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Castlederg woman and Raphoe sisters play in Russian military tattoo.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Castlederg woman and Raphoe sisters play in Russian military tattoo. thumbnail Sisters, Robyn and Chloe Freen, from Raphoe, and Castlederg woman, Victoria Catterson, all members of Raphoe Pipe Band, taking in the sights of Moscow where they played in the Russian military tattoo.

THREE friends and Raphoe Pipe Band members from Tyrone and Donegal have enjoyed an experience like no other.

Victoria Catterson (21) and sisters, Chloe (19) and Robyn Freen (21), from Raphoe, found themselves playing in the unlikely setting of Red Square, Moscow, in the shadow of St Basil's Cathedral and the Kremlin back in September.

They are all members of Raphoe Pipe Band and had an unforgettable time in the Russian capital.

Their experience was documented in BBC NI's 'true North: Raphoe to Red Square' which aired on Monday night viewed by millions.

The event was part of Moscow's military tattoo known as the Spasskaya Tower Festival. It was the tenth anniversary of Russian President Vladmir Putin's celebration of marching music.

The trio are firm friends having bonded over their mutual love for pipe music and their Ulster-Scots heritage.

Speaking to the Strabane Weekly News, Victoria, from Castlederg, said: 'I found out I was going to the Tattoo at the start of the year and it was in March that the producer contacted me asking me if I would be interested in being part of a BBC documentary that hadn't yet been commissioned.


She agreed to meet him apprehensively at her piping tuition class and from that point on they began to film the True North documentary series.

She continued: 'In September 2015 I approached Andy McGregor for piping lessons and while attending the tuition classes in Raphoe, I met some of the members of the Pipe Band who encouraged me to join their band and compete in the tattoo.


When asked about how performing in Spasskaya Tower Tattoo compared to Raphoe she said: Performing in Russia is very different because bagpipes are interesting to them as its not an everyday thing.

"Whereas performing here you have your usual audience, those who are involved in pipe bands themselves or those who believe their religion expects them to.

"I'd love for people to see that pipe bands aren't a political or religious thing; in the competition and travelling circuit people are in it for the music, the social aspect and to travel. Hopefully the documentary will show this. It's an exciting thing to be part of.


The Tyrone woman who has been involved in pipe bands for sixteen years said her first trip abroad with her bagpipes was in 2016 when she travelled to the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in Brittany for ten days.

She also has advice for those wanting to get involved in pipe bands adding: Check out the Music Service for pipes and drums where you can learn piping, bass, tenor and snare drumming.

'You get out what you put it, so work hard and grab every opportunity as they come. Maybe someday you can travel with your instrument too!


Some 14 pipers from the girls' band in Raphoe formed part of a 70-strong contingent from Ireland which, in turn, was part of a mass band of 122 taking to the arena in Moscow.

However, flash flooding on the day the group were due to leave almost derailed their plans but another flight was commandeered and the trio arrived in Moscow with only a matter of hours to rehearse.

For the girls, it was certainly a memorable experience and one that they thoroughly enjoyed.

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