructor, Jori Chisholm, and drumming instructor, Duncan Millar, were also in Scotland to compete with their band, Simon Fraser University Pipe Band (SFU), so they were able to work with us each morning. This attention was invaluable to our final preparation. Kathryn Tawse and Blake Schmidt, drummers also with SFU, came to a few of these sessions and their assistance and support was very helpful.
During the afternoons of Wednesday through Friday, band members were on their own, playing the tourist role quite well, exploring Stirling Castle, hiking to the William Wallace Monument, traveling by train to Glasgow to see the Piping Hot activities or to Edinburgh. Friday night we had an early band dinner at a great Italian restaurant in Stirling, followed by an early curfew in preparation for the following day.
Although it rained quite a bit all week, we were lucky to experience sunshine on the days we needed to be outside. The day of Worlds was a beautiful sunny day. We arrived at Glasgow Green by 7:30 a.m. because we were scheduled to compete at 9:07 a.m. for our qualifying round (Grade 4B included forty bands and was split into 2 groups of twenty, with the top 6 qualifying for finals). Jori and Duncan assisted us in getting ready for our qualifying competition. By midday, we found out we were in the finals and would play at 5:02 p.m. SFU played their final competition at about 4:15 p.m., allowing Jori and Duncan plenty of time to help us with our final tuning. Unexpectedly, Pipe Major Dave Hilder and Pipe Sergeant Shaunna Hilder, of the Robert Malcolm Memorial (RMM) Grade 2 band, also helped us get prepared.
We were ecstatic with the results - placing in Grade 4B, we received the 6th place trophy! We were also pleased when we saw the detailed judging scores and found that we received first place marks from both of the piping judges in the finals. It was a thrilling day for all of us! (Side note: point-wise, we tied for fifth place with Kirkcudbright & District and after the Cowal Games, Kirkcudbright became Grade 4B Champion of Champions for 2004. Upon reflection, Worlds was a great and very successful competition for us.)
The encouragement we received from members of SFU and RMM was phenomenal. The tutoring we receive year-round from Jori Chisholm and Duncan Millar has helped us tremendously with our band’s goals. The additional support we received during our practice sessions in Stirling by Kathryn Tawse and Blake Schmidt and by Dave and Shaunna Hilder at Worlds was unexpected and highly motivating. Between the support received by these professional musicians of the SFU organization and the great competitions we had in the Pacific Northwest this past summer, we were quite prepared for the challenges at the World Championships.
Sunday, 15 August, was a day to sleep in, do some final tourist activities and then we filled the evening with a very special event with the marriage of two of our band members: piper Colin Merry (originally from Edinburgh) married tenor drummer/Highland dancer Inge Bentzen at Melville Castle southeast of Edinburgh. Jori Chisholm played a tune he composed entitled “The Merry Wedding Hornpipe” to commemorate the occasion and KHPB performed during the reception. The night included Highland dancing, Scottish Country dancing and singing, and the rest of the reception entertainment performed by our good friends in their band Full Moon Ensemble (FME). (Side note: FME will be performing again with the KHPB in a concert 21-23 October 2004 at the Kirkland Performance Center in Kirkland, Washington.)
The wedding was a grand way to conclude a successful trip. Most of the band departed on Monday, 16 August, for Seattle. Some members went their independent ways to explore Scotland for a few more days. Since returning from this trip, KHPB is highly energized to continue improving for our performances and competitions as well as being extremely motivated to tackle another attempt at Worlds in the near future.