Even though the Australian Celtic Festival is over we weren’t quite ready to finish our blog series about the amazing performers. The weekend was full of fun activities for the whole family and incredible entertainment. The Emmanuel College Highlanders were part of the line up at the weekend and I was lucky enough to have the chance to question them about their unique pipe band.
I first heard about the Emmanuel College Highlanders through my interview with Cape Bryon Celtic Dance and after reading their interesting back story I reached out to the group. The group formed in 2016 when the Queensland Highlanders and the University of Queensland Pipe Band at Emmanuel College strategically merged. Two groups of very experienced pipers and drummers were able to come together to share their talent. I spoke to the band about their musical journey over the past two years and of course how they chose their tartan!
What makes your sound so unique?
The band strives to produce a high quality sound for our audiences, we put a lot of work in to ensure our pipes and drums sound the best they can and produce a uniform sound within each of the corps. Performing as a joint unit means we can not only achieve a technically correct sound, but can also bend the rules to create music that will be memorable.
You had many achievements as separate pipe bands, what has been your biggest achievement since joining forces?
The leading success of the new band is definitely down to our members integrating so well, it’s been a fantastic experience. We have been able to win all of our competitions so far, exclusive of coming second in our grade at the Australian Pipe Band Championships this year. We are in the middle of our competition season at the moment so we will be heading to the Queensland Pipe Band Championships shortly to uphold our title. We were also honoured to receive the 2017 Triquetre Ambassador Award at last years Australian Celtic Festival.
Did the bands attend the Australian Celtic Festival separately in previous years?
The University of Queensland Pipe band had been attending the festival since 2008 and introduced the Emmanuel College Highlanders in 2017. It was really important for Pipe Major Andrew McCabe that the Emmanuel College Highlanders attended the festival, as he grew up in the neighbouring town of Tenterfield.
What is your favourite part about attending the Australian Celtic Festival?
The Australian Celtic Festival allows us a weekend away where we can enjoy performing for very appreciative audiences and immerse ourselves in the culture a pipe band epitomises. We can enjoy each other’s company, meet people who celebrate other facets of Celtic tradition and have the opportunity to listen to other musicians, pipe band or otherwise!
How did you choose the Stewart of Appin tartan that you wear as part of your uniform?
For our first year we all wore our ‘own’ tartans so we had our pipers in Stewart of Appin (from the Highlanders) and our drummers in Napier (from UQ). Ultimately, the choice to go with the Stewart of Appin did come down to the practicality of the band owning more of the tartan to make new kilts, and that the red went better with the Emmanuel College corporate colours. The UQ Pipe Band originally wore the Napier tartan as the Western Australia Police Pipe Band donated their old Napier kilts when the band started back in 1998.
What is your favourite part about Scottish Culture?
The music! All members of a pipe band would definitely say the music, however the camaraderie, philosophy and of course whisky are all at the top of the list too!
Check out the Emmanuel College Highlanders Facebook page to see how they go on at the festival and you’ll even be able to keep up to date with all their future performances! If you managed to watch the band at the festival we would love to see your pictures, especially if you were sporting the family tartan.
Keep an eye out on the blog for one more interview with an Australian Celtic Festival performer!