Culture shock in the CFA
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 21:02
Lights dimmed above a rising purple curtain as an incomprehensible military shout bellowed through the theater. It appeared to those unfamiliar with the traditions and regiments of the Armed Forces of the Crown of England that the changing of the Queen’s Guard of Buckingham Palace had landed in Buffalo.
Last weekend, the band of the Scots Guards and the Pipes and Drums of the Black Watch 3rd Battalion marched in full splendor for audience members at the Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre. The band members donned traditional English military regalia for the occasion: black fur hats standing a foot tall, bright red uniforms and a bandleader whose outfit was embroidered in gold.
The band was flawless and entertaining and commanded a force of attention in perfect unison.
The first song ended with thunderous applause as the kilt-clad members of the Band of the Scots Guard emerged from side stage and began the famous “Scotland the Brave,” known to many as the unofficial national anthem of Scotland.
Some of the audience stood, perhaps in reverence to their own military tradition or that of their fathers. But even for those completely alien to British military customs and histories, it was a moving spectacle.
All of the members of the Black Watch Battalion and the Band of the Scots Guard are active duty soldiers, some deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. As their music reverberated through the theater, it served as a reminder that thoughts and prayers are with our own soldiers in times of peace and conflict.
“I was expecting more pipes and a bit less of a band, but when I saw it, it just made sense that it would all come together,” said Ian Herrigan, 17, of Amherst.
The soothing voice of the British narrator proceeded to introduce Buffalo’s Police Color Guard for a short demonstration followed by more incomprehensible military roaring. The four members of the Buffalo Police Department joined the ranks of reds, blacks, bear pelts and bagpipes.
Kevin Burns, 18, of Amherst is an aspiring pipe player who attended the show with his friend.
“I think it’s pretty impressive,” Burns said. “[We’re] actually learning the bagpipes … It’s very hard. Even when the bagpipes are played well, they act differently than other instruments. It’s very shocking that [the Band] had such nice harmonies.”
The show’s intermission featured the dancing of the Royal Highland Regiment of Scotland. The performance included music from England’s longstanding history, such as the compositions of Henry the VIII, the songs of William Blake and a march for the Queen’s diamond jewelry.
Toward the end of the night, the full band, pipes and brass played a version of “Amazing Grace,” delivering perhaps the most beautiful melody and harmony of the night.
Some audience members wiped tears from their eyes during the song, while one gentleman tenderly placed his arm around his wife as the full band took off after a pair of horns began the melody.
Ending once again on “Scotland the Brave,” the Pipes and Drums of the Black Watch 3rd Battalion were astoundingly entertaining.
Beautiful, magnificent and melodious, the performance was the musical incantation of the longstanding history of the British Armed Forces.