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Pipes are calling around the world

Brianne Young never thought she would have the opportunity to play the bagpipes in front of the Great Wall of China, not to mention, be almost arrested for it.
Brianne Young and her fiance Callum Mathers took the opportunity to perform with their Gaelen Pipe Band in China.

Brianne Young never thought she would have the opportunity to play the bagpipes in front of the Great Wall of China, not to mention, be almost arrested for it.

It is exactly what almost occurred on a trip in September with her pipe band who were invited to perform in Beijing at the International Cultural Festival.

“We didn’t expect to play at the Great Wall, we just brought our pipes and kilts and decided that we are going to put on a little performance and filmed it, and now it’s on YouTube. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize how it would upset some of the Chinese people and we almost got arrested,” said Young. “I guess they considered it an insult which we didn’t know and we didn’t ask permission. Luckily, our tour guide talked to the police and they decided to take it up with the tour guide later. The tour guide didn’t seem too concerned about it.”

Of the 17 countries taking part, Young’s pipe band consisting of 30 members was given honours and invited back next year.

Young, who was born in Penticton and just finished her bachelor degree in Scottish Studies at Simon Fraser University, started her playing career with the Okanagan Caledonian Pipe Band. In 2008 she won a scholarship to study in Dundee, Scotland and joined the Graelen Pipe Band in the Lower Mainland. She said the experience of going to China to perform with Graelen is one of her fondest memories. While in China they performed at the Olympic Bird’s Nest stadium, played in a parade in Old Beijing and some even climbed the Great Wall in their kilts. All of this of course is right behind when her fiance, Callum Mathers from Abbotsford, asked her to marry him at the World Piping Championships in Scotland last year.

This is just one example of how opportunities are opened to pipers and drummers. Locally, pipe bands have performed in Japan, Thailand, Hawaii, Europe and the Pacific Northwest. Over the last decade the Okanagan Caledonian Pipe Band has welcomed members of all ages and skill level. They have had bagpipers and drummers from 10 to 80 years old win trophies for both individual piping and with bands.

“It’s crazy, I have travelled to so many different countries and met so many different people doing this,” said Young. “A lot of bands will pay you to travel to other countries to play with them. It’s a really good opportunity. Even when we went to China, all we had to do is pay for our flights. Thinking about the opportunity we had in going to China, no one else is really going to have that same experience that we had. It gives me goosebumps.”

The Okanagan Caledonian Pipe Band also works to keep Scottish heritage alive. On Jan. 22 the pipe band is hosting Robbie Burns Night, held worldwide each year to honour Scotland’s most famous poet. A traditional Burns supper will be held at the Eagles club in Penticton and Young will be playing and singing. For more information and tickets call Darline at 250-493-6331 or Barb at 250-492-5701. For more info about learning to pipe or joining the Okanagan Caledonian Pipe Band contact Pipe Major Geordie Young at 250-493-8594.