Pipes and Drums

    The pipe band began in the military, but its origins are largely unknown.

    Historically, pipers served in regiments from the earliest times; the Royal Scots have records referring to pipers dating back to as early as the 17th century. In the 1840s, Queen Victoria’s enthusiasm for all things Highland was instrumental in the War Office decision that each battalion of the Highland Regiments be allowed at least five pipers and a Pipe Major, which continues to be the structure in the Royal Army today. By this time, pipers and drummers were commonly paired together, it is assumed that they likely modeled themselves after the fife and drum bands which had existed in Switzerland for centuries. Drumming is as ancient as the concept of formed military units, and their original purpose on the battlefield was to signal tactical movements and keep cadence on the march.

    By the end of the Crimean War, pipe bands were established in most of the Scottish Regiments. The first civilian organizations to adopt pipe bands were police and fire brigade bands; even today, several forces maintain bands that play to a very high standard. Even now, as it has been since World War I, the pipe band represents a popular image of Scotland, the Highlands, the Scottish people and culture.

    In 1915 the Royal War Office banned the performance of pipers in the trenches due to the overwhelming number of casualties. The ban, however, was often not observed; Canadian piper James Richardson was awarded the Victoria Cross for playing during action in World War I. In the modern era, the pipes have led soldiers, sailors and marines into battle in a number of theatres, notably at El Alamein, Dieppe, the Normandy beaches, and the crossing of the Rhine. Even today, military pipers have served in both Gulf Wars and Afghanistan.

    This year SCOTFEST is proud to welcome multiple bands from many of the surrounding states, not just bands from Oklahoma. Last year we welcomed the Metro Tulsa Pipes and Drums, the City of Tulsa Pipes and Drums, Wichita Caledonian, the Oklahoma City Pipes and Drums and the Highlanders. This year, they’ve all come back and we’re adding some new faces from across the US, including many bands from Police and Fire Departments across the US.