I’m Hazel Whyte, 15, and play with the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland. This is my second year playing with the band and I was lucky enough to be selected to go and play at the 2018 Ortigueira Festival in Spain. This was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down.
On arrival in Spain we then had a two hour drive to the high school, where we stayed, and the realisation of being in a new country began to sink in. Time to get settled in, lunch and then the pipes out. After a good blow of a new reed it was time to go exploring.
A walk down the ‘main street’ where there is a bakery and a small supermarket led to the shore where we saw the main stage that we would be performing on for the first time. The stage was huge although the area for the crowd didn’t seem that big. A chilled evening was needed after the flight. Even though the World Cup was in Spanish it didn’t stop the band from sitting outside the pub watching the game on their screen.
Wakening up next morning to a cold shower what more could you ask for? It certainly was refreshing. We came to the conclusion that the bakery was a better choice for breakfast than the school’s canteen. Participating in the opening ceremony on the Thursday night gave us a chance to hear the other bands for the first time and see the main differences between their uniform and instruments against ours. This was the first time that we had heard the crowds reaction to our performance, which went down a treat. If this was their reaction now, then what was it going to be like at the concert?
After a relaxing Friday morning we were interviewed by the local press, then, sound checks completed, dinner was calling. Sardines? Eh, no pizza sounded like a better plan! 11:30pm had arrived and it was showtime. What a way to start the show ‘Thunderstruck’. This was my first time playing Thunderstruck and 400% in concert with the band and what an atmosphere to do it in. The crowd were brilliant and this was only our first number. The night of our concert broke the record amount of people at the festival. The small space which we had seen was now packed with over 75,000 people and playing a solo in front of them was a dream come true.
With the tour coming to the end, we still had one more gig to do. A three hour march around town in the Spanish heat. I think they had picked the hottest day to do it in! Despite the heat it was amazing to have all the bands coming together and playing in one big parade. Again the people were very supportive and thankful for the festival, cheering on all the bands as they played before playing their last number in the square. This is when the Thunderstruck Reprise was needed again and what a way to finish! As all the bands were together this was the perfect opportunity to try out the other instruments and have a laugh. That evening we went to the festival and watched other acts perform including Lúnasa from Ireland. It was great to support them and hear other styles of music. After a late night finish and knowing it was an early rise, sleep wasn’t an option.
I was disappointed when the tour finished although to have this opportunity was unreal. I can’t thank the Youth Band enough for providing me with this experience. It was great to play alongside members from the senior band and many friendships and memories have been made. This is only the beginning of my journey and I hope for many more years with the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland.