By Sharalee Fraser
EDMOND :: PHILADELPHIA CHURCH OF GOD—Over 300 years of British military history and tradition were on display February 17 as the Band of Scots Guards and the Pipes, Drums and Highland Dancers of the Black Watch 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland visited Armstrong Auditorium. The “British Isles of Wonder” performance, inspired by a line in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, celebrated the music and dancing of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales before a crowd of 746, including Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.
Many of the concertgoers arrived already “in the spirit” of the evening, sporting tartan ties, hats, scarves, and even few kilts in celebration of British heritage. Two Herbert W. Armstrong College students on the ushering staff also appeared wearing their kilts.
After Linda Cavanaugh, a newscaster for season sponsor News Channel 4, introduced the concert, 80 Scots Guards and Black Watch pipers, drummers, and brass musicians took the stage and led the audience on a musical journey of the British Isles that blended traditional music with military history, Celtic dancing and British pageantry.
The regiments appeared in full dress uniform, the Band of Scots Guards wearing its iconic red coats and bearskin hats, and the Black Watch wearing traditional kilts and berets. In the first half, the bands played the anthems of Britain and the United States and took the audience through the hills of Ireland and the imperial history of Britain. The second half featured more folk music and highlighted Wales and Scotland.
The Scots Guards formed in 1642; its band was created in or before 1716 and entertained troops at home and in the theater of war. Many of its members today have been deployed on active military service. The Black Watch is a famed Scottish fighting unit, raised up in the early 1700s out of Highlanders loyal to the Crown. Members still serve a vital role in combat positions today.
Gov. Mary Fallin accepted an invitation from the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation to attend the performance; it was her first visit to Armstrong Auditorium. The governor met Gerald Flurry, chairman of the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation, and Major Yates, musical director of the guards, backstage before the performance. For the concert, Gov. Fallin and her daughter sat near Mr. Flurry and the Major Andrew Halliday of the Black Watch.
During the first half, five Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen from the Governor’s Honor Guard marched onto the stage bearing American, British and Oklahoma flags as the Scots Guards played and the large crowd honored its governor with a round of applause.
The governor exited with her entourage at intermission, but the rest of the concertgoers who stayed and stretched their legs in the lobby during the break got the opportunity to meet the performers, who came out from backstage for a meet-and-greet. The friendly gesture impressed several visitors. One gentleman remarked, “I could stay here all night!”
Right before the finale, the performers played a tribute to the armed forces, playing “Heroes of the Flag” and the marches for each branch of the United States military. Audience members who have served in the military stood as their Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine, or Coast Guard march was played; the crowd recognized them with enthusiastic applause.
After the finale, Maj. Vernon Yates ceremonially addressed Chairman Flurry and requested permission to be dismissed; the bands played a musical medley including “Scotland the Brave” as they marched off.
As they exited, many attendees were smiling; some said, “Let’s do this again,” “Please let them come back,” and “We’ve been telling our friends how great your program is.” One new season ticket-holder said the concert was the best so far.
The musicians said they also had a positive experience. “We’ve received our best reception on tour right here,” one Scots Guards member said. “Oklahoma is number-one.” Several performers remarked on the backstage service, saying they had never received complimentary massages as they lined up for their turn. They also expressed gratitude for the food service, tenderloin and hot fare contrasting against their usual meals on tour. “This is incredible;” one performer said, “all we’ve had on this tour is sandwiches.” Another said it was the best food the bands have received out of all 32 venues they had visited so far on the tour. The Guards’ commander said the food was a great “morale booster” and that the guards and staff were treated like “VIPs.” One performer said it felt like being in “paradise.” The following morning, the Scots Guards posted a comment about their memorable experience to its Facebook page.
The next concert at Armstrong Auditorium features the China National Symphony Orchestra on February 28. For more details, visit ArmstrongAuditorium.org.