Edinburgh Tattoo’s house band looks to drum up recruits for 2019

Shonagh Duncan (centre) and fellow Pipers Trail band members (Phil Wilkinson)
Shonagh Duncan (centre) and fellow Pipers Trail band members (Phil Wilkinson)

FANCY being a part of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo? Well here’s your chance!

The event’s house band, Pipers Trail, has opened applications for 2019 recruits, following the success of their first global tour last year.

New recruits are being called on from all corners of the globe with the opportunity to perform at the annual Tattoo spectacle in the iconic shadow of Edinburgh Castle.

They’ll also have the chance to travel the globe to international ceremonies and piping events.

The Pipers Trail group was developed by the Tattoo in 2014 to establish a worldwide network of Scottish piping and drumming performers with abilities to play traditional and contemporary music.

As well as playing a key role in the Edinburgh Tattoo’s Massed Pipes and Drums, the band, led by former Director of Army Bagpipe Music, Major Stevie Small, kicked off its worldwide journey in September of last year at the Dusseldorf Tattoo before performances in Norway, the Czech Republic China, and a return to Dusseldorf in September this year.

Next year, the band will increase in size from 50 members to 75 members fulfilling three files on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle.

They’re looking for applicants who are over 18, have proficient musical skills including an RSPBA Grade 3 as a minimum standard, and are able to commit to performing at the world-renowned Tattoo for four weeks in August 2019.

Stevie Small, Project Officer at Pipers Trail, says: “Pipers Trail is committed to leaving a lasting legacy for Scottish traditional music and dance all over the world, beyond the walls of the annual Edinburgh Tattoo. We truly believe we offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those with a keen and capable interest in piping and drumming.

“This year, we are looking to extend the size of our group quite significantly opening up more spaces for seasoned musicians and the next generation of talent. Those thinking about applying should have the ability to set up, tune and maintain their pipes to a high standard and be able to read, play and memorise scores quickly and accurately.”

As well as nurturing traditional music, Pipers Trail also provides members with an opportunity to experience different cultures, communities and traditions building global citizens and friendships with musicians around the globe.

Shonagh Duncan became a member of Pipers Trail last year. Originally from Duns in the Scottish Borders, she first learned to play the bagpipes aged just nine years old.

In 2013, Shonagh began studies at the University of Edinburgh but continued to spend her spare time busking on the capital’s Princes Street.

Nowadays, she plays sell-out shows in front of Edinburgh Castle and in front of international audiences in Germany, Norway and China.

She says: “I always assumed that only those with a military background would be considered to perform at The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, but it’s open to pipers and drummers from all walks of life.

“Becoming a member of Pipers Trail has enabled me to fulfil my lifelong dream of crossing the drawbridge at Edinburgh Castle to perform in front of thousands of people.”

To date, the Band has brought together more than 200 performers from Argentina, Uruguay, Canada, New Zealand, United States, Australia and across the UK to perform at Edinburgh Castle’s famous Esplanade in the last four years.

Australian-born Alisdair McLaren joined Pipers Trail in 2017 after hearing about their recruitment appeal on social media.

He led Pipers Trail through Edinburgh Castle’s drawbridge on the opening night of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 2017 and has also featured as the Tattoo’s famous lone piper serenading the audience from high above the stage on the turrets of Edinburgh Castle.

He says: “Pipers Trail is an extremely unique pipe band. It has a fantastic ethos and I love that it is inclusive – it allows players from all around the world and of all ages to perform together not only in the remarkable surroundings of Edinburgh Castle but overseas and further afield as well.

“Performing overseas has allowed me to experience new cultures with my band mates but it’s always amazing to get to know other international musicians.

“I love it when new Pipers Trail members meet each other for the first time – the energy and excitement is palpable. If I could bottle it and sell it, I would be a very rich man indeed!”

Originally from Mexico City, Rafael Gutierrez grew up in the US with a Celtic family background and Scottish and Irish influence.

He joined the group in 2017 as a piper and performed  to a nightly audience of 8,800 in August last year, Rafael has been fortunate enough to travel to MusikFest der Bundeswher in Dusseldorf in September 2017 and hopes to continue performing internationally with the band.

He says: “I think traditional music allows us to bring history alive for future generations and it honours those that have played the pipes before us. I am inspired by the people that are passionate in what they do – whether it’s leading a Pipe Band, a military unit or a social project.

He adds: “I value that I belong to this family and that aside from making great music together, we have forged a very strong bond despite of the fact that we come from different countries and cultures. It’s the love of the Highland pipes that brings us together.”

Applications open today and close on Sunday, 16 December. For further information and to apply, pipers and drummers should visit www.edintattoo.co.uk/piperstrail.