It was an amazing trip full of music, dancing, friendships, an engagement, a loss and a lot of memories.
From September 26 to October 3, 2016, almost 30 RCMP pipers, drummers, dancers and their spouses from BC, Edmonton and Regina travelled to China to participate along with dozens of other musical and dancing acts in the Beijing International Tourism Festival. Our jam-packed schedule included highlights such as:
- Tienanmen Square,
- the Forbidden City, that goes on forever….
- the Summer Palace (wow!)
- the Great Wall of China
- a silk factory
- some great food and some ??? food
- bumper-to-bumper traffic (but no accidents)
- beautiful blue skies
- the heaviest smog most of us have ever experienced
- impromptu dancing at Olympic Park
- a Canadian embassy and Irish Pub performance
- Temple of Heaven
- Kung Fu show and two very long flights.
Our thoughts, however, were with our band mate, tenor drummer Sherry Moutal and her husband Roland who returned home on Day 2 due to a family emergency.
Our band and dancers performed at Olympic Park in the shadow of The Bird’s Nest along with performers from Tibet, Poland, Thailand, China, Spain, India and a dozen other countries. Our flag bearer, Burnaby Sgt. Ed MacKenzie led our band proudly carrying the Canadian flag at all our events along with Pipe Major Hugh Peden and Drum Major (and organizer) Mike Guillemin.
Mike’s nephew, piper Cameron Ballard proposed to his girlfriend Holly on the Great Wall (she said yes!). Our dancers, who joined us from the Edmonton K. Division pipe band, performed everywhere we went, and were a delight to the audiences, and to have along on the trip. We look forward to future E. Division trips with our adopted band-sisters.
Of course a trip to China wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Great Wall of China. Standing together in our RCMP uniforms, shoulder to shoulder on the Great Wall of China was one of the trip highlights. Following this memorable moment, many of the band members headed up the very steep route to the top. Three of the dancers performed on the wall at one point (playing music isn’t allowed, along with many other restrictions.)
Back on level ground, the Dafang Hotel served as our home base in Beijing and the place for a number of impromptu gatherings late into the evening. I’m sure many in the band won’t miss the hotel breakfast’s, lack of salt and pepper and rock hard beds, however overall there were no serious issues with accommodations. Our interpreter Eric was fun to have along (“Good Morning Everybody”)and we wish him all the best with the English language. Our driver safely and expertly navigated through the byzantine bumper-to-bumper traffic of Beijing, allowing us plenty of time to view the city and people who live there. Many of us are still amazed at the amount of green space, parks and trees in a city that is more than a thousand years old.
Today we’re back in BC, and to quote one of our members, it was a shock to go to dinner and not have it served immediately upon sitting down. At the end of the trip, all bags (including pipes), drums and luggage seemed to be accounted for, and we don’t think we left anyone behind. We thank Mike Guillemin for all the months of hard work that he did to organize this memorable 10th anniversary band trip, and we look forward to more in the future as our band continues to grow musically and in numbers.
If you are a Grade III+ piper or drummer and are looking for a challenging musical repertoire with a group of mostly former competitors, contact PM Hugh Peden. We meet Tuesday evenings at RCMP headquarters in Surrey (Green Timbers).