A Highland Fling In Shanghai
Playinging drums withith a pipe bandband, Kay Condie has seen the world!
Real life story
ormed in 1887, Wallacestone and District Pipe Band in Scotland is one of the oldest civilian bands in the world, and 47-year-old Kay Condie is proud to be part of it.
“I have a huge family, and over the years no less than 16 of us have been band members! I started learning the chanter as a child, switched to Highland dancing for many years and
Fthen at the age of 39 I volunteered to learn tenor drum. It’s very visual so it’s interesting for audiences. Since then I’ve also taken up bagpipes, which is definitely harder but I’m getting there.”
Kay loves the social aspect of the band and was delighted when they were asked to perform at a 70th birthday party – particularly when she discovered it was taking place in Shanghai!
“Our Drum Major, Bud Inglis, got talking to a wealthy businessman who was looking for a pipe band to play at his father’s party. One of the main requirements was that the band wear the Number 1 uniform – tunic, white spats, plaid, kneelength horsehair sporran and a big feather bonnet. Luckily, we fitted the bill!”
The week-long allexpenses-paid trip was beyond Kay’s wildest dreams and naturally, the party itself was the highlight.
“It took place in the reception room of the most beautiful hotel. The guests were a mixture of ex-pats and Chinese people, all seated at the fanciest tables. We marched in, formed into a horseshoe shape and began playing – ScotlandtheBrave, AmazingGrace,Stirling Bridge, B all the favourites…
The audience went wild aand Nick Watson, whose bbirthday it was, was over the mmoon. It was such a buzz!”
With the celebrations oover, the band were free to ddo some sightseeing, little rrealising that they themselves wwould be the most eagerly aappreciated sight that day!
“We decided to have a band photograph against the famous river, The Bund. Just as we were getting into position, crowds of people started forming round us and every time we tried to move, somebody would ask for a photograph. It was like being a celebrity.
“Someone threw their child into my Uncle Tommy, the Pipe Major’s, arms for a snap and when the police turned up in their buggy, even they wanted a picture! In the end we stood there for three hours. It was amazing.”
As their time in Shanghai drew to a close, Kay planned a special goodbye.
“During our stay, the owner of the local bar had been so helpful, so the band decided to put on a wee show there as a token of their appreciation and I did a Highland Fling!”
Kay wasn’t back on home soil for long before another exciting opportunity to travel came her way – this time to Russia.
“The Moscow Military Tattoo was celebrating its 10th anniversary and had invited the International Celtic Pipes and Drums band, made up of 120 members from all over the world, to play. They needed another tenor drummer and I jumped at the chance.”
However, Kay’s initial excitement faded when it looked as though red tape might spell the end of her Red Square dream.
“I flew to Brussels where I was supposed to catch my connecting flight to Moscow but there was a ground strike. I made the plane with minutes to spare, not even thinking about my luggage, and five hours later I arrived in Moscow with no suitcase, no uniform and no drum!
“For three days I practised on the cobbles of Red Square with a borrowed drum and beaters, wearing the same clothes and high heels!
For days I practised in Red Square with a borrowed drum, wearing high heels
“My suitcase and instruments finally turned up on the Saturday morning ready for the show on Saturday night and I was so relieved.”
The band’s Tattoo performance was a triumph and led to an invitation to visit the Kremlin.
“We were given VIP passes and as soon as we got inside we were in awe. The doors were huge, the ceilings were intricately painted and there was gold wherever you looked. Security guards were at every turn, ready to give you a row if you stepped off the carpet and on to the stunning floors!”
While the security guards seemed to conform to a rather stern stereotype, Kay actually found a real warmth in the Russian people.
“After my performance in Moscow I was lucky enough to be selected to play in Khabarovsk, a city in Russia’s Far East, at the Amur Waves Festival. The people there were really, really friendly.
“We played marching down a street and, although some of them were povertystricken, they were so pleased to see us.”
The experience moved Kay and she recognises just how much the pipe band has brought to her life.
“Shanghai and Moscow are places I would never have dreamt of going otherwise and I’d never even heard of Khabarovsk! “Playing drums in the band has opened up the world for me and I’m so glad that it has.”
Dancing in the bar
Kay is proud to be a bandmember
Uncle Tommy’s celeb moment
Just one of many pictures taken of band members beside The Bund
Performing in Moscow