Scottish School Pipers Play for the Pope

ROME, OCT. 21, 2001 ( Students from a school in Scotland who took their bagpipes on vacation to Rome planned to perform outside landmarks such as the Colosseum and the Spanish Steps.

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None of the Cargilfield School pupils, however, imagined they would perform a personal concert for John Paul II, the Sunday Times of London reported.

As the quartet from Edinburgh tuned up in St. Peter´s Square last Wednesday, they were approached by a Vatican official who asked them if they would like to play before the Pontiff at the end of his weekly address.

And that´s how Guy Heard, 12, Nayela Wickramasuriya, 12, Jamie Sole, 12, and Robert MacKay, 11, followed in the footsteps of U2 and the Corrs — by playing at the Vatican.

Dressed in kilts, the pupils edged to the front of the crowd until they were just feet away from the Holy Father. They played «Land of My Youth» and «The Rowan Tree» before lining up with the others in the square to be blessed.

John Paul II congratulated them on their playing and said: «So you´re all from Scotland then?»

«It was so exciting,» said Nayela. «There were about 50,000 people and the sound of our pipes was echoing around the square. He held my face and blessed me.»

Jamie said: «It was amazing and so great to meet him even though I´m not a Catholic. I hope I will become a world-famous piper and that I can go back in the future to play to him again.»

The pipers were part of a 20-strong group on the annual school trip. James Wilson, a history teacher in charge of the trip, said it was unforgettable.

«They played at the beginning and end of the audience,» he added. «They were quite stunned by the whole experience.»

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