June 03, 2005

Rainy day instrument

Is there another instrument that’s made for playing outdoors? Because the volume of the Highland pipe and the accompanying snare-drums, band competitions are best outside. It will always be so.

Solo-piping events are, on the other hand, best inside. All the top ones are indoors, except the Thursday events at the Argyllshire Gathering, which are hard to hear and subject to starter’s pistols, sack races, and the unbuiquitous drone of the bouncy-castle’s generator. They have their traditional charms, but they’re nowhere near the stature of equivalent indoor events at the Northern Meeting.

Because pipe bands pretty much have to play outside, they’re subject to the vagaries of the weather. Bands will troop their way through searing Florida heat or horizontal Glasgow rain to do what they do.

But the garb of auld Gaul (or the galling old garb) that we wear is designed for playing outside in Scotland. Ghillie brogues and Glengarrys are designed to drain away rain. Worsted wool and barathea are made to repel wet and keep in warmth. The get-up is made for 12-degrees and rain.

What we wear makes great sense in Scottish weather. Except for the fact that it’s what the public want to see (and that’s important), it makes no sense almost everywhere else. The Scottish Regiments understood this, and there are jungle and desert kilted uniforms to suit the variety of climates in which soldiers operated.

Is it time for pipe bands to get a fashion makeover?





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