Lance Corporal Rob Howe is a Percussionist in the Band of the Scots Guards and is currently touring the United States of America and Canada.
Pipes, Drums and Dancers
Ever since I joined the Band of the Scots Guards, I knew there was a opportunity to tour the USA and it was something I had been looking forward to for some time.
Since arriving at the band, I have seen three other guards bands complete the tour; Welsh Guards (2006), Coldstream Guards (2008) and Irish Guards (2010).
Before we even arrived at the airport, months of hard work had gone into organising the tour. Certain jobs were delegated to various members of the band by our previous Director of Music and the Band Sergeant Major. I was given the responsibility of media and photography, which I have a keen interest in.
Joining us on this tour are the Pipes, Drums and Dancers of the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland under the leadership of Pipe Major Richard Grisdale. Interestingly, on our last tour to the USA in 1998, the Black Watch also provided the pipe band. They are a young and relatively inexperienced ensemble and have risen to the occasion superbly, being one of the most professional pipe bands we have worked with recently.
On Wednesday 9th January, the band flew to New York and then travelled by coach to Philadelphia. We stayed in a magnificent hotel in the middle of Philadelphia and were looked after very well. Musicians Dave Cook and Paul Smith really splashed out, spending $45 on breakfast in bed!
The next day was spent rehearsing our show as it had been some time since we had rehearsed it with the pipes and drums. It also gave Major Vernon Yates, our new Director of Music the opportunity to put the final touches on the musical aspects of the show. This took up most of the day, but some managed to squeeze in a Philly Cheesesteak in the evening!
Friday morning was spent sightseeing by most of the band, visiting the Liberty Bell and running up the steps that feature in the movie ‘Rocky.’ Some found this easier to do than others!
The band had its first show that evening, performing at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. The afternoon consisted of a final rehearsal in the venue, kit cleaning and finished with a lovely buffet that had been put on for us. It took a while to get used to the chocolate chip cookies with rock salt though.
The show started at 8pm and we played to a packed out audience. One of the highlights of the night was playing ‘Amazing Grace’ with the pipes and at the end of the evening, we received a standing ovation. ‘Amazing Grace’ was written especially for this tour and features Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, Last Post and its American equivalent Taps.
In the first 10 days of the tour we travelled over 1,000 miles, performing shows in Philadelphia, Greenvale, Easton, Rockville, Gettysburg, York, Union and New Brunswick, stretching across four states. We received standing ovations in all shows and the reception from the audiences has been tremendous.
The band had the opportunity to visit New York City on our first day off. We managed to fit in most of the tourist attractions, including the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Times Square to name a few. The Band also visited the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. This was a very moving experience and our tour guide reminded us what happened on that day almost 12 years ago.
We were also given a coach tour of Washington DC by our driver, Gabe. We visited many memorials and attractions, including the White House, Martin Luther King Memorial and the Marine Corps War Memorial.
At every show members of the band have been fundraising for the Scots Guards Colonel’s Fund. Charity wrist bands are a 1st battalion Scots Guards driven fundraiser. Proceeds will entirely go to assisting wounded guardsmen and their families. In the first 7 shows, we have raised around $7000, which is a great start.
The 1st Battalion, Scots Guards are currently serving on operations in Afghanistan and the Regimental Band wishes them a good tour and safe return.
In the coming weeks we are travelling to Canada, the Mid West and the Deep South. So far the tour is going really well and we look forward to performing our show and promoting the United Kingdom as well as the British Army across the USA and Canada.