A group of young pipers will be switching their spats for sun tan lotion as they prepare to head to Barbados for this year’s Celtic Festival.
Strathallan School pupils Xander Gibson, Oliver Spalding, Conor Campbell and Gregor Sands will travel the 4000 and a bit miles, to join a larger group to form a massed pip band. They will also conduct workshops and perform in schools on the island.
The music festival, which celebrates the Celtic links between Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Nova Scotia, the Gallic regions in Europe and Barbados, is in its third decade and welcomes performers from across the globe.
Strathallan Pipe Major Craig Muirhead, who’ll be leading the boys on the trip said: ‘Piping abroad at a festival like this is an experience the boys will never forget. They’ll get to immerse themselves in the culture, and come back more experienced.
‘They will enjoy piping in the massed band, but having the opportunity to perform in schools is also fantastic. They will really benefit from being able to pass on their experience to other children.’
Craig, who regularly pipes for the Prince of Wales, is also an assistant housemaster at Strathallan, and a big believer in sharing experiences and skill sets.
A passionate advocate of the positive power of piping, he believes that it can be of huge benefit to academic learning.
He explained: ‘The whole method of piping can help with academic learning. I have a great memory, because I studied piping. The discipline encourages you to learn and read music, gain presentation performance skills, grow confidence, and strengthen fine motor skills. There are so many benefits.;
He’s adamant, too, that piping can be started at any age: ‘At Strathallan, we teach pupils from nine years of age and upwards. We already have a core group of younger pupils, boys and girls, who play in our band, and the numbers are growing. They just love it. It is possible, however, to teach someone to play the bagpipes in 12 weeks.
‘Pupils can even do it in one term if they put the work in. It’s a fast-track way of learning. It’s particularly good for sixth form pupils and international students who want to give it a go. Once you’ve mastered it, it’s something that will never leave you and you can do it anywhere.’
The Strathallan pipers will proudly wear their kilts at the event, though they won’t be in full ceremonial dress.
Craig explained: ‘I think their full uniform would go down well in Barbados, but with the heat in mind, we’ve decided upon kilts and polo-shirts.’
Of the pupils, Craig added: ‘I want them to see that with piping, you can go anywhere in the world, and people will get excited about seeing you perform.’