KHPB’s 2002 Trip to Scotland
by Darlene Lewis-Chinn (KHPB Piper)
The Keith Highlanders Pipe Band spent the first two weeks of August 2002 in Scotland. The band had three purposes for this trip: celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary, perform for events at the Clan Keith’s 1000th anniversary, and compete at the World Championships. The band contingent included fifteen pipers, eleven drummers, one drum major, eight dancers from the Marian Webb School of Highland Dance and over twenty family members participated in this fantastic trip filled with performances, competition and sightseeing.
The KHPB has a unique relationship with a Scottish clan in that the band is the official pipe band of the Clan Keith and the band has had a relationship with the last four Earls of Kintore, who are the Chiefs of the Clan Keith. In 2000, Lord Kintore invited the band to participate in the Clan’s 1000th Anniversary and international clan gathering planned for early August 2002. After deliberation with the band members and our partners at the Marian Webb School of Highland Dance to determine viability of taking this much time from work and families, the band decided to participate in the Clan Keith events and World Championships as part of the band’s 50th anniversary celebration.
The Clan Keith 1000th anniversary celebration and international clan gathering was conducted 31 July to 4 August 2002 in Aberdeenshire. Several hundred clan members from Scotland, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand attended this event. The KHPB performed in parades, concerts and social events with the Clan Keith under the leadership of Pipe Major Greg MacDonald and Band President Michael Martin.
The band led the Lord and Countess of Kintore and members of Clan Keith in parades in Inverugie Castle and Peterhead. This included a ceremony in which Lord Kintore received a “Scroll of Association” from the Peterhead city council as Lord Kintore’s ancestors founded the village of Peterhead. The band also led the Keith contingent to a dedication of a new Keith Cairn in Inverurie that is dedicated to the 1000 years of this clan. This cairn has a time capsule that will be inserted into it and clan members provided mementos for this box; the KHPB submitted photographs of the band and a copy of the recently published book on the fifty-year history of the KHPB for inclusion in the time capsule.
During this time, the band also conducted concert performances at: (1) Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven, (2) Keith Hall in Inverurie, including a solo piper performance from the ramparts of the Hall, (3) Rickarton House near Stonehaven to commemorate the dedication of a plaque the band presented in 1997 to the memory of the late 12th Earl of Kintore, (4) The Stables in Inverurie (on the grounds of the home of the current Earl of Kintore) and (5) Drum Castle near Banchory (Clan Irvine’s hereditary castle).
Other social events in which the band participated included a barbecue at the Keith Hall estate in Inverurie and the Clan Keith’s Annual Gathering Meeting and dinner at Inverurie Town Hall. At a formal dinner at the University of Aberdeen, the entertainment included Scottish Country Dancing. Luckily, the Countess of Kintore had advised the band in advance of this event so the band learned four dances (Marian Webb patiently provided us with instruction). The Scots were truly amazed when the entire band and dancers from the USA participated in these dances! The band also visited the Kinneff Old Church and heard a special lecture about how the Scottish Regalia were taken in the 1651 from the besieged Dunnottar Castle and saved from capture by the English forces by being hidden in the floor of the church.
On 3 August, the band participated in the Aboyne Highland Games. Scotland has apparently had the wettest summers in fifty years and this was the only performance day that we really experienced the rain – we had to wear our Inverness Capes all day. The pipe bands started the Highland Games in the morning by marching through the village to the Games site (the bands left the starting point at five minute intervals). KHPB were the last of the six bands to march into the Games gates and it was thrilling to be received so warmly by the village and other bands. Four times during the afternoon, the massed bands marched around the Games arena where the grassy arena turned into a gigantic mud hole, while solo piping competition took place less than ten feet away and athletic events were on-going in the center of the arena, adding to the excitement, chaos – and danger! The Marquis of Huntly was the Chieftain of the Games and the Drum Majors for the massed bands saluted him during each pass-by. At 3:00pm, the KHPB performed in front of the grandstand and the exuberant crowd spoke volumes about the concert (the rain even stopped for most of our concert).
