On Friday 4th October 2013, 25 band members departed Edinburgh, bound for Lucerne Switzerland to participate in the World Band Festival ‘Tattoo on Stage’ show. Joining us on this trip were three dancers from Keltika and Drum Major Paula Braiden. Flying into Basel, the band were then driven south to the beautiful lakeside city of Lucerne, famous for its medieval quarter and Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a wooden bridge first erected in the 14th century.
Our accommodation was the Hotel de la Paix, directly across the water from the Culture and Congress Centre, commonly referred to as the KKL, where the World Band Festival ‘Tattoo on Stage’ show was being held. Arriving in time for dinner, the band was then able to enjoy a night out amongst the taverns and hostelries of the old town.
Saturday 5th October saw the band breakfasted and at the KKL for our first rehearsal at 8:30am! The show was a two-hour spectacle featuring The Band of the Blues and Royals, the Showband Corio Heerlen, Militärrepräsentationsorchester der Ehrengarde Moskau, Highland Dancers & Caorán, the showband.CH, the Lucerne Marching Band, the Swiss Army RS Drum Corps and ourselves with each band delivered between 8 and 15 minute performances.
We had been asked to open the stage show with a 15 minute band performance, perform Amazing Grace with 3 solo pipers, undertake a mini-band performance as part of a choreographed dancer routine during the 2nd half and then join with all the other bands onstage for the obligatory Highland Cathedral finale. Rehearsals were a very strict affair, with each band allotted a timeslot to undertake their performance, iron out any issues and get a feel for the stage and backstage areas.
Rehearsals continued through the morning and into the afternoon with the show managers, coordinators, stage crew and technicians working flat out to bring each performance together into the complete show. Each performance group had designated green rooms with plenty of space to tune up and relax. As the rehearsals came to an end, we walked the short distance back to the hotel, got kitted up and returned to the band canteen atop the Lucerne train station for an early dinner.
The KKL is a multi-functional building with a concert hall that is esteemed for its high-profile acoustics. Designed by the acclaimed architect Jean Nouvel, the concert hall was created mainly for classical music performances. There is capacity for 1840 spectators in its five floors (floor and balconies on four levels). Internally, the space suggests a double bass lined in wood. The venue meets the highest requirements acoustic though it’s internal design with an acoustic canopy above the stage, special gates on the reverberation chamber and the various materials selected. Quite simply, it is an amazing stage to perform upon – looking out, the concert hall rises five storeys tall with a clear volume.
At 7:30pm prompt we were in position back stage for our first show; a brief introduction from the show compare opened the event and then we took to the stage. Everything went well and within 20 minutes we were back in our green room enjoying a brief libation. At intervals throughout the show various combinations of pipers and drummers took to the stage to perform their slots and within no time at all we were joining all the other bands backstage prior to the grand finale. Everyone marched onto stage to the stirring music of the Band of the Royals and Blues before performing a lengthy fully orchestrated rendition of Highland Cathedral. It was a pleasure to receive a standing ovation from the full house – a privilege which occurred after each show.
Our first show wrapped up at about 10pm so we scooted back to the hotel, changed out of our kit and made the most of the evening in Lucerne. A number of our friends in the Swiss pipe band scene were in the audience and we enjoyed a great night out with them afterwards before continuing the party well into the wee hours at our hotel.
Sunday 6th October and very folk made breakfast but we were all back at the KKL in kit for the first of two shows. At 11am we were back on stage for another sold out show which went very well with time in between our slots to take a break and enjoy the sights along the lake front. A carnival had been set up outside the KKL for the duration of the overall show and it made for a very relaxing morning to be sipping coffee and watching the crowds pass by with the snow-topped Alps in the background.
After a well-needed lunch we had about two hours free to explore the old town and grab some souvenirs before getting tuned up and ready for the final show of the trip. In the interim, the PM was called upon to deliver a short performance for a pre-show drinks reception for the World Band Show sponsors and benefactors. And then it was time to hit the stage. The early evening show was again sold out and once more a standing ovation from the appreciative audience made us feel exceptionally welcome at this prestigious event.
But although our time performing at the KKL was over by 7:30pm, there was still one more wee treat in store for us. A group of Swiss friends and sponsors had kindly organised a late night cruise up Lake Lucerne on a rather impressive power yacht for the band with some on board hospitality! Boarding right outside the KKL, this super-yacht, which is normally reserved for top executive types, was ours for the next two hours. Under a clear sky, we zipped across the lake, enjoying champagne and canapés, meeting our generous hosts and of course, giving them a few tunes as well. The water was dead calm and with the sound carrying clearly you could only imagine what people on the shoreline must have been thinking as they heard the strains of the pipes late at night! It really was a perfect end to an excellent weekend and we sincerely thank our hosts and event organiser for such a great experience.
Once back at the KKL, we played our guest back onto the quayside before heading into town. A quartet of pipers played their way across the famous 14th Century Chapel Bridge before enjoying a fee beers in the old town taverns. And then it was back to the hotel for an all-nighter, enjoying a few last libations with our Swiss friends.
Monday morning, and it was a quieter, more reflective bunch who travelled to Basel to catch the flight home to Edinburgh. Clearly battle worn but equally very privileged and grateful to have been invited to perform at such an impressive event in an equally impressive venue and city. Many thanks to Peter Muller, the Swiss Consul in Edinburgh, for all his hard work and attention to detail which made this trip so memorable. And thank you also to the event organisers and sponsors for inviting us – we look forward to hopefully returning in the not-to-distant future.