Performing Scottishness

massed-bandsOn Saturday 17th December some colleagues from the Beatrix Pipe Band and I traveled to Dusseldorf to ‘see’ Music Show Scotland. We are hoping to contribute to this show in the year 2017 and so went to see how it worked, go backstage, watch the rehearsal and see the show.

From the beginning we were welcomed by the organizers, allowed all area access, and provided with hospitality. Thanks to all.

Music Show Scotland claims to be one of the biggest indoor Scottish Music events in the world and in 2017 will tour the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland. The base of the organisation is in the Netherlands.singers

The show is precisely that – a music show. It is as much to be seen as to be heard. It combines for the big stage light, sights, sounds, narrative, drama, dance and action. The music is a mixture of the traditional and the contemporary with a number of creative musical arrangements. The Scottish culture as presented is a mixture of history and myth – but this indeed is the nature of all identity. As a show it is great entertainment and worth seeing. To be sure as with any music show not all items resonated with me in the same way but I thought the performances of the Gael, the drum salute, and of Drum Major Geertjan Van Rooi were outstanding. The show was also at times just good fun and well conducted with good audience interaction.


I have to confess, that I had seen the ‘Castle’, climbed on it, and know that it was not ‘real’ – but when during the show the massed bands came streaming out of that castle, pipes playing, drums beating, kilts wearing, with the St Andrew’s flag blowing in the ‘wind’, it was a pretty stirring moment. Likewise when the lights lifted to display the Castle ramparts filled with bagpipers it brought a gasp from the appreciative audience. Good entertainment should invite you to ‘suspend your disbelief’ and the Music Show Scotland does that.

As a Scot seeing your culture performed mainly by people not from Scotland and in a ‘foreign’ country, sometimes strikes me as surreal. It could make you critical. Yet, it seems to me that what I saw was Scottish culture being treated and portrayed with respect, seriousness, and appropriate humour.


There is no getting away from the ‘military’ aspects of such Scottish performances and all of this pageantry was part of the entertainment. Yet, the choice of music and songs and the nature of the presentation pushes towards a less narrow nationalistic and military theme and towards something of a more universal, peaceful, and hopeful nature. This helps it be transferable as a performance. To do this is a skill and it is well done.


The reasons for the interest in all things Scottish on mainland Europe has been treated academically in relation to matters of identity and the recognizable figure of the Scottish performer dressed in tartan.  What I saw, however, was people enjoying something of Scottish culture, the music, and being part of the performance. The show and thus Scottish culture brings together people from diverse backgrounds in a common performance. We need some of this. If there was any division backstage it was the time honored tradition of drummers and pipers sitting at different tables having a practice!

In my opinion the Scottish Tourist Board should be sponsoring this organisation because they are doing a good job of promoting Scotland or at least a particular expression of its story. So along with the business of preparing to compete with Beatrix in the various pipe band championships in 2017 including the World Championship in Glasgow, I look forward to being part of this event.






  1. Hi,

    Thanks for being at the show in Düsseldorf and your interesting and nice words in the blog item. I am looking forward working with you and the other members of the Beatrix Pipe Band.

    I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a happy 2017,

    Kees Westerkamp
    Senior drum major of The Music Show Scotland



  2. […] Ook Schotten waarderen de Music Show Scotland! Bij de Music Show Scotland spelen diverse Schotse pipers en drummers mee. Hoofdzakelijk ex-militairen die na hun carrière op het vaste land van Europa zijn gaan wonen en nu bij de show meespelen. Een van de Schotten die begin volgend jaar deel gaat uit maken van the massed pipes and drums, was afgelopen zaterdag te gast bij de show in Düsseldorf en schreef er een interessant blogitem over. […]



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