You've seen and heard them at the St Patrick's Day Parade.

Maybe they've come marching into a bar while you enjoying some green beer or corned beef and cabbage. Or perhaps you've experienced their sometimes somber - but always loud - sound at a Veteran's memorial service. Of course, we're talking about Billings Caledonian Pipes and Drums. Bagpipes may be a little divisive, but it's tough not to get chills when hearing a song like Amazing Grace on the pipes.

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What does Calendonia mean?

The talented non-profit group of roughly 25 male and female musicians performs traditional Highland "piping and drums" around the region at parades and other special events. Think bagpipes, snares, and bass drums. The Billings-based volunteer troupe traces its roots back to 1963; involving the fascinating history of their founder, a Scottish coal miner who immigrated to Red Lodge in 1904. So... is it Irish or Scottish music?

According to Brittanica, Caledonian means:

Caledonia, historical area of north Britain beyond Roman control, roughly corresponding to modern Scotland. It was inhabited by the tribe of Caledones (Calidones).

Bagpipes may sound similar to an untrained ear, but there are some significant differences between an Irish bagpipe and a Scottish bagpipe. PrimeSound.org explains that one is played sitting down, the other standing up. On the Scottish bagpipe, the musician blows into a mouthpiece; the Irish bagpipe uses bellows. Which country can claim ownership of the kilt? It remains a debate.

Courtesy Billings Caledonian Pipes and Drums, used with permission
Courtesy Billings Caledonian Pipes and Drums, used with permission
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They won 2nd place in Salt Lake in 2022.

We caught up with Billings Caledonian Pipes and Drums manager Allan Anderson, who told us the group is excited to represent Montana again this year at the Salt Lake City Highland Games competition this weekend (6/17-18). They took second place last year at the event and scored a first-place win at a competition in Las Vegas in 2022.

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Courtesy Billings Caledonian Pipes and Drums, used with permission
Courtesy Billings Caledonian Pipes and Drums, used with permission
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It's a personal passion project for members.

As a non-profit, none of the members reap financial rewards for their performances. Costs far outweigh any funds they receive from private and public performances. An authentically styled uniform can easily cost $3K to $4K, Anderson said, and a set of nice bagpipes can run $10,000. A self-described "marching band nerd", Allan has been with the group for 18 years and said their participation in various regional/national competitions is helping them prepare for competing at the Highland Games in Scotland in 2024.

You can catch Billings Caledonian Pipes and Drums performing on 6/24 in Colstrip, 7/2 in Livingston, and July 4th in Cody, WY. If you're interested in learning how to play, booking the band, sponsorship opportunities, or finding out more about the group, click HERE.

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