Story, Photos & Videos by Jess Allen
LOGAN – There wasn’t a dry eye in the place as The Scotsmen, Utah State University’s new highland bagpipe band started by a freshman, conducted its first Highlands concert and performance at the USU Performance Hall.
“There’s something about a bagpipe,” said Craig Jessop, dean of the Caine College of the Arts, in introducing freshman Matthew Earl and the 10-member band in Scots kilts, pipes and drums. And, in fact, Jessop’s voice cracked as he described the first time he heard Earl play as a high school student and recruited him to USU.
The show and sounds were surely something new to the normally staid Performance Hall, more often the scene of string quartets and academic lectures, but the crowd seemed to like it, giving the Scotsmen and guest musical performers Road Kilt and traditional Highland dancers, a standing ovation.
Bankhead’s mother, Lou McCulloch Ryan, said she had to hire a bagpiper from Salt Lake City come up and play at her husband’s funeral three years ago and was happy to have bagpipers here in Logan.
Ryan and her late husband are of Scottish descent, and she said she was thrilled that there will be to be an annual performance of traditional Scottish and Celtic music at USU.
“I’m so glad I came, it was perfect,” Ryan said as she and her adult daughter stood in the lobby after the performance.
Word-of-mouth also had helped bring in other members of the audience. Cherie Davis, a graphic design major, said she’d heard about the performance from a friend who works at The Utah Statesman.
“It was fun to see the dancers and traditional clothing,” Davis said.
The Scotsmen started last Fall with only one bagpiper—the freshman Earl, who used to practice alone in the Logan Cemetery but grew to 10 members by the end of the year.
“We were worried about it at the beginning of the semester,” Earl said, “but it all just fell into place.”
Other pipers heard Earl practicing in the cemetery and the group started to grow. Jessop introduced Earl at college events, and the freshman music major also advertised in The Statesman to spread the word that a bagpipe band was forming.
Earl says he practiced in the cemetery so as not to disturb his neighbors or roommates at his apartment complex.
Earl’s sisters also performed two traditional dances as the pipers and drummers played. In one of the dances, members of the audience invited to join in.
Taking turns performing with The Scotsmen were also the local Celtic music group, Road Kilt, who performed three songs.
With Jessop’s emotional introduction of the band, and a brief history of each song and dance as they were performed, lively and plaintive highland music filled the Performance Hall and a new tradition was born at USU.