While the band was at the Aboyne highland Games, our Highland dancers went to a dance competition near Inverness. All but one of the eight dancers placed at this event and one dancer also was the aggregate winner in her grade. We were quite proud of all of their accomplishments.
The finale for the Clan Keith events was the signing of a peace agreement as a symbol of atonement between the Clan Keith and Clan Irvine. Although friendly in modern history, these two clans started fighting over 600 years ago. At the Park Bridge over the River Dee at Keith’s Muir near Drumoak, a site near the start of this feud, the KHPB led over two hundred members of the Clan Keith on a half-mile march to the bridge. The Clan Irvine was already gathered on the bridge and could not see our approach. They could hear the KHPB and when we rounded a hill above the bridge the Clan Irvine saw quite a large Clan Keith crowd approach and stop short of the bridge. Clan Irvine’s lone piper led their Chief to the center of the bridge. This was followed by a lone KHPB piper leading the Chief of Clan Keith to the bridge, marching from around the hilltop down to the bridge and through the center ranks of the band. The Marquis of Huntly then witnessed the signing of the peace agreement. Later that evening, a dinner was held at Coo Cathedral near Aboyne with the Clan Keith and Clan Irvine. Entertainment by a small fiddle orchestra resulted in more Scottish country dancing by the Clan Keith, Clan Irvine and KHPB.
Following these Clan Keith events, the band had a few days of sightseeing. Most of the band did a bus tour seeing castles, historical sights and the vistas along the route through Inverness, the Isle of Skye, Fort William and Glasgow. Their tour also included attending the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh. A few other band members spent this time in Edinburgh and a few others went to the Isle of Skye Highland Games at Portree and the Silver Chanter Piobaireachd Competition at Dunvegan Castle. During this time, everyone continued daily practice of the tunes we would perform at World Championships.
Everyone rendezvoused in Glasgow on 9 August and did final preparations and tuning for the World Championships on 10 August. The day of Worlds turned out to be sunny! There were approximately 240 bands and over 7000 pipers and drummers at this event. As this was our first time to compete at Worlds and a majority of our drum corps had only been playing drums for two years, our primary goal was to qualify for the finals. There were forty-two bands competing in Grade 4B and six bands from each of the two heats went into the finals. We competed at Glasgow Greens for our Marches Selection at 10:10am and we all felt quite positive about our strong performance. After we marched out of the arena, we were greeted with additional applause from family members and friends. To our surprise, the Lord and Countess of Kintore also came to the event to support us and hear us compete. By 11:00am, the results of the Grade 4B were announced. We were ecstatic when KHPB was named as one of the twelve bands in the finals and we had reached our primary goal! With a new set of judges, we competed in the finals at 1:40pm and felt we performed even better than our morning competition. During the day, it was also a super experience to be able to observe and cheer for the other three Pacific Northwest bands that were competing: Simon Fraser University, Robert Malcolm Memorial Grade II, and Maple Ridge. KHPB was one of sixty bands invited to participate in the massed bands event in the center arena at 5:00pm where everyone learned the results of the day’s competitions. KHPB received 5th place in our qualifying heat and 11th place overall out of forty-two bands in Grade 4B. We knew we did superb performances in the qualifying heat and final round of which we were quite proud.
Overall, the trip was a huge success and a lot of fun. Our performances in Aberdeenshire made the Clan Keith events quite special and afforded us the opportunity to perform at many historic locations and events. Participating at the World Championships was an absolutely incredible experience in a venue that is full of energy and enthusiasm. Key elements to our musical preparation for this trip included lots of individual practice, additional competition band practice sessions almost each week for the past two years and obtaining tutoring from Jori Chisholm and Duncan Millar. The instruction these two gentlemen provided has been extremely beneficial and their assistance and encouragement at the World Championships was invaluable. The band members and our Highland dancers returned from Scotland highly motivated about our next performances and competitions.