Halifax Pipe Major Barb Stewart and her father’s pipes: Heading to Juno

My first piping instructor – still going strong, with her father’s pipes. What the story doesn’t say is that when Barb’s father showed up in Scotland during leave, to pick up and pay for his pipes, his regiment had already paid for them out of respect.

D-Day bagpipes still heard in Halifax

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Bagpipes, bagpipers & pipe bands in Vancouver

Zephan Knichel, 2016 Open Piping Aggregate winner

Zephan Knichel, 2016 Open Piping Aggregate winner

There’s nothing like a room full of bagpiper and drummers to get your heart – and a season underway.

The first competition of the piping season in the Pacific Northwest was successfully launched last weekend in Surrey.  The BC Pipers’ Association Annual Gathering was held at Clayton Heights Secondary School in Surrey on the Easter weekend with plenty of great piping and drumming, and of course, pipe bands in all levels.  The ceilidh afterwards was also a lot of fun.  Kudos go out to Rob MacNeil and the whole BCPA organizing committee for hosting this event.  The BCPA has been the driving force behind the organization and encouragement of piping and drumming in this area for almost 100 years.  As former BC Highland Games chair Bill Elder said at the competition, there was once a time when only a handful of pipe bands and pipers showed up to compete.  Today, almost two dozen pipe bands and more than 100 pipers competed in all levels.  And much of the competition was broadcast online to an audience around the world. It’s a testament to the hard work of the BCPA and the competitive pipe band leadership in this region. Continue reading

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Shamrocks, four leaf clovers and bagpipes: St. Patrick’s Day in Vancouver

The plaid is a sure sign of spring in British Columbia.

Festival du Bois

Starting this weekend, the French Canadian community in the Lower Mainland is the first to host a festival that has been going strong for 40 years.  The Festival du Bois takes place the March  5 weekend in Coquitlam, and is the kick-off event of the 2016 festival year. There’ll be lots of great French Canadian entertainment taking place under the tents at MacKin Park in Coquitlam, although curiously, one of the former

Shamrock

Shamrock

headliners at the festival, Acadian Lennie Gallant of PEI is performing at Vancouver ‘s Rogue Folk Club that weekend. The strange programming aside, the days are getting a big longer, the sun warmer and despite two weekends of grey skies and rain, the Festival du Bois is a clear indication spring is on its way – and so is St. Patrick’s Day.

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Bagpiping in Vancouver, the Indoor and outdoors

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Piping outdoors at the Rocky Mountaineer station

After more than a month of non-stop rain and grey skies, the sun has returned (temporarily, I’m sure) to the lower south west corner of British Columbia. And that means only one thing – spring is around the corner.

Already,  the snow drops are blooming in my front yard, and the bushes are sprouting new green shoots in the backyard. And while it may seem like time to head outdoors for a bit of piping, the first thing on the schedule is the Indoor.

At this time of the year, most pipe bands are well into the practice season. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s only a short time to the BC Pipers’ Association Annual Gathering, also known as the “Indoor”. The Indoor  is held on the Friday and Saturday of the Easter long weekend featuring solo piping and drumming, pipe band competition solo piobaireachd and Open drumming competitions, as well as a drumming workshop.

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Ringing in the New Year at 4 & Midnight

Large Blog ImageIt’s great being a bagpiper in British Columbia – at 4 pm on New Year’s Eve.

Which also happens to be midnight in Scotland.

So, 4 pm is when the party starts for the Scottish diaspora in British Columbia.  For years, many in the community have been gathering to celebrate the new year together at the same time as their folks back home in Scotland. It’s been going on in various pubs and restaurants around BC for years. Large families and big groups of ex-pats and their families, eating, having a few drinks and making a happy racket. And of course, what’s a Scottish New Year’s celebration without bagpipes?  Marching in at the sounding of the bell, rousing up the crowd and then all raising glasses and singing Auld Lang Syne together is a great way to spend a late afternoon. Especially with another big celebration only eight hours away.

I’ve played at a number of Scottish New Year events over the years. Recently, I’ve been the 4 pm “midnight” piper at Fox’s Reach Pub in Maple Ridge. If you’re thinking of heading out, get their early. It’s usually jammed. Although it may clear out a bit when the piper walks in at 4.

I hope to see you there, or maybe at another big event in Vancouver where the midnight piper appears.

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Remembrance Day bagpipes in Vancouver

Piping Down of the Sun.On Remembrance Day, 2015, the people of our country will pause to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. As I have for many years, I will play the piper’s Remembrance Day lament at a number of ceremonies, including the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club.  But at each one, I will remember the most influential veteran of World War II that I have ever known – my late father.

Like many men from the small Nova Scotia community where I was born, he joined the Canadian military in the early stages of the war and served his country as a Canadian Air Force sergeant and aerial navigator. He received

J. Ronald Chisholm, at 18-years old.

J. Ronald Chisholm, 18, shortly before joining the RCAF in 1939.

the Overseas Medal for serving on a base that provided escort duties for naval and merchant ships plying the dangerous waters of the North Atlantic, keeping supply lines open and bringing Canadian soldiers overseas and back home.   At the end of the European campaign, he was scheduled to ship out to the Pacific war zone when the atomic bombs were dropped, and the war ended. He credits his mother’s prayers for keeping him on home soil.   He now lies in our family cemetery plot overlooking ancestral land along the shores of Antigonish Harbour and among the gravestones of many other fellow veterans and colleagues of “the war”, a common expression when I was growing up.  When I was a younger man, I remember the “old” vets were survivors of W.W.I. Now the last of the W.W.II vets are passing to their final reward.  I will think of them also, their dedication to country during war time and the contribution they have made to this country during peace.

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Why you should never play pipes in public until you are ready.

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Bagpiping & golf: the sounds of Scotland in the New World

Pebble Beach, CA

Pebble Beach, CA

On a windswept piece of landscaped rough, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and its pounding surf, as golfers and guests gather to wrap up their day and reminisce about their drives and putts, they witness a beautiful sight and sound as a bagpiper strolls along the fairway at sunset, playing the sun down with haunting airs and laments as waves crash below him.

Every night this iconic image of a piper along the shore takes place at the Pebble Beach Resort, The Inn at Spanish Bay – south of San Francisco. The top golf course resembles a Scottish-style links course but instead of bordering the North Atlantic, duffers enjoy theScreen capture from The Inn at Spanish Bay salty tang of the wild California coastline. Designed by Robert Trent Jr., Tom Watson and Sandy Tatum, the course is a natural beauty. For many of the guests, including golfers and diners, the piper closing down the day is the highlight of the evening. Setting down drinks near an outdoor fire, a setting western sky.  and what they have settled in to hear. In fact, a piper figures prominently in the golf courses logo. Continue reading

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