Reflections from a Piper/Fifer

CastleatSunsetNow that I have re-entered civilian life I have had a few days to reflect on the great journey MCV just had. This was my fourth visit to Scotland but the first as a fifer. I have played the Great Highland Bagpipe for the past 20+ years and had visited in the past either to compete or to attend piping related events.   It was very odd to be performing in a country I know and love but in full Colonial attire, rather than a kilt!  But one cannot dwell on the past for long, especially with the busy schedule MCV kept in preparation for the start of the Tattoo. We were assimilated into the event, along with the rest of the 1000 member cast, in a matter of days and hit the ground running (or marching to be exact).



As Andrea referred to earlier, it was a great privilege to have such unfettered access to Edinburgh Castle; it really did feel like the Castle belonged to us and all of the performers. Once the motor coaches hit the Esplanade by 7:30 p.m. each night, it was just the cast (and the Army) that milled about inside the Castle’s walls.  The picture to the
left shows members of MCV and other units gradually getting ready for tuning sessions prior to the show.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA highlight of the evening shows were our varied tune-up areas. The drummers found a spectacular viewpoint looking out over the Firth of Forth, and kept that spot for the duration of the trip. The fifers moved around a bit more, mostly due to weather considerations. The final two weeks were spent warming up in the shadow of St. Margaret’s Chapel (12th century chapel across from the Scottish National War Memorial).  The photo at left shows us wigging up just before the fireworks that mark the start of the Tattoo.

Other highlights for me were:

  • marching over the drawbridge each night, hitting our marks and starting the show.  Then running to change and get ready for MCV’s role in the Music at War vignette.
  • meeting the wonderful folks that make EMT what it is.  A special shout out to Sarah and her compatriots in the Tayforth UOTC.  Well done!
  • hearing the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards warm-up the night before the Cowal Gathering with their competition medley
  • Having the opportunity to talk with Captain Stuart Sampson, Director of Army Bagpipe Music, at the Officer’s Mess at the post Tattoo reception, and then hearing him play as Lone Piper at the last show of the Tattoo (which also marked Stuart’s retirement from the Army).   What an emotional, fitting end to our first Tattoo experience

There are many other memories, too many for this forum, but needless to say this was an experience of a lifetime and I’m glad to have been able to participate.

George March

Fifer & Webmaster, MCV


We’re no awa’ tae bide awa’

emt017When people ask me, “How was your summer?”  I say without the slightest bit of hesitation – “awesome.”   And they want to know if I had a nice vacation and… well… “nice vacation” is not exactly how I would describe it.  It’s more like crazy, intense, harder-than-my-everyday-life, kind of experience, but worth every ounce of energy I put into it to make it happen!  There are very few instances in my life where I get to feel like I really own a piece of music.  And with the Edinburgh Tattoo, I really got the sense that I owned every note in that show and I owned everything that went with it including the drill, the routine, my uniform, The Castle, the audience, the little blue line down the center of the Esplanade, and the magic that is EMT.

tattoo_and_edinburgh_2007_008I learned that, hey, we’re pretty good up here on this international stage.  We can definitely represent the United States and the community of fife and drum with great elegance and pride.  It’s a pretty incredible feeling for an amateur, I’ll tell you!  I’m very thankful that I had the opportunity to show that we care about carrying the torch for this little folk music hobby called fife and drum and got to demonstrate our self determination for excellence.  I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished.

img_0849I thought that the people of Scotland were fantastic hosts for us.  I kind of got the impression they’d never seen anything like us with our warm sounding fifes, intricate harmonies, and powerful drum sound.  Plus the bass drumming is just so incredibly different!  They responded with such enthusiasm and kindness, it was a joy to be the first representative of a fife and drum corps on the Esplanade.

scottbrianandmeThough I am extremely sad that the show is over, I look forward to the next time we can take center stage and represent the average American trying to keep alive a spirit and tradition central to the history of our country.  As the song we came to know and love goes,

For we’re no’ awa’ tae bide awa’,
For we’re no’ awa tae le’e ye,
For we’re no’ awa’ tae bide awa’,
We’ll aye come back an’ see ye.

astleview20070823223524poppies  -Andrea Wirth

Snare Drummer, MCV

Our EMT experience draws to a close…

mcv_drums_emtThe end of the 2007 Edinburgh Military Tattoo is upon us. We just finished the Friday evening performance to an appreciative audience in perfect weather and have two shows remaining on Saturday, 25 August.  I won’t attempt to try to write a review of our time here in Edinburgh, though several MCV authors will post to this blog next week.  This has truly been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us.

So, what is on tap for MCV at EMT in the next 48 hours?

Saturday: start packing!

Saturday evening: two shows, one at 7:30 pm and the final show (with Fireworks Spectacular) at 10:30 pm

Packing party @ 1:00 am.

Sunday:  Two-weekers leave for airport at 6:00 am.   4 weekers leave at 9:00 am.  We all get back to Boston sometime Sunday evening, and back to our regular lives.

Stay tuned for more postings next week and plenty of photos!

It’s a wrap for BBC Recording

Last night saw the completion of filming by the BBC for the Tattoo television event (estimated audience of 100 million) as well as the film necessary for the 2007 EMT DVD (to be released in November).  Thankfully both Wednesday and Thursday evenings were dry so both nights could be used for the show.  Our last day concert was on Thursday at the Ross Bandstand in the Princes Street Gardens; a large audience attended this free Taste of the Tattoo.  We return to our regular weeknight schedule today and then two shows on Saturday.

