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When the call went out to play with the legendary Sir Paul McCartney, an Auckland pipe band jumped at the chance – but only had days to perfect one of his most iconic songs.
Auckland and District Pipe Band took the stage at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday night during Mull of Kintyre, perhaps the most famous pop song ever to feature bagpipes.
Juggling a national championship and local Christmas parade in the two weeks before Saturday’s concert the band had just one rehearsal to devote to the gig before taking the stage.
But despite the short notice pipe major Ben McLaughlin signed up knowing there would little problem getting the premier-grade musicians up to speed.
“We’re a competitively-focused band as well. We had a major competition the weekend before. There was actually no time to rehearse or practise at all the first week so we were down to one week and we also did Papatoetoe Christmas Parade on Wednesday so our first practice was actually Thursday before the Saturday.”
He said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share the stage with the Beatle and one that pipers were prepared to travel the length of the country to be part of.
“When I got the message, did we want to do it without asking the band – because that would stretch our local membership to try and get to the numbers required – I just said ‘yes, I’d make it happen’ even if it meant we had players from other local bands assist us, we were going to do this gig for sure.”
Soon after putting out the call to his pipers the response was resounding, with one South Island musician getting a flight north straight away.
“When I put out the message to the group, ‘do we want to do this?’ I just had a flood of messages saying, ‘absolutely keen’. In fact had one guy from Nelson book a ticket saying I’m coming up, I’m playing.
“When you say Beatle, Sir Paul, you start getting people moving pretty quick.”
He said the pipers had a single rehearsal with the music legend a few hours before the show. He welcomed them on to the stage, making them feel comfortable and appreciated.
“Paul was great. He talked to us, acknowledged that we were there to be part of his concert, not just a side act. We really felt included and we had some good laughs,” said McLaughlin.
“He’s a very humble mellow sort of regular guy but very different because it’s Sir Paul.”
McLaughlin said the performance went “incredibly well” and was a wonderful way to end a stellar year.