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Protocol for Piping a Formal Dinner: A Ceremonial Guide for Highland Bagpipers
It is believed that the custom of feeding began in the monasteries, entered the first universities, and then spread to the military units with the formation of the officer’s mess. British officers in the 19th century came from the aristocracy and considered themselves gentlemen, but they were not necessarily men of money; Third and fourth sons had little chance of inheriting titles and lands. The pooling of resources may have been driven by economic necessity, but the disorganization of the regimental officer maintained the social stratification of English society and led to the preservation and inculcation of noble moral traditions among junior officers. The main elements are a strict formal environment, spirituality, friendship among peers, a fine dinner, traditional toasts to the head of state, military service, martial music, and the presence of distinguished guests or speakers. Today, the purpose of a dinner may be to celebrate appointments, promotions, retirements, or any good event, but the main theme of such an event is to pay attention to the history of the host organization.
The tradition of fiddling at the high table may have its roots in the clan system in Scotland and Ireland, but the ceremonial formal dinners and suppers we know today are directly related to the chaotic customs of officers in the British Army. Royal Marines. First engaged in sounding the fife & drum, or trumpet call; When the Highland regiments were organized, buglers were employed not only for this purpose, but also to commemorate the great battles and victories of the regiment’s history, and to honor the dead in the Celtic bardic tradition. It must be remembered that, from the beginning, army PRs were clothed and paid only from the officer’s mess, not from the Treasury; Without their patronage, modern Highland units would never have had saddlers, and without an army to preserve this tradition, the mountain bag would be as familiar to most people today as the zampogna.
You may be engaged to play at a dinner party when a piper is asked to play the invocation and music at a formal dinner; provide limited performance such as pipes, wails and/or pipes in ports in the header table; or just put a tube in the head table and go. There are many different traditions associated with formal dinners, but below are some of the customs associated with formal dinners. From time to time, you may be asked to perform one, all, or a variation.
Such activities are always formal and require black tie, occasionally white tie, or full parade dress. Small decorations and medals are worn. If flying a tube banner, make sure the drone string and/or ribbon is on the left side of the banner; that is, not on the regimental crest. If there is more than one groom, it is customary for the groom of the rank leading the squad, organized by rank and seniority, to raise the flag.
Head table seating arrangements are always based on rank, seniority and status. The host sits in the middle, the next senior (or guest of honor) to the right, the next senior to the left, and so on until everyone is seated. The senior member of the mess is the head (or “President”) of the mess dinner and sits in the middle. The Chaos President may appoint a second (the “Mr. Vice”) in charge of planning, usually a Deputy Chaos Chief, who usually sits farthest from the host, sometimes in the seat to the right. sometimes on another table. Officers are superior to civilians. If the guest speaker has no rank or status, he should be placed as close to the center (to the right of the presenter) as possible. Chaplains are usually seated at the head table, usually to the left of the President.
A warning call
A 15-minute, 5-minute alarm call is usually sounded to notify guests that dinner is about to be served, and may be provided by a piper. Pipeline alert calls require a short pitch tone but do not specify a specific title. In some regiments, this may be an officer’s call (for example, “All the blue caps are on the border”). Naval tradition is to ring the ship’s bell “six bells” (7:00 p.m.) for a 15-minute warning (if, of course, dinner is at 7:15 p.m.). Dinner is signaled with a short tone (“Brose and Butter” is traditional), and then the host or master of ceremonies says, “Dinner is served!”
Guests (except the head table) will enter the dining room and stand behind their chairs; the closer to the top table the higher the rank or seniority. You can ask guests to enter by pipe. The head table is located in the order of seating and is headed by the host and the main guest. At some point, lead the people at the head table to play a suitable tune in the dining room; “Old English Roast Beef,” “A Man’s for All,” “Prince of Denmark’s March,” or Regimental March. If space permits, do a counter-clockwise demonstration around the room. This is especially important when flying drone banners. The regimental coat of arms is always visible first on the face of the flag. When everyone is in place, continue to line up and finish playing in the parking lot near the entrance to the dining room. Stop playing at the host’s signal and pay attention until the grace is said. If you do not provide music during dinner, leave the room after grace.
A guard of honor may deploy and retire the colors; As a transmitter, you may want to move them in and out. The American and Canadian national anthems cannot be played properly on the pipe, so another suitable patriotic tune must be chosen. If you go in with a color guard, make sure you go through their drills first; they walk in a precise sequence in a wheeled motion to change direction. Of course, if not playing, turn your throat down for the National Anthem(s) and pay attention. If you are flying a drone banner, watch the color guard and drop it horizontally when the bass drone dips the color.
