By: Paul Hughes
The Scots College Pipes and Drums tour to New York was a unique and exciting experience for the 25 band boys involved. New York City has a rich history of Scottish and Irish heritage, and the sounds of the bagpipes and drums certainly add to the atmosphere of the city. The tour included performances at various venues throughout the city, such as parades, concerts, and cultural events and the band even took the opportunity to do a flashmob performance in Grand Central Station.
The boys performed a 1-hour pipes and drums concert in Central Park. The band marched through Central Park gathering a huge crowd. Having the opportunity to see the boys perform in Central Park’s Naumburg Bandshell was amazing. Central Park’s Naumburg Bandshell is an original feature of the Park and has come a long way from its beginnings as a mere classical music arena. The site of both a speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. and a eulogy read for John Lennon, it has become a place of historical importance within the park. The band performed a range of traditional and contemporary pieces and our two youngest boys on tour performed a great duet of Flower of Scotland. The 300-strong audience who had just been passing and relaxing in the park stayed for the full concert and cheered the band as they finished the concert by marching back through Central Park.
Next for the band was a performance at the Buckley School. The boys performed a concert for the 400 Buckley students and staff. It was incredibly well received and both schools had a fantastic time together. The highlight for the Buckley School was certainly the drummer’s salute and the Drum Majors flourish. The Buckley students were fascinated with the band and we even managed to give the boys and staff the opportunity to try some instruments. While in New York the band was honoured to be invited to perform for the Tartan Day organisers and performed two concerts in Bryant Park. With the most incredible backdrop of New York City the band performed for extremely grateful audiences. The band had a great opportunity to hear other pipe bands, folk bands and choirs which was greatly appreciated. As the Bryant Park concerts came to an end The Scots College and St Columba’s Pipe Band (Scotland) performed together and marched through the park. This was a great opportunity for both bands to combine and have a few tunes together.
Marched with great pride
While taking a stroll through the city after performing our second Bryant Park concert the band thought it would be a great idea to do a flashmob performance in Grand Central Station. The College Pipe Major struck up his pipes in the main terminal and instantly the public stopped to watch him. As more and more pipers joined in, we could see more and more passengers gather around the band. Once the drummers joined in and filled the main terminal with Waltzing Matilda the flashmob band had hundreds of commuters gathered around to listen to the band. This was a very memorable experience for all involved and was aired on Australian and American television shows.
The band had the opportunity to visit some of the city’s famous landmarks and attractions, such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Times Square and many more. The boys also attend a number of sporting events in Maddison Square Gardens and Yankee Stadium.
In 1999, two pipe bands and a small but enthusiastic group of Scottish Americans, led by Grand Marshal and Academy Award-winning actor Cliff Robertson, marched from the British Consulate to the UN in the first New York City Tartan Day Parade. Since then, the annual NYC Tartan Day Parade has brought together thousands of people from across the globe providing meaningful connections through the celebration of Scottish heritage and culture. The Scots College, Sydney Pipes and Drums finished the New York tour by parading down 6th Avenue as part of the NYC Tartan Day Parade. The parade was filled with great sounds and tartan uniforms. With thousands of supporters cheering on, our boys stood tall and marched with great pride. The Pipes and Drums tour to New York provided our students with so many unforgettable memories and a deep appreciation for the city’s rich culture and history.