MCV EMT Team #2 arrives!

normal_webschottland2007edinburghmiOur first half team finished up with two bang up performances this past Saturday and those of us here for the duration were very sad to see them go. Team #2 arrived on Saturday and were thrown in to their first public performance on Sunday at the Mini-Tattoo held in Aberfeldy.  Last night was Team #2’s first EMT show and everything went off swimmingly; the mecurial Scottish weather even cleared in time for the performance.   We hope to have additional video clips up by the end of this week.

Elsewhere in Edinburgh: both the International and Fringe Festivals are in full swing and city is jammed with performers from every part of the world.

EMT Photos: our MCV photographer Matt Lug has begun to post photos from the trip, these can be seen on the MCV Photo Album as they become available. Days 1-3 are now posted, including our performance for the Lord Provost of Edinburgh.

EMT video: MCV’s opening night performance

We are preparing for our ninth performance at EMT and so far the show is getting better each night.  We now have a video of MCV’s opening night performance from EMT. Please download this Quicktime video to your computer in order to view it. Download .  The wind was quite fierce on this night, hence one of our bass drummers losing his hat!  Yesterday featured a day-time mini-Tattoo at the Ross Bandstand in Edinburgh and this Sunday we are on the road to Aberfeldy for a mini-Tattoo for the Highlands. 

Off to Glasgow

The corps and the rest of the performers for the Tattoo headed off by bus to Glasgow this morning (picking up a police escort on the way for our 10+ bus caravan – as Sarah said, "Now this is what we’re used to!") for a short parade followed by each unit putting on about a 10 minute performance for the Lord Mayor.  It was a very chilly, slightly rainy day for the event, but it seemed to go smoothly.  Everyone appeared to be well received by the small crowds and nobody got rocks thrown at them or anything!  So, all in all, a good day!  We arrived back in Edinburgh at about 2:30 where we promptly changed back into our street clothes for the few hours before heading on the bus again to go up to the Castle for this evening’s performance.

Last night it was so cold up at the Castle for our performance that it was difficult to cover the holes on my fife to play the fife solo, so all that came out for the bass part during the fife quartet at the end were a few quiet whimpers. I’m hoping it will be better tonight!  Jane

EMT at home and on the road

outofthedrawbridgeThe Tattoo is in full swing just now. MCV had excellent runs on Friday and Saturday nights and then marched in the Calvacade on Sunday. Today is a regular evening performance. Tuesday will see the entire cast go on the road to Glasgow to bring a taste of the Tattoo to Scotland’s largest city. We then return in time to perform the show at the Castle in the evening. Stay tuned for photos from the show once we sort out our Internet connection!  Many tremendous photos from MCV’s performance as well as our drummers, dancers and rifleman during the Music at War piece.

Hey! We’re Rock Stars!!

The dress rehearsal performances for the Tattoo took place on Thursday evening.  The first performance was for some military personnel – cadets, I think.  The second was a chance for the press to be on the field taking pictures of the performances; it was also a public ticketed performance (even the dress rehearsal show was sold out, as is every performance of the Tattoo).

The second performance of the evening is when it really hit that “This is it!  Here we go for the first time of many over the next several weeks.  It’s show time!!”

The portcullis doors opened at the radio cue to the soldier manning the post (yes, this really IS a military tattoo – all the folks at the all the performance entrances and exits, all the people doing logistical stuff for the show, etc. are all active military) and we were given the command to march.  We start with 16 silent paces before the snare drums come in for another 16 paces, then the bass drums come in for the final 16 paces of drum intro.  The fifes come up and we begin to play “The White Cockade” just as we reach the end of the castle drawbridge.  We find the center line marked in blue/gray on the asphalt and head down it until the end of the tune when we start our marching maneuvers and are into the next tunes.  When we came over the drawbridge, I expected to see some people with cameras, but I don’t think ANY of us expected to see a huge swarm of photographers and cameramen – and right in our faces for the entire performance.  If there was ever a test of our ability to focus and concentrate, this was it.  It was surreal!  Even at the biggest parades or Harborfest events in Boston or the Boston Pops performances, we have never had this many press in our faces for so long.  For the most part they did very well at avoiding us and watching for us to change directions, start or stop marching, etc.  There were a couple, though, that were a little slow in moving out of the way!!  One of our fifers actually got a camera lens with his knee, another had to tap a photographer on the shoulder to get him to move out of the way.  They truly were like a swarm of bees while we were performing, swirling around even if you move away, they follow.  But even that distraction wasn’t’ enough to hide the crowd reaction from us.  They cheered in all the appropriate places, and generally seemed to really like us and our show.  We were all really pleased with how we performed and I think we made a really good impression on everyone.

MCV rocked for both performances.  We really do rise to the occasion with our music and marching when our feet are to the fire!  We had some friends in the audience as well.  Bill Rose and his wife, reenacting friends from back home; Brian and Sylvia fro England (Brian was our bus driver for several of our European adventures); as well as other friends and family that have met up with us over here.  Bill Rose gave us two thumbs up as he walked by our bus as we waited to be driven back to our university flats after the second performance.

Tonight, Friday, is the official opening night of the Tattoo.  Let’s hope we can do just as well tonight!!