This evening, ol’ Robbo attended Evensong down the Cathedral, in part because teh Middle Gel was singing, in part because my godparents were coming up for the service and we were all to go out to dinner afterwards. Because teh gel had mentioned that the service was going to involve “some Scottish stuff – men in kilts”, I was inspired to wear my (perfectly legitimate) clan tartan tie.
Just as well, because what the gel called “some Scottish stuff” turned out, in fact, to be the St. Andrew’s Society of Washington’s annual National Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan. (“Kirkin'” in this instance essentially means “blessing”.) The ceremony involved many, many men tricked out in full highland fig (including former Senator John Warner, which really rayther surprised me since I had thought he was dead), together with a Highland color guard and all the fixin’s.
It also involved a dozen massed pipers supported by bass and snare drummers. They appeared several times, including the initial procession, the ceremony of Kirkin’ itself and the recessional.
I must confess that I am of two very different minds about the bagpipes. On the one hand, I fully appreciate the criticism that their wailings sound like the anguished cries of some soul in torment or some wounded beast. I myself love to tell the old chestnut about how the Irish actually invented the pipes in the 11th Century and gave them to the Scots, and the Scots still haven’t caught on to the joke.
On the other hand…weeeeell….perhaps it’s something in the blood, because I have to admit that for all their aesthetic awfulness, I really rayther enjoy them myself.
Of course, the bagpipe – especially when massed – is best suited for the open air, not for an enclosed space, even as spacious as that of the interior of a cathedral. Fortunately, I only got the full blast when they passed me by. Teh gel had them practically on top of her for the entire service. When it was over, she wanted nothing more than quiet…..quiet.
The other thing that occurred to me as I watched this body make its way up the central aisle to the Great Choir was to agree with George MacDonald Fraser’s assessment that the smartest move the British government ever made regarding the Highlanders was to enlist them into HM’s Army as quickly as possible.
And speaking of which, how about a genuine Scots Highland fighting tune? I give you “Cock O’ The North”. Enjoy!