The warm days of spring, summer and early fall are behind us. Now it’s time to start wrapping up the year with Remembrance Day 2016 and all the other events that lead up to our national day of reflection on the sacrifices of our forefathers and mothers. Throughout the country, as communities gather to remember the fallen, the piper is charged with delivering the lament to lost soldiers. In most cases, it’s the traditional tune Flowers of the Forest.It’s a beautiful tune, but Mother Nature seems to want to muscle in on the mood. In Vancouver and area, the perpetual cold, damp weather of winter has a way of reaching into the bones of a piper’s fingers. Standing at attention, waiting for the cue to play, can be the most difficult part. Manipulating cold and slow fingers to work around the holes of the chanter, and to maintain the steady tone needed for this lament is also a challenge. For Vancouver area bagpipers, it can be tough. For pipers tackling the outdoor ceremonies around the rest of Canada, it can be a real test of their ability and stamina. In some of the colder cities such as Edmonton, the Remembrance Day service is held indoors out of respect for the elderly veterans whose health must be the first consideration. In Ottawa, it’s always outdoors – and the lament pipers come from the various branches of the Canadian military. However, it can be damn cold. In Goose Bay, Labrador, I played in -11⁰ weather for the annual outdoor ceremony at the local cenotaph. Recovery consisted of
the local RC Legion and a few shots of whisky with friends, old and new. These years, I play the lament to those lost at sea, from the bow of a boat in English Bay. And one year I even hit the piper jackpot. I was asked to play in Vancouver on a cold November 11th underneath the roaring gas-fed flames of the Olympic cauldron in Vancouver’s Jack Poole Plaza. Now that is a nice place to play pipes on a cold November day and a long way from the frozen tundra of Labrador.
With Remembrance Day a few weeks away, it’s a good time to get the hot shots ready to keep fingers nimble and ready to go. Hopefully the rain will hold off and the temperatures won’t dip too much as we play our laments to those who sacrificed so much for our country and our freedom today.