By Bill Robinson
RICHMOND — The stage at the EKU Center for the Arts may be the largest in Kentucky, but it’s still a small place for a marching band to perform. But the Band of the Scots Guard and the bagpipers of Black Watch proved Friday night that it’s large enough for a well-practiced marching band to gracefully execute intricate, close-order drills while performing stirring music.
Just their marching or their music would be enjoyable to watch, but the combination delighted an appreciative audience that filled the orchestra seats and first balcony. I’ll just have to tell those who could have filled the top balcony what they missed.
Seeing these young Scots in their splendid uniforms taking hold of their culture’s ancient military traditions probably awakened in the audience a sense of their ancestral roots. Many, if not most, Kentuckians, including me, can trace their ancestry back to Scotland by way of Northern Ireland.
The music Friday night wasn’t all from Scotland, however. The musical heritage of all four nations of the British Isles – England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – was included in the program.
The kinship of national alliance as well as blood was evident in the large flags – the Stars and Stripes alongside the Union Jack – on the wall behind the performers.
The audience was reminded that the performers are active-duty military personnel – some have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and some are there today – when the players began the final section of the first half with “Soldier’s Return.”
Reflecting on our history, it seems a shame our ancestors ever quarreled. But 102 years after Andrew Jackson and an army that included a host of Kentuckians repelled a British invasion at New Orleans, Americans and Brits were fighting side by side in France against a common enemy. Nearly 25 years later, we were fighting together again, just as we have several times since.
The British and the rest of the world learned from Americans’ insistence in 1776 that what were then considered only the traditional rights of British subjects were really the universal rights of mankind.
Bagpipes were designed to play loud so their sound would echo off the hills of Scotland, fortify the courage of defenders and strike fear into the hearts of invaders. Although the bagpipes’ sound may have been magnified by being contained within a theater Friday night, the audience was louder in its appreciative cheers and applause.
The greatest ovation came near the program’s end when the combined musical units played a medley of “Amazing Grace,” “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” and “Last Post and Taps.”
The audience was on its feet, applauding with all its might as wave after wave of cheers rolled from the back of the house down to the stage. The band master’s return of the cheering with a snappy salute only prompted more cheers and even louder applause.
Others of our British cousins could help us, I think. We should invite the team of historical researchers and forensic anthropologists who found and verified the remains of King Richard III to come to America. Jimmy Hoffa’s grave has been missing for less than 40 years. If the Brits can find Richard’s grave after 427 years, finding where the legendary Teamsters’ ex-president is buried should be a piece of cake.
I’m sorry that senior news writer Ronica Shannon left the Register at the end of last week. An EKU graduate, she had been with the paper for more than eight years. During her tenure, she had been a diligent and faithful reporter who gained the respect of the local government officials she covered.
We and our readers are going to miss her, and even if we’re able to hire another reporter, we'll never be able to replace Ronica.
However, I agree with the sentiment another local employer shared with me after he recently lost a valuable employee. “I’d rather have people working for me who others want to hire than somebody that no one wants to hire.”
I know you join me in wishing her every success as she advances in her career.
I ran into some good advice this past week when I took a day off to spend with my younger daughter. As we visited a gift shop, we found a coffee mug and T-shirt that offered some advice from dogs: Make new friends, learn new tricks, hide snacks, take naps and when a loved one comes home, run to greet them.