We are so proud to be welcoming the Band of the Royal Air Force of Oman to the Bridge of Allan HIghland Games this year, their first time. They are an inspiring band that represent everything that is Bridge of Allan Highland Games – the friendly, family games.
The band has a pipe section of 13 pipers led by instructor Paul Warren in the position of pipe major. Paul formerly a piping instructor at the National Piping Centre, and Pipe Major of Lomond and Clyde Pipe Band, who successfully guided the band from Grade 4B to the top of Grade 2 in only 6 years.
We can’t wait to meet them and we hope you will do as he asks, and chat to them on the day. Paul told us a little about the band.
“The band is delighted and excited to be coming to Bridge of Allan. This is our first contest of the season. The week after, we compete at Dundonald, and the following week we take on the huge challenge that is the World Pipe Band Championships.
The Omani’s are a friendly and peaceful nation and would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone greetings from the Sultanate of Oman. Please come and say hello, we would be delighted to talk and make new friends.”
The band was first founded in 1981, and the pipes and drums gave their first public performance in late 1982. By 1984 the band numbered one hundred and twenty musicians, their numbers would grow as well as the number of engagements, including taking part in Oman’s National Celebrations.
In 2008 The Royal Air Force of Oman took a major culturally challenging decision to form a new Military band consisting purely of Ladies. The Ladies Band was officially launched at its inaugural performance celebrating the 40th anniversary of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.
The combined band today numbers an impressive total of over four hundred musicians, and comprises of the following groups; School of Music (training and development); Military Band; Pipes and Drums; Jazz/Concert Band; and an Arabic Group with Arabic Dancers also.
There is only one Omani girl on parade (positioned next to the pipe major). Athari Al Harrassi has just passed her PDQB Tutor certificate (the only Omani – man or woman – to hold a universally recognised teaching certificate) and the most successful female piper in Oman to date.
As mentioned, Karen McCrindle Warren (piping teacher) appears in the position of Lead Tenor.
The Lead Drummer Bader Al Hammadi has done a wonderful job of leading the snare section in the absence of a qualified drumming instructor.
The band of the Royal Air Force of Oman has to date participated in many overseas and local events, including the Royal Nova Scotia Tattoo in Canada, Music Festivals in Holland, France, Germany and United Kingdom.
The Pipes and Drums
The Royal Air Force of Oman Pipes and Drums consists of:
• The School of Music – for continual training and development
• No. 1 Band – based in Muscat (Men). It often operates as two separate bands as is the case at present where we have the A Band here on tour in Scotland, while the B Band is currently performing at the Basel Tattoo in Switzerland.
• No 2 Band – based in Muscat (Ladies).
• Salalah Band – based in the South of the country.
Training and Development
The School of Music is under the direction of Karen McCrindle Warren BA (Hons) from the Royal Scottish Conservatoire (actually appearing here today on tenor drum for the band). As the band are temporarily without a drumming instructor Karen has taken on the task of preparing the bass section for competition (not bad for a piper). Recruits undergo an intensive two-year training programme before they enter the band.
Once in the band pipers and drummers return to the school of music for development courses and progress through the SCQF and PDQB Examination Syllabus.
As pipers and drummers progress through the syllabus they attend senior courses here in Scotland at the National Piping Centre in Glasgow under the watchful eye of the Principal, Roddy Macleod MBE.
The pipes and drums are now firmly established in Oman with a fantastic training and development programme, and a continual feeding of young players into the system. However, operating in isolation in Oman hinders full development and thus entering into the world of competition is the next obvious step.
Mulazim Afif Al-Makhaini, the officer in charge of the pipes and drums, competed with Troon Black Rock Pipe Band in Grade 3 in the 2011 season. It was this experience that gave him the impetus and drive to encourage the Royal Air Force of Oman to take on the challenge of competition.
The band competed for the fist time last year (2014), and although a huge challenge, the project proved successful with the band picking up some minor prizes. The band have worked hard to develop and build on this experience, with the challenging goal of winning a place in the final of the World Pipe Band Championships. Competing at Bridge of Allan is part of this build-up to get the band ready for this worthy challenge. However, regardless of prize, the main goal is always the continual pursuit of excellence in every performanc