Waimatuku pipe band invited to Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
The pipes are calling and the Waimatuku Southern Scenic Highland Pipe Band has answered.
The band has been invited to perform at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo to be held in Wellington in 2016 and for band members Val and Lewis McKay, it will be a very special Tattoo.
Val and his 15-year-old grandson Lewis have been playing bagpipes together since Lewis was a child.
In August they performed at the Tattoo in its native Edinburgh and the impending Tattoo would be even more memorable for them, they said.
"It's pretty special. Not everyone gets to go to the Edinburgh Tattoo, but to play with granddad is even more special," Lewis said.
Val started playing the bagpipes because his parents "thought it'd be a good idea, I guess" and has carried on for more than 60 years.
A good idea indeed - his bagpiping career has taken him all over the world, a far cry from his humble small-town beginnings.
"When I was young I got from one end of the street in Tuatapere to the other," he said.
"Nowadays, bagpipes get you all over the world."
The Waimatuku band is one of only four community bands from New Zealand to be invited, and the only South Island community band which will be there.
Twenty members of the band will head up to Wellington in February for the Tattoo and for most of them, it will be the first Tattoo they have attended.
Merv Gunn, the band's pipe major, said there was a feeling of honour and pride in being invited.
"The members are very excited to be going and to represent this area of Southland," Gunn said.
"It's good to be able to give back to the community."
Along with Lewis, 12-year-old Kirsten Devery will be among the youngest performers at the Tattoo.
Kirsten is a drummer for the band and was excited about the opportunities being in a pipe band could bring.
"[I'm] excited that I'm one of the youngest ever pretty much to do it," she said.
Pipers Robbie Wisely and Andrew Hall have been with the band for more than 50 years and both enjoyed the camaraderie among the band members.
Hall was "bloody chuffed" to be invited to the Tattoo and said the enduring spirit of the bagpipes had a lot to do with their noise.
"The pipes come on and people shut up and listen - well, they can't hear much else."
Wisely and Hall aren't the only things to have been with the band for a long time, Hall's set of bagpipes are more than 100 years old.
They belonged to the first ever Pipe Major when the band was established in 1934.
"They were old when he got them," Hall said.
"The older the better, just like the pipers," Wisely said.
With just two weeks break from practice a year, the band are heading into crunch time and are eager to know what music they will be playing, as appointed by the lead Pipe Major of the military band who will be at the Tattoo.
The Tattoo is a large-scale performance of music and display of armed forces by military and other bands.
More than 1200 performers will be at the Tattoo, which will feature a full-scale replica of Edinburgh Castle at Westpac Stadium.
In the Tattoo's 55 year history, this will be just the fourth time it has ventured outside of Scotland and the second time it has come to New Zealand.