Celtic Rhythm: CGA Pipes & Drums in Concert

On a chilly Saturday evening, 13 May 2017, we headed through to Springfield Convent in Wynberg, to attend a special fundraising concert presented by the Cape Garrison Artillery Pipes & Drums. Pipe Major Tony Reis had graciously arranged tickets for hubby and me, and I’d brought along my camera gear to take some photos of the event.

From the first piece, appropriately called ‘Call to the Gathering’, where the cry of a solitary piper rang out across the spacious hall, I knew we were in for a special treat. As the rest of the pipes, the rattling snare drums and the big booming bass drum gradually joined in, the sound rose and swelled, filling the hall with wonderful music.

Our entertaining MC Tiernan Shields

Tony and his fellow organisers had put together a wide-ranging musical programme that included fast-paced jigs and reels, slow and hauntingly beautiful tunes, and the tippity-tappity percussion of Irish hard-shoe dancing alternated with the light-footed leaps and twirls of Scottish Highland dancing.

Our Master of Ceremonies of the event Tiernan Shields with his delightful Irish(?) accent did a great job introducing each of the acts.

Cape Garrison Artillery Pipes & Drums

Cameron Bruce

Probably one of my favourite acts of the evening was singer Cameron Bruce. He stood on stage, on his own, with only his acoustic guitar cradled in his arms, and sang ‘Caledonia’ and ‘Loch Lomond’ for us.

I had goosebumps, it was so good.

Sometimes, you don’t need a wall of sound to make a powerful impression and to touch the heart. Sometimes, all you need is a lone singer on an empty stage, with just an acoustic guitar and a mellifluous voice.

Celtic Dance Tapestry

The energetic young lasses of the Celtic Dance Tapestry were next on stage. I recognised them immediately, as they have performed at four Cape Town Military Tattoos over the years: in 2007 and 2008, they were listed as the Alexander School of Dance, but in 2010 and 2012, their name changed to Celtic Dance Tapestry. They are a school of traditional Scottish and Irish step dancing, based in the southern suburbs, run by Hayley Johnston and Táryn Harkness.

Flinging their legs high and leaping elegantly into the air, as though unfettered by gravity, they had us absolutely spell-bound with their fast-paced synchronised dance routines in ‘Lord of the Dance’ and the ‘Cry of the Celts’.

A couple of the young ladies wore those close-fitting soft leather shoes, which are laced onto the foot (I’ve learned that these are called ‘ghillies’), while the others were wearing the hard shoes that make a rattata-tappata percussion sound, particularly on a wooden floor. If you’ve seen Riverdance or Lord of the Dance, you know what I mean!

In Irish step dancing, the ladies tend to keep their upper bodies upright, with arms by their sides or on their hips, while their legs seem to perform almost independently. I always wonder how they manage to keep their balance when performing these intricate leg and foot movements, without using their arms!

Lucas Celtic Dance Studio

The three dancers (two lasses, one laddie) of the Lucas Celtic Dance Studio performed four pieces for us, enchanting us with the graceful twirls and light-footed leaps of Scottish Highland dancing. I haven’t been able to find any website or background information about this dance studio online, so I can’t tell you more about them.

Their first piece was “Highland Laddie”.

Their second was the “Portsmouth Hornpipe” – hence the cute sailors’ uniforms.

The third was “Scottish Lilt”, where I had much fun photographing the dramatic shadows cast by the lights!

And their fourth piece was a “Broadsword Trio”. Dancing around the swords laid down on the ground, without knocking any of them flying, no doubt takes much focus and concentration – and foot control – but they made everything look so effortless and easy!

Craig Johnston

An unusual act was that of solo piper Craig Johnston, who played two pieces on the short folk pipes. I had never before seen bagpipes with such short drones before. They have a very distinctive sound, not at all like the normal pipes we’re all used to hearing.

Cape Town Irish Session

A selection of lengthy and intricate jigs and reels played by the Cape Town Irish Session – a trio of flute, violin and banjo – had the audience tapping their feet and humming along.

They are a group of musicians who get together once a week in Observatory to share their passion for traditional Irish music, according to their Facebook page.


The Pipes and Drums returned to the stage for the finale, to perform an unusual and haunting version of Leonard Cohen’s classic hit ‘Halleluja’, which Tony dedicated to everyone at the concert who had recently lost someone close to them.

A trio of pipers, Pipe Major Tony Reis, Pipe Sgt. Mogammat Opperman and Piper Niki Cilliers, bass guitarist Keith Kerchoff, keyboardist Kerryn Tracey, guitarist James Mitchell and kit drummer John van Niekerk paid tribute to Sergeant Philip John Marwick, the drum major and long-time member of the Cape Garrison Artillery Pipes and Drums, who passed away just a few weeks ago, with another haunting tune called ‘The Battle of Loos’.

The evening ended with the traditional ‘Auld Lang Syne’, sung by Cameron Bruce and accompanied by the CGA Pipes and Drums, as all the performers returned to the stage one final time. As the echoing final notes faded away, the audience erupted into thunderous applause.

Well done to everyone!

I hope that this will be the first of many for Pipe Major Tony Reis and his Band. And that their next concerts will be sold out!

After the concert, I submitted a write-up to the Cape Garrison Artillery’s Newsletter – appropriately titled “The Smoking Gun” – and am delighted to say that it was published! Here is the link to the Newsletter: Issue 1 of 2017.


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