Dutch Pipes & Drums

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The Dutch Pipes and Drums were established in Tilburg, the Netherlands, in 1953 as youth pipe band De Scotjes. The liberation of Tilburg on October 27th, 1944 at the hands of the 15th Scottish Division was still a not too distant memory; when some youths wanted to form a musical band and had to pick an instrument, bagpipes were an obvious choice. The number of lads in the band rose quickly and its fame spread quickly throughout the Netherlands. Television and radio performances ensure that everyone in the country knew of the band; they took part in the first experimental colour broadcasts on TV in 1957 and performed on some of the major TV shows of the day.

In the early years, membership was limited to youths under 14; in 1968, this was raised to 18. However, in the early 70ís, dwindling membership forced the age limit to be abandoned entirely. A number of former members returned to the band and a recruitment campaign resulted in a rise in numbers. The band develops its own training programs for pipers, drummers and dancers. In 1983, the bandís name was changed from ëDe Scotjesí to ëDutch Pipes and Drumsí, reflecting the change from youth band to full-fledged pipe band.

That name also appeared on the cassette tape ëSpirit of Scotlandí recorded in 1992, to be released in 1993 to commemorate the 40th anniversary. In 2007 these recordings were rereleased as CD. It was the bandís first venture into the world of recording, to be followed by three further albums. 1999 sees the release of ëGoing Homeí a CD with tunes played on the Great Highland Pipes as well as the Scottish Smallpipes. In 2005 ëIn Harmonyí is released, on which the band is joined by the Bondsband in some tunes. ëIn Concertí (2009) also features a number of special musical partners, such as the specially formed Combined Band, the Den Bosch Philharmonic Orchestra and a cappella close harmony choir ëBe Sharp!í. Solo vocalist on ëSo Many Livedí is Sophie van Doornmalen. For the CD, the band also recorded a number of traditional tunes ësoloí

In 2003, the band celebrates its 50th anniversary. A book is published to commemorate its 50 years. The occasion is also marked by a visit from band patron Sir Ranald Macdonald and a number of performances in Tilburg.

Throughout its existence, the band never stops evolving. A lot of time and effort is spent on recruiting and training members. The type of performances the band is booked for shifts from street parades and local tattoos to international, multiday events. The band performs at tattoos in Norway, Denmark, Germany and, of course, the Netherlands.

2013 wil be the year of our 60th anniversary. The anniversary committee is working on a program of events to celebrate this memorable occasion, such as a special anniversary concert and a trip to Scotland. And of course the Dutch Pipes and Drums will put in a number of appearances at musical events in the Netherlands and Germany.


The Scottish Bagpipes were first introduced to Scotland in the 1500’s, the MacCrimmons were the first to have a school in Skye. How they came there is not certain, there are a few theories but one of the most accepted theory is : When the Chief of Clan MacLeod was serving in Italy during the Holy wars, he took a Musician into his service, this happened in Cremona, so MacLeod called him Cremonach and as is the custom in Scotland they put Mac in front of his name, MacCremonach (MacCrimmon) and when returning to Scotland he became Piper to the MacLeods and started a School in Skye where members of other families in Scotland were sent to learn to play the Pipes and so spreading all through Scotland. In these days the course lasted 7 years. Piping in Scotland has become very popular in the last 50 years and the Scottish influence all over the world has led to many countries having a large quantity of Pipebands.

A Bagpipe consists of a Bag, Blow stick and Mouthpiece, 3 Drones, 1 Bass 2 Tenors, these are the pipes that stick out the Bag and placed over the Shoulder. They give the Harmonies sound that you can continually hear. And finally the Chanter, this is where the Melody is played, with 8 holes giving us 9 notes where all the Melodies we play are produced. In the Drones there are Reeds, originally made from Spanish cane but now many types of plastic Reeds are available. In the Chanter is also a Spanish Cane Reed, this is a like a Hobo Reed only much harder to blow. To learn to play the Pipes it is necessary to learn first on a Practice Chanter, this is a mouth blown instrument very much like the recorder, only slightly harder. Here the Pupil has to learn the Finger settings, the Scale, low G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G+, A+, the Embellishments and eventually the first Rhythms and Tunes. This can take up to a year or shorter, depends on the time spent practicing. Eventually we reach the step when the Bagpipe appears. This is a very big step! First the Pupil learns to blow the Bag full of air via the Blowpipe, holding the Mouthpiece gently in the Mouth. When the Bag is full and placed under the arm, pressure is applied with the forearm, forcing air through all the Pipes, to give us the Sound. Firstly the Pupil will learn with only 1 Drone open, to master the difficult task of blowing, squeezing and trying to keep the sound of 1 Drone steady. If this is achieved then a 2nd Drone will be added and then the 3rd, eventually the Chanter will be added and the Pupil can practice all the movements learned on the Practice Chanter. The step from Practice Chanter to Bagpipe is not easy and this is where some Pupils give up an decide to learn Tenor Drum. It takes time, but if you keep trying you will eventually reach the point that you can say, “it’s not as hard as I thought it was”. During the time that the pupil is busy with the Pipes, he will be involved with the Band during the Band Sessions, playing what he or she can, preparing for the time when they will eventually be ready to perform with the Band.


