It was not a standing room only crowd. I think the weather may have played a role in that. It started snowing at 2 and didn't end until after I was home at 11:00. We wound up with 2-3 inches when we were supposed to get a dusting. Of course, that's nowhere near what east of us got. Had that kind of storm hit here, I'm sure there wouldn't have been a concert. We might be better able to handle snow than in the east, but that doesn't mean 2 feet is a walk in the park for us either.
Pam and I went to IHOP, not to be confused with iMac, iPod, iPhone or iPad (what a ridiculous name). The one in Wheaton has always been good for us. They were short staffed unfortunately. It's got to be hard to balance out your servers in this economy. They were busy on Friday night and didn't have enough staff to serve everyone and check people out in a timely fashion. But, I'm willing to bet, on a Tuesday night, you have servers standing around. Fortunately, we had time to spare so we could wait.
We had main floor, right side seats. There were tee shirts, baseball caps, pins, CDs and big programs for purchase. Members of both groups mingled with the incoming crowd before, during and at intermission. I really couldn't think of anything witty to say to any one of them and didn't have questions.
Both groups are superb. The Irish band is what could be termed a "traditional" military band, mostly brass. They had one saxophone, 3 clarinets, a marching bassoon, and one lone piccolo player who was female. She was the ONLY woman amongst the two bands. I did wonder if women were allowed to join the Scottish group or if they have held firm in tradition with this being men only. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland is part of an active British military unit whose members have done tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Part of the CD sales was going to Afghan relief efforts as part of the regiment is due to return to Afghanistan in August.
This name seemed somewhat familiar to me although I have never heard a Scottish pipe band live. As I was reading through the program, it mentions that in 2002, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were merged into the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Ah yes. I remember the furor this caused in the Scottish magazines I read. The 91st Argyllshire Highlanders and the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders were distinct units until 1881, when they were merged. The 93rd gained world-wide distinction in the Crimea in 1854 with the battle of Balaklava. Although vastly outnumbered by Russians, the Regiment repulsed an attack above the town. A British correspondent described the men as a "Thin Red Streak Tipped with a Line of Steel". It's from his reporting that we derive the expression, "Thin Red Line".
The music was lively and very emotive. People say they hate bagpipe music, that you might as well be squeezing cats. What they are reacting to is the learning process that gets you to what we heard last night. In the hands of someone who is intimately familiar with the craft, a bagpipe is an amazing instrument. Good players can produce over and under tones of great diversity. It was mentioned that these men are trained and the music produced showed that training. They did an amazing drum line set where they tossed and exchanged drum sticks.
The Irish band played traditionally arranged military band music. Both groups marched around the smallish stage. One John Phillips Sousa march was included in the program as well as the marches of the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. Veterans or active duty personnel from each branch were asked to stand during their respective march.
The Highland Fling was performed along with the sword dance. Young men did the dancing. This is the same material you will see if you attend a Highland dance competition. It requires precision and a knowledge of the correct moves. One of the young men doing the dance looked visibly nervous.
They ended the program with a solo piper playing Amazing Grace, then a group rendition of Auld Lang Syne and a faster version of Scotland, the Brave.
It was an exceptionally good concert. A few people wore tartan. I saw only one man in a kilt but I did see several people in trewes, tartan pants. And to answer the unasked, but I know you're thinking it, I have no idea. The way they marched and danced, it was designed not to show the audience anything. These guys are trained professionals. I dare you to don a kilt and try those high marching steps at home.
If this tour comes close to you in any way, I recommend you go. It's well worth the money to see them. All the men we chatted with were very personable and you can tell they love what they do. They enjoyed explaining to kids the nuances of their respective uniforms, what all the medals and stripes and various elements meant. It's an exceptional 2 hours of music. I knew quite a few of the Scottish tunes played and a couple of the Irish tunes. Plus, they play music everyone has heard in some form so you'll find something you recognize. I'm very, very glad Pam invited me. It was a lot of fun.
Beverage: Cranberry Grape Juice