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Bagpipes highlight Scottish Society gathering

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Posted: Friday, July 22, 2011 10:34 am

VERO BEACH -- Although the bright Florida sunshine is a far cry from the misty hills of Scotland, the incomparable sounds of bagpipes transported members of the Scottish Society of the Treasure Coast back to their homeland at Thursday's Summer Social at the Kilted Mermaid.

The group is hoping to entice younger people to get involved, and there's no better place to find members of the younger generation than at Vero's latest hot-spot.

Bagpiper Michael Hyde, a new Scottish Society board member, brought the crowd together in traditional clan gathering fashion, by luring them to the café with his music.

"When we started the group in 1995, we didn't know how many people of Scottish ancestry were in town," said founding member Joyce Smith. "We put an ad in the paper asking if there was an interest, and thought we'd get just a few people. Sixty-six people showed up, and it's been going ever since."

Although membership in the past reached more than 200, the group is currently attempting to reenergize its efforts after seeing numbers decrease in recent years.

"We try to teach people about their roots," said Smith. "If they know their clan, we can tell them how to search family records. It's been a wonderful group."

Members meet throughout the year for monthly meetings and to revel in all things Scottish. Special activities include an annual dinner to celebrate noted Scottish poet and lyricist, Robert Burns, a Saint Andrews Day celebration, and their famous Scottish High Tea.

The group kicks up their heels in full Highland fling fashion at the Annual Tartan Ball and recognizes its clan colors with April 6 designated as Tartan Day. This coming January they are also planning to caravan to the Central Florida Scottish Highland Games near Orlando.

"We've traditionally held events during the day," said Gail Alexander, the group's membership chairperson. "We want to hold some different events going forward, including some evening events."

Approximately thirty members gathered at the social, including a dashingly kilted Gordon Pyper, the society's former president. In addition to the Kilted Mermaid's regular assortment of tempting fondues, salads and small plates, they put together a special Scottish inspired sampling for the occasion, featuring cheeses and smoked salmon.

Hyde eventually moved his music indoors, switching to the more dulcet sounds of the shuttle, or parlor pipes - what he likened to a Scottish version of an Italian strolling violinist. His playing even inspired an impromptu Scottish jig by Glaswegian-born artist Christine Thomas.

Hyde said that while he only began playing the bagpipes about 20 years ago, he initially became fascinated with the instrument as a child.

"I've always been proud of my family's Scots/Irish heritage. My dad was a fire chief in New Jersey and he would hire a pipe band to march with the fire department," said Hyde. "I do it for pleasure; I do it for the love of it. The pipes set the tone, the mood - for those with Scottish heritage, we hear with our hearts, not our ears."

And as the Scottish Society Summer Social began to wind down, the evening was just heating up at the Kilted Mermaid, as people began to pour in for their Thursday Trivia Night.

"We will be wall to wall," said owner Linda Moore, whose establishment is one of the few late-night spots in Vero's customarily early-bird town. Open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Tuesday through Saturday, they offer jam sessions on Wednesday, and live music Friday and Saturday.

"We want to always be new, fun and different; always surprising," said Moore.

As is traditional, Hyde closed out the Scottish social to rousing approval from the crowd with renditions of Auld Lang Sine and Scotland the Brave. 



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