Between Scottish Drumming and the drumming in an Orchestra or a Brassband is a big difference. This drumming is more to accompany the orchestra or brassband. With a Pipeband the Drumcore is taking care of the rythem to accompany the Tunes, melody of the Pipes. The technique is a little bit different , the Rolls as they are called often end on the left beat. Typical in the Scottish style of Drumming are the pointed notes. These are 16 th (quaver) followed by 32 nd notes ( semi quaver). Notes are embellished with Flam beats, pre notes and Drags. There are even more embellishments. Playing together in the Drumcore and also with the Pipers is very important. The Drumcore consist of 1 or 2 Bass Drummers, the job of the Bass drummer is to keep the tempo steady whilst playIng different types of tunes a March will sound different than a Dancing tune. Tenor Drummers they play on a Tenor drum which does not have any snares, the sound produced is low but it is possible to have different pitches in the Tenor section by using a bigger or a smaller Tenor drum. The other task of a Tenor Drummer is to enhanche the performance by florishing with their Drumsticks. This is a series of difficult movements with arm and wrists to create a spectaculer show. Which greatly improves the show element in the overall performance.

Side Drummers play on a high tension Drum, this is a drum where the topskin is fitted with a very high tension. Under the top and bottom skin are snares, the combination of snares and high tension top skin gives the drum an extremely high pitched sound. Which is typical for the sound of the Scottish Drum. The Rolls on the Drums are very tightly played, because of the high pitch Drums. If accents are present in the Rolls then the accents.are played individually. There are different Scores for different tunes. When there is a performance involving other bands we usually have standerd beatings in 2/4, 4/4 and 6/8 time. These beatings can be used in all tunes of the same time signature. They can also be played on their own. A Score is Drum Music to accompany the Pipes, this sounds much nicer with the pipetune. There are different types of Music, Jigs, Hornpipes, Marches, Strathspeys and Reels which vary in tempo and can be played with different accents.

Highland dancing

Ask an average person what  Scottish Highland Dancing is, and you’ll have to wait a long time for your answer. That is because it is certainly not a well known  dance sport. Some people will get as far as asking: “Is it like Riverdance?” But when the answer is negative, most people won’t know anymore to say. But then: What exactly is Highland Dancing?

Highland Dancing originates, like its name already suggests, in Scotland. It dates, according to legend, from the early Mediaeval times and for centuries it was a strictly male pursuit. The dances were meant to test courage and discipline of the clan members.  After all it is no small feat to dance across two razor sharp broadswords. 

In later centuries Highland Dancing was adopted by the Scottish army. They saw it as a good method for training in co-ordination for the soldiers. But even then Highland Dancing was fully dedicated to war dances and the military life.

About 110 years ago, round 1890, Highland Dancing sustained the heaviest blow in its age-old existence: For the first time a woman, Jenny Douglas, made it clear that she claimed her place on the competition podium. Panic stricken the officials consulted their rule books to check if that was allowed, but there was no rule to exclude women from dance competitions. Nobody had ever thought that women would like to compete at all. And so under the assumption that whatever is not forbidden must be allowed, Jenny was  admitted. It was the beginning of a profound change. While  Highland Dancing once was exclusively male, nowadays the ratio boys to girls is about 1 to 100.

