Amazing Grace: Pipes and Drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards perform in Dundee

© Michael AlexanderThe Pipes and Drums of the Leuchars-based Royal Scots Dragoon Guards perform at the Caird Hall in Dundee
The Pipes and Drums of the Leuchars-based Royal Scots Dragoon Guards perform at the Caird Hall in Dundee

They’ve been on Top of the Pops, performed at the Sydney Opera House and won a Classical Brit Award.

The Pipes and Drums of the Leuchars-based Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are famous the world over and have not performed a full concert in the UK for 32 years.

That all changed on Thursday night when the 18-strong band put on a private performance for the regiment, families, local VIPs and the Regimental Association at the Caird Hall in Dundee.

The Pipes and Drums – who are all “soldiers first, musicians second” – have recently returned from a two month 47-concert  tour of Australia where they played in front of 50,000 people.

And they received a heroes’ welcome in front of a home coming crowd in Dundee  when they recreated the Australian set – the 48th – of their tour.

The packed hall was blown away by stirring performances including the band’s famous 1972 hit Amazing Grace and other classics such as Last of the Mohicans and Mark Knopfler’s Going Home: Theme from Local Hero.

It was also a special night for singer Layla Brown and keyboard player Joe Fleetwood, both from Arbroath, who were called in to perform with the band at the 11th hour.

Speaking to The Courier backstage at the Caird Hall before the performance got under way, Major Kevin McDowell, Squadron Leader with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and Pipe President of the band, explained where the inspiration for the Dundee concert had come from.

He said: “The band’s just come from a two month tour of Australia where they played 47 concerts in 40 different venues.

“I was lucky enough to be able to visit them for four of those shows.

“And whilst out there I just thought it would be a great opportunity to try and put this on for all the friends and family of the regiment at Leuchars Station, and the Association of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards as well.

“We were lucky enough that the stars aligned and we ended up having tonight available at the Caird Hall because of a cancellation and that’s where we are today.”

Lieutenant Colonel Dom Coombes, commanding officer of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and Station Commander at Leuchars, said: “We suddenly realised that everyone in Australia had seen the concert but we hadn’t.

“Pretty last minute, we threw this together.

Soldiers, families and guests streaming into the Caird Hall, Dundee, at the start of the night © Michael Alexander
Soldiers, families and guests streaming into the Caird Hall, Dundee, at the start of the night

“The Caird Hall have been brilliant allowing us the opportunity to use this venue, and this is a really good opportunity for our soldiers, our families and our friends to come and see what our band have been doing and for them to showcase their incredible talent.”

Lieutenant Alex Stewart, has just returned from the Australian tour. He said it was “fantastic” to be using the Caird Hall and to “promote some local partnerships.”

The compere for the evening in Dundee, he explained that the history of the Pipes and Drums dated back to 1922 when the regiment were mounted on horses.In 1946, for practical reasons, it was decided that it would bet better to have dismounted pipers and drummers.

The accolades have been growing since.

They include the 1972 gold disc presented to a previous incarnation of the band after it topped the charts for five weeks with Amazing Grace, ousting Nilsson’s Without You from the top spot, before making way for T-Rex’s Metal Guru.

They also have trophies galore from British, European and World championships.

And let’s not forget the 2009 Classical Brit Award for the album Spirit of the Glen: Journey, part of which was recorded in an air-conditioned tent in sweltering heat while the regiment was in Basra, Iraq, in 2008.

The pipes and drums saw off albums by Katherine Jenkins and Andrea Bocelli to take the gong – making them the first non-professional musicians to win a Classical Brit.

But while upholding the rich legacy of the SCOTS DG Pipes and Drums is important to the regiment, the real achievement is maintaining high standards in music alongside their primary role as highly trained soldiers.

The SCOTS DG – Scotland’s only regular cavalry unit – have been based at Leuchars since they moved back to Scotland from Germany in summer 2015.

The Pipes and Drums took part in this year’s Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo where they were part of the Massed Pipes and Drums.

Crowds dispersing into the Dundee night.... © Michael Alexander
Crowds dispersing into the Dundee night….

One long-since retired Fife soldier leaving the Caird Hall after the performance told The Courier:”I really enjoyed that. They were almost as good as the Black Watch!”

In photos: Royal Scots Dragoon Guards play landmark Caird Hall show

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