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Precision and spectacle: The Bands of the Royal Marines and Scots Guards come to Krannert

The Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes, Drums, and Highland Dancers of the Scots Guards will return to the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday evening for a high-energy evening of music and pageantry. Audience members can expect to enjoy a dazzling spectacle combining the highest standard of musicianship with exacting precision and athleticism.

The Band of the Royal Marines travels the world extensively while also fulfilling various ceremonial duties at home, including participation in the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo*. Every member of the Band is expected to master at least two instruments, one wind and one string. The Corps of Drums generally precedes the Band and reaches a similarly high standard of drumming, bugling, and precision drills.

The musicians and buglers attain this standard by enrolling at the Royal Marines School of Music in Portsmouth at a young age. After an initial 15 weeks of military training, they begin their specialization and continue their musical and ceremonial training for several years, including possible trips back to the School for additional study as they earn promotion through the ranks. Besides their musical duties, every member of the Band is also trained for deployment if necessary, usually to perform support duties such as serving as drivers or medical personnel. Members of the Band recently assisted during the Ebola crisis by serving for six months on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship ARGUS.

The Pipers, Drummers and Highland Dancers of the Scots Guards will also take the stage with the Royal Band, all wearing distinctive Scottish uniforms. The Pipers wear full Highland dress along with feather bonnets, while the Drummers wear scarlet tunics and caps made of bearskin. Though the Scots Guards originated in the 17th century as royal bodyguards, it took some time for the Band of the Scots Guards to look as it does today. The first documented description of the Band, from 1716, includes only six wind instruments (all hautbois, something similar to today’s oboe) and three drums. The Band now includes 43 musicians, and its principal ceremonial duty is to play music for the Queen’s Guard during the Changing of the Guard and the Old Guard’s march back to their barracks.

As in the Royal Band, musicians in the Scots Guards are trained for active service in combat as well as their musical duties and attend infantry training before beginning their studies at the Army School of Pipe Music and Highland Drumming. The Band of the Scots Guards has often been used to raise morale and to encourage enlistment, especially during the First World War. During World War II the musicians from the battalion who were stationed in London assisted in fire-watching duties at night as England endured the horrors of the Blitz. More recently, the Band of the Scots Guards was the only Foot Guards Band deployed for active service during the Gulf War in 1990 and the members memorably wore desert combat uniforms to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in 2003 after finishing their operations in Iraq.

Attendees of Tuesday evening’s program should expect a wide range of music, not just tunes one would immediately associate with the military. In the days before radio and gramophones, military bands’ performances at bandstands were one of the chief ways that music was made accessible to the masses, and the Bands continue to perform from a diverse repertoire of music today. (The theme song from “Game of Thrones” is just one of the promised selections in Tuesday’s program.)   The mixture of visual spectacle and stirring music should make the performance a truly unforgettable experience for all audience members.

Tuesday night’s performance will be dedicated to those in the Champaign-Urbana community who have served or are serving in the Armed Forces. As with last year’s World War I-themed commemorative events, Krannert has engaged in energetic outreach efforts to help the local military community connect with this performance. Krannert has made over 200 contacts with veterans, student veterans, ROTC, active duty military, and military family and support groups throughout East Central Illinois and expects a large turnout from those groups on Tuesday night.

Numerous military VIPS will be attending the performance, including the highest ranking officers in the Illinois National Guard and the University of Illinois ROTC program as well as the Honorable Thomas R. Lamont, former Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs). A ceremonial Regimental Salute will be performed as part of the evening’s program.

The Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes, Drums, and Highland Dancers of the Scots Guards will perform at 7:30 PM on Tuesday, February 9th in the Foellinger Great Hall at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $39 (or $34 for Senior Citizens, $15 for Students, and $10 for U of I students and Youth) and can be purchased in person at the Krannert Ticket Office, by calling 800/KCPATIX, or online.

*(editor’s note: I had no idea this referred to a type of military music which has evolved into an elaborate, expensive performance, as opposed to skin art. Knowing is half the battle.)

Images of the performers courtesy of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. 

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