A few of the best known dances are: the Highland Fling, the Sword Dance, Seann Truibhas and the  various Reels. Those dances could be called the “Highland Dances proper” They are listed in the official textbook of the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing. Furthermore there are a number of “National Dances” . These dances use the same technique but also additional movements taken from ballet dancing. These dances mainly originated in the 19th century and quite often have names with a Jacobite ring like “Flora Mac Donald’s Fancy” and “Over the Water to Charlie”. Furthermore there are two variety dances taken from the Vaudeville repertoire of the turn of the 19/20 centuries. The” Sailors’ Hornpipe” and the “Irish Jig.”  Apart from that, dances in the Highland Dance tradition are even now being made for all sorts of occasions. It is very much a living tradition.

The Highland Fling is the oldest. According to tradition it dates from the 14th century, but of course it evolved over the centuries and a mediaeval Scot who would happen to see us dance now,  would probably recognise little of the dance as it was in the old time. Characteristic of the dance is that it is danced strictly on the spot. According to legend it was danced on a little shield: a “Targe” The arms of the dancer are held high in an imitation of deer’s antlers.

The Sword Dance is about as old as the Fling, also dating from the 14th century. It is one of the best known Highland Dances. It is performed around and over two highland broadswords placed crosswise  on the floor.  Story has it that the bottom sword is that of Mac Beth and the sword on top that of Malcolm Canmore who beat Mac Beth. The dancer dances over and around the two swords and of course is supposed not to touch the swords at all.  The warlike clans used the dance to predict the outcome of the battle. A soldier who kicked the swords would surely not survive….

Other dances are younger and tell about the oppression  of the Scots by the English (Seann Truibhas), after the 1745 rebellion, when it was forbidden to wear the kilt. The cold winter mornings that occur fairly frequently in Scotland (Hullachan. The ups and downs of human life (Strathspey and Highland Reel).  The seaman’s life (Sailor’s Hornpipe)  Every dance has its own story putting extra life into them.  

Dancers wear four different traditional costumes: The Kilt, the National (Aboyne) outfit, the Jig and Hornpipe costumes, men may also wear tartan trews (trousers) for Seann Truibhas and the National Dances.

The Kilt is worn for all the proper “Highland Dances” and consists of a kilt with matching tartan hose. The men wear a jacket and bow tie (Prince Charles coatee  and vest), the girls a velvet waistcoat or long slieved  jacket. In the National Dances, the men wear the kilt or tartan trews, while the girls wear their Aboyne outfit, which is based on the traditional costume of Aboyne in the Aberdeen area.  The Irish  Jig and the Sailor’s Hornpipe have their own specific costumes. For the Jig the girls wear a red or green dress with a white apron and shoes with a little heel. The men wear kneebreeches and a tailcoat, usually in contrasting colours, a top hat and for completeness they also carry a shillelagh. For the Hornpipe botyh sexes wear a sailor’s costume.

Children from the age of three may start dancing, but the minimum age for competitions is 4 years. They then dance in a special category: Primary, in which they dance own dances like Pas de Basques or Pas de Basques and High cuts, as well as the Sword Dance and the Highland Fling.  After their seventh birthday they are classed as “Beginners”. From this time on they dance the standard programme that everyone dances. Of course, over the years and with growing technical ability, more dances and more difficult steps will be added.

The various levels of competition are: Primary (for children under 7), Beginner, Novice, Intermediate and Premier/Championship. This last level is the top a dancer can reach and on this level a dancer may enter the qualifications for the World Championship which are held each year in Scotland.

In our dance group at the Clan Donald Pipe Band “Dutch Pipes and Drums” we keep this tradition alive! Our certified teachers give the dancers a thorough training in the dance skills they need to take part in dance competitions in the Netherlands and abroad. These skills are also needed for the shows that we do at tattoo’s, fairs and street parades. The band really gets around. We went to Oslo, Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin and Rotterdam to name but a few! It is not easy, but great fun. Quite often dancers from other groups are also involved so there is plenty opportunity to make friends with dancers from elswhere.

The Pipe Band is always ready to welcome new dancers from the age of 7, so if you would like to dance, do come in and have a try! Drop in at one of our rehearsals. We train every Wednesday evening from 18.30 at the Diamant group in the Jules de Beer straat in Tilburg.        

By the Right, Quick March!



Highland Dancers

Highland Cathedral



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Dutch Pipes & Drums

Dhr. Ton Willemen
PO BOX 4309
5004 JH Tilburg
The Netherlands

 (+31) 06 46 18 77 64