We are The Pipes and Drums of the Wessex Highlanders, formed in September 2001. Since that time, we have increased our membership, with not only new pipers and drummers, but with experienced musicians who have migrated to us, because of our relaxed and friendly attitude. The band exists for its members, and our principal aim is to have fun and entertain. We like nothing better than to share our hobby with others, and that means sharing our music!
We meet once a week on Tuesday Evenings for practice, and at various other times during the year when performing. We wear the Kilt, and Argyll Jacket, together with the Glengarry hat, dressed with a red feather Hackle. Our members wear the tartan of their choice.
The band is directed by the Pipe Major, Ron Aylin. There are two sections – the Pipes and the Drums, as the name suggests. Both are equally important to the band and each complements the other. Ron is assisted in his role by the Pipe Sergeant, Iain Grant, and the Drum Major, Gerry Berrow. All three have a great deal of experience in piping and drumming circles and all three can be spotted by their red sashes, when on parade. When playing in a marching formation, the Pipe Major is in the front row, at the right side of the Pipers. The Pipe Sergeant is on the left front corner. The Drum Major is the one right at the front, with the Mace.
At the moment (February 2012), we have 17 pipers with a very wide range of experience. There are 4 side drummers, one tenor drummer, and one Bass drummer to complete the lineup. The pipers play the Great Highland Bagpipes, and the drummers play side drums. In pipe band terms, our drum corps is a little on the small side – we could do with extra numbers.
Having brought up the subject of recruiting, we are always on the lookout for new members. No previous musical knowledge is necessary; it doesn’t matter if you are in your teens or your retirement – male or female – all are welcome. Unlike some clubs or bands, it doesn’t matter if you can’t make every practice or performance. Unlike conventional bands where one instrument might be vital to the whole sound, we don’t miss the odd piper or drummer. On occasion we call on a variety of friends in other bands who help us out. The community of pipe bands in the South West is quite close. Check out some of our links.
We continue to look for interesting and varied places to entertain. In the past we have played at the Cheltenham Festival, The Royal Bath and West Show, performed on the deck of an aircraft carrier, and at numerous local fêtes and carnivals. We spent four days at the International Festival of the Sea, and also took part in the Royal Star and Garter tattoo at Fort Nelson, in aid of the charity homes. We perform for charities such as the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance Fund raisers and for hospices. This year we will be hosting another charity concert, which we hope will become an annual event. We are also available for hire for weddings, special events and for promotional work) either as a band, mini band and we can supply solo pipers for any occasion. Some of our pipers have their own full Number 1 dress uniforms, with feather bonnets, spats and full plaid shawls.
While pipe bands are generally associated with marching, just because we have bagpipes, it doesn’t mean we have to march everywhere! We happily play alongside regular military bands either in concerts or marching on parade. We regularly march in carnival processions or even village fetes. Many of our members are ex-services or ex-policemen and so have been taught to march professionally at some point in their careers. If you haven’t marched before, then we will be happy to teach you. Happily we aren’t likely to be called on for the Trooping of the Colour so we do not demand that standard of marching! Having said that, we think that the band looks at its most impressive when it is marching together well, so we do some of our music practicing on the march (but only when it is dry enough and warm enough!).
If you see us at any of our events (look at the calendar and see where we are playing) come up and speak to us. We enjoy talking to our audience – and we certainly don’t bite.