The pipes will be skirling and the tartans will be swirling in far-off Czech Republic as members of two Peninsula–based groups – the Tam O’Shanter Dancers and the Crescent Beach Pipe Band – join forces for a mini-tour starting this weekend.
The group – including 15 pipers, 15 dancers and two spouses – is scheduled to arrive in Prague today (Friday) for a whirlwind week-long series of performances and a full day of sightseeing.
Cheryl Jorgensen of the Tam O’Shanters said the two principal venues will be festivals in Mêlník (about an hour northwest of Prague) and in Láznê Bêlohrad (two hours northeast of Prague).
Jorgensen explained that the much-travelled Tam O’Shanters (who have carried the standard for White Rock and Scottish country dance as far afield as Cuba and Hawaii) are always on the lookout for new places around the world where they can share their love of dancing.
Discussions with festival promoters in the Czech Republic indicated that they would be keen to have such representatives of Celtic culture there this year (following the successful appearance of a dance group from San Francisco in 2013), but with one proviso.
“All the Czech festivals want you to have live music with you,” she said.
Fortunately, she has strong connections with the multiple award-winning Crescent Beach Pipe Band – her son, Glen, was the band’s first pipe major, and still has friendships with a number of members, including current pipe major Mike Stephan.
The suggestion of a joint tour was eagerly received by the band, CBPB president Brian Porter said, even though the logistics became complicated.
“I was absolutely thrilled for the band,” he said. “But there’s some irony to all this – first of all, I’m not going to be able to go, and second, we had some trouble at first finding members who could commit to the schedule.”
Fortunately the elements started to fall into place, and he’s happy, ultimately, that the band has “a good complement going to Prague.”
Strong organization at the Czech end has done much to dispel any uncertainty about the trip, Jorgensen and Porter said.
“People from the festivals pick you up at the airport and transport you to your accommodation,” Jorgensen said, adding that organizers have also sent much information of interest about the beauty of the country and its history and culture.
“In the Czech Republic they’re so into music and dance,” she said. “From June until the end of August, every weekend there are festivals in one city or another – they take great pride in it.”
The tour, which ranges from venues that can hold thousands to a school theatre where the groups will perform for 220 students and teachers, has a thoroughly worked-out schedule, Porter said.
“There’s more detail and planning in this than there was on D-Day,” he chuckled, adding there was further amusement when organizers asked how many microphones the pipers and drummers would need.
“Then they checked out our video and said ‘I guess you don’t need microphones.’ The fact is, we carry our own earplugs!”
To be able to play live for the Tam O’Shanters, to augment their recorded music, Porter said the band has polished up versions of Marie’s Wedding and Amazing Grace, and also a special setting of Beer Barrel Polka, which he understands was originally an adaptation of a piece by a Czech composer.
“For pipe-band people, the tour will be big news,” he said.
“It will help us attract new members, and promote new friendships – and we could also be invited to other festivals as a result.”