In some military and veteran organizations, it is customary to place a small table in front of the head table, sometimes in an empty space, to remember those who have died in combat. You may be asked to play a dirge in their memory. “Forest flower” is traditional, but other mourners may be used equally if the host has no preference.
Pipe the beef
In some traditions, the main course (traditionally beef) is piped into the head table (or “Mr. Vice”), where it is sampled and officially declared fit for consumption. “Old English Roast Beef” or “A Man’s a Man For All That” can be used to play pipes on the headboard before. You can also leave out the beef.
If haggis is served (such as a bonfire dinner), have the haggis at the head table say “A man is a man for all.” Join us in a toast to his “immortal memory” with a reading of Byrne’s “Address to Huggies.” Listen to “Neil Gow Farewell to Whisky”.
Main course music
During the main meal, wait until everyone at the head table has been served before starting to periodically play matching choices. Piobaireachd is often considered customary. If there is a parade around the room, it is customary to start “widdershins”; counterclockwise. If flying a pipe flag, it is advisable to counter-parade to display the unit crest on the obverse. Before the port wine is served, the host/representative will signal you to stop playing.
Pipes in the harbor
An ancient custom is to drink port wine for a faithful toast. After dessert and coffee are served, clean the table except for table decorations and wine glasses. No special music is required, but it should be short and appropriate. During the presentation, escort the wine stewards into the dining room, place them in a predetermined spot, sample the wine, and continue playing until the host announces that it is ready to drink. Sometimes a piper will play as the port is passed through the table as guests refill their glasses. Pay attention until the “faithful glass” is drunk, and leave the room if you don’t need to toast the corps.
If a Commonwealth dinner (or British guests are present) may wish to play “God Save the Queen” before the Loyal Toast. The person offering the toast asks everyone to stand and join him/her in a toast to the queen. The member then raises the wine glass shoulder high and says, “Queen.” The assembly answered: “The queen.”
If an American dinner is held, the host may toast the Commander-in-Chief. Mr. Vice-President stopped this and said to the company, “Gentlemen, Commander-in-Chief of the United States.” Each member and guest then stands, repeats the toast (eg, “Commander-in-Chief of the United States”), takes a drink, and stands. The band then plays the National Anthem. If you have a pipe, play “America the Beautiful” or “God Bless America.” At the end of the music, members and guests were seated again.
Toast to the Corps
You may be asked to play the regimental march before toasting the corps. Unfortunately, the only American regimental marches that “fit” the chorus are the “Naval Hymn” and “Semper Paratus.”
Paying the piper
At the end of your performance, the host may offer you (or the leading fireman) a tea containing a dram (about 3.5 ml) of whiskey. Stand to the left of the recipient. Hold the quiche in both hands, hold it over the shoulder, and point it toward the headboard. It is customary for the holer to raise a toast at the head table (Sláinte! Gaelic for “to your health”; pronunciation: Slanjer or Slanja), turn to the company, and offer a formal toast. After the toast, you’ll take a single shot of your whiskey, raise a toast to the company (Sláinte!), turn the glass around, and kiss the bottom. After the ceremony, take your leave of the head table and leave the room. If you speak Gaelic and aren’t very good, it’s probably best to offer your official toast in English.
The traditional Pipe Major’s toast from Liverpool, Scotland can be adapted for a variety of events;
Slainte Mhor, Slainte Banryginn
Slainte agus vyibh gu brath
le Gillean Forbasach.
Slanjervaw, sender banreen
Slanjer aggus booey goo bra
la gillian forbusach
Peace and health to your queen
Always good health and success
To the Forbes guys
At the end of the dinner, you may want to play the National Anthem. Neither “The Star Spangled Banner” nor “Oh Canada” can be successfully played in the restricted tones of the pipes, so play “America the Beautiful” or “Maple Leaf Forever” instead. Of course, if not playing, turn your throat down for the National Anthem(s) and pay attention. If you are flying a drone banner, watch the color guard and drop it horizontally as the bass drone dips the color.
48th Canadian Highlands Mission
Officers’ Disorderly Call (15 minutes)
“Bank and Barley Meal”
Food Call (5 minutes)
“Herrin the Caller”
Voice to guests
“Lieutenant Colonel Robertson”
A tube on the head table
First Batch (Basic Course)
Ends with “Highland Laddie”.
Second batch (dessert)
Ends “Lieutenant-Colonel Robertson.”
Pipe Major’s Toast:
A Mhàidseir na pòipa, òlamaid deoch-slàinte!
(Major, let’s have a toast)
Pipe Major’s response:
A h-uile latha a chì ‘s nach fhaic, an dà rịiềmh ‘sa h-ochd gu brath! Slante don Bhanrig! Slante Mhor! Slainete!
(Every day I see you, or I don’t see you, 48 forever! Health to your queen! Excellent health! Health!)
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