This week I had the pleasure of playing a few tunes in the Royal Scottish Pipers Society rooms in Rose Street, Edinburgh, at the kind invitation of the Chevaliers. The Chevaliers were hosting the Trinity Occasional Piping Society (TOPS) for their annual soiree.
You will be forgiven if you have raised an eyebrow and said, who? The Chevaliers are a small body of amateur piping enthusiasts who formed circa 1972 under the leadership of Brigadier Frank Coutts.
Frank was an interesting man who started life as a London Policeman before becoming a career soldier and war hero with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. He played as a second-row forward for Scotland at Murrayfield and Twickenham, as well as for the Barbarians, before being elected president of the Scottish Rugby Union in the late 1970s. He has also written a couple of books. Frank passed away in 2008 at the age of 90.
TOPS have been in existence for about 20 years and are currently under the helm of David Black and have a practice every Monday night in the Boys Brigade hall in Ferry Road, Edinburgh. They also commit time, energy and money to the annual Falkirk Tryst Piping Recital, where the overall prize is a set of bagpipes. They have a Facebook page if you would like more information.
So a few tunes, a pie and a dram or two were taken on the night and I met a couple of people I had not seen for years, not least George Brown, who I played with in the Heriots School band back in the early 70’s.
As we played together as a group I cast my eyes around the circle and felt strangely at ease. No one was aiming to be world-beaters and there was only one purpose for being there. Enjoyment. The pleasure you get from playing bagpipes, no matter what standard you are at. There is a unique bond between us. I dare say other musicians will say the same thing, but for me when you meet another piper you don’t have to say anything. The music speaks for itself.
Thanks to Sandy MacFarlane and Chris Anderson for the kind invitation.