2020 was lined up to be a huge year for many of our Pipers who were set to perform in Germany, Khabarovsk, Perm, Moscow and Sakhalin with the International Celtic Pipes and Drums (ICPD). When these plans didn't go ahead, with every trip being cancelled, a busy year for many members was beginning to look a little dull. Then came our silver lining. We got the invitation to perform at the Sychrov Highland Games.
We kicked the weekend off the best way we know how - Meeting the band members already in Prague and Piping in a whiskey bar.
Based right in the Heart of Europe, we got to experience the city in it's true nature thanks to our very own personal tour guide Chip Máčel (who we met whilst performing at the Amur Waves Festival in Khabarovsk last year) taking us out of the touristy hotspots and into the side streets and the authentic Czech Republic culture. We appreciated the beer, the architecture, the people and the vibrancy of the city and the sites worth seeing; taking into consideration that we were lucky enough to experience this without the packed streets, lengthy queues and thousands of tourists.
We headed to the Sychrov Highland Games to perform as part of a Massed Band which consisted of the International Celtic Pipes and Drums, Dresden Pipe Band, The Crossed Swords Pipes and Drums, Blue Squadron Pipe Band and The Rebel Pipers.
An early start and a full day event. The main event of our trip. Any tiredness felt didn't dampen our spirits because, as they say, the show must go on. With live music and access to the main hospitality area, we were in our element between performances. Having kicked off the opening ceremony with a massed band entry, a performance during the event and finishing the day's festivities by performing on the main stage; we were there from start to finish and had an absolute ball. Not only was this a fantastic event in itself through its workshops, competitions, performances and the hospitality; we also received an extra warm welcome and a huge level of generosity from the organisers making our experience one to remember. In return for drinks, we got the Pipes out - is that a fair deal or what? We thought it was a no brainer anyway. You know it has been a good one when Ian Burrows repeats, "This has been the best day ever!!!". This event made us feel at home whilst being somewhere new.
This day was spent taking a boat tour which consisted of learning some history about the Vltava River and its surroundings, having a few beers and of course, getting the Pipes out. Having seen what Prague has to offer as a tourist and a local (again, thanks to Chip), we finished the day spending quality time as a group in Czech pubs. To top the day off, we crossed Charles Bridge at night, not only was it beautiful but it was empty. How many people can say they crossed an empty Charles Bridge and got to take the time admire this beautiful destination.
From Piping our way around Prague including across Charles Bridge (which may not have been totally legal...), seeing it's top spots to supporting the local pubs and taking a boat ride; we definitely did our time in Prague justice. Not to mention the superb day had by all at the Sychrov Highland Games. To feel that spirited, full-of-life atmosphere again, one we haven't felt since Covid has taken over, was simply remarkable. We left the Czech Republic impressed, we hope we left behind a good impression too.
Was it worth the 14 day quarantine? Absolutely. We're happy to have gotten our Piping fix with our good friends for the foreseeable future.
If you want to get involved with us, have a question or would like to receive Zoom lessons for the Highland Bagpipes or Snare Drum, send us a message via Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/musicserviceforpipesanddrums/
Also, follow the International Celtic Pipes and Drums on Facebook to keep up to date with their activity - https://www.facebook.com/KelticMusic