Catching my breath after a busy Remembrance Week

St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, West Vancouver Remembrance Service.

I played on the beaches, on the land, at sea, hospitals and senior homes.  It was a busy Remembrance week in the Lower Mainland of BC.

As usual, I was the piper at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club 8-Bells service at sea on Nov. 11. This is an 80-year old solemn event for lost members from both wars that draws a large number of current club members to pay their respects. Bugler Ron Toth and I have been playing “The Last Post” and “The Lament” for almost 10-years for the club which takes this event very seriously.  Unfortunately, this year we were joined by someone else in a small zodiac floating nearby, playing an unrecognizable jumble of notes on a very out-of-tune bagpipe.  A very disrespectful display that was commented upon by a number of the officials (city, navy, police and emergency services, club executives) attending the event.

I played at a number of senior homes and for a memorial on the beach at Kitsilano.  And I wrapped up the week with old friends at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in West Vancouver.  I have been a guest of this congregation for many years, and it is a joy to play along with Annabelle Paetsch, the organist who adds so much to the St. Stephen’s church services.

I wrapped up Remembrance Day with a few more tunes (and a drink or two) with friends at Legion 263 in Coquitlam. This legion has been my practice-hall for 10-years and it’s always great to play for their members and guests on Remembrance Day. The Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band performed earlier in the day, and were part of the march to the cenotaph earlier in the morning (while I was ‘at sea’).

And before I go, one last photo, from the other side of the country.  The firefighter in the front right of this photo is my oldest brother, Bill Chisholm, chief of the Antigonish Volunteer Fire Department, paying his respects to our veterans (like our father) and the fallen at the Remembrance Day service in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

Chief Bill Chisholm (front rt) with the Antigonish Volunteer Fire Fighters Corps. (Bill Pellerin Photo)



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The end of Alan’s adventures

I lost a good friend recently. As did many in the Canadian and global bagpiping and highland dancing world. He was a wee man but he carried a big pipe. And that pipe took him on a lifetime of adventures, collecting stories and good friends along the way.

Alan James Walters passed away at his home in Surrey, BC last week, after several years of poor health. His faithful companion Whisky has found a new home but the cat will no doubt wonder what happened to that loveable rascal who kept everything so lively when he was around.

Alan was my piping teacher from the time I arrived in Vancouver in 1997 until, well, the very end. Two days before he died, we were chatting on the phone. He did not sound well, and I was worried. But he assured me he was fine and would call me, or any number of a circle of friends, who were ready to step in.

I’ll miss learning from Alan. Looking back on those years, his lessons were relaxed but intense affairs, with a focused teacher, always ready to sit down, chanter in hand, white board behind him, and instruct the learning piper on proper technique, sound, expression and of course, timing. I used to joke that Alan was so adamant about timing his middle name was Metronome. He did record two highland dancing albums (still being played) called “Strictly Time” and “Strictly Time II”.

All lessons came with stories and treats for the dog or cat (various ones over the years). His home was full of big and small pipes in different states of repair, kilts, jackets, hunting and fishing gear and a freezer full of fish caught during his Alaska pipe band days, Campbell River or Port Hardy. There was a constant coming and going of students, a chaos of music stands, sheet music, books and the miscellaneous flotsam of decades as a travelling professional highland bagpiper. His warm practice room smelled of pipe bag seasoning and hemp, and on a cold, damp Vancouver winter day, it was a nice place to spend a few hours, if he was home, of course.

He was always off to various highland dancing competitions, judging at highland games and living the life he described in his well-known phone message “I’m either piping, fishing, curling or golfing. Leave a message and I’ll call and tell you about my adventures.”

Those adventures brought him to Alaska, Campbell River, Manitoba, Prince George, Port Hardy, Pender Island, Lake Diefenbaker, Shawnigan Lake, Coeur d’Arlene and more. These were the places Alan spoke of to me; a newcomer from the east coast. Those who knew Alan in these places can likely recount many a story about his time there and the impact he had. His pipes provided him a living and he shared that life with many people.

I arrived in British Columbia in 1997, so am not privileged to speak about his years with Triumph Street or even his youth as a top-level piper, playing with world champions Muirhead & Sons Pipe Band in Scotland, taking instruction from Bob Hardy and Donald MacLeod. My relationship was as a student and friend. He taught. I learned. We shared drinks and stories. And as everyone knows, he was a lot of fun to be around.

I’ve often thought it’s a shame for a human being with an acquired gift or talent, to take that talent and knowledge with them when they pass. It’s sad to think of the piobaireachd knowledge Alan took with him when he left us. But when I hear his students play, I know that Alan’s knowledge is still being shared. And to honour that gift and the man behind it, we play well; in tune, in time and with a thought back to the man who showed us that piping can indeed be a life’s adventure.

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Celebrations of Life for Lost Loved Ones

(Click here to contact Mike directly)

It has been a brutal 15-months.

For families who lost loved ones during the Covid-19 pandemic, the sense of loss can be overwhelming. Losing isolated family members and unable to be by their bedside in their time of need is one of the most difficult things to deal with during this time. Add to that the inability to share that loss with family and friends, to have no opportunity to reminisce together at a memorial, celebration of life or funeral.

For those who were isolated from aging parents while they marked major birthday milestones in their life, the end of this pandemic is welcome relief.

As we resume our lives post-pandemic, there is now the opportunity to hold those celebrations that were curtailed throughout 2020 and 2021. A final goodbye to loved ones at a gathering will soon be possible. Pipers around BC are available to help set the mood and to provide a final, poignant goodbye in either outdoor or indoor settings.

For assistance or ideas, email

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Ten Reasons to Hire a Vancouver Bagpiper

  The bagpipes are a versatile instrument that can impact many occasions. For example…

  1. Birthday and surprise parties: “Happy birthday” on the bagpipes is a sure-fire way to make your birthday memorable…to you and all your guests. It’s well worth the look on the guest of honour’s face when the piper walks in.
  2. Weddings: Marching in the bride, groom, wedding party in or out of the church, marching in the wedding party to the reception or even playing the first waltz. It adds that memorable moment that makes great photos and leaves a lasting impression.
  3. Funerals and memorials: The piping world is full of absolutely beautiful pipe tunes that often bring a tear to the eye and foster deep reminisces of a loved one. Amazing Grace and Danny Boy are popular, but there are so many others.

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Lament for the 2020 BC Highland Games

It was a dreary day to hold a highland games. I’m kinda glad we didn’t.

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, all large gatherings, including the 89th BC Highland Games, have been cancelled for 2020. This decision was made in May and we all knew it was coming. However, it was still a melancholy day for some of us who work hard to plan and execute these very popular Games every year, in honour of our culture and those who came before us.

A bit of rain did not stop me from playing playing a lament for the BC Games at 12:30pm on Saturday on the main stage at Lafarge Lake Park: usually the time for the Fraser Highlanders to blast their canon to officially start the Games.  Thanks to those who turned out, including Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart and Councillor Teri (MacIntyre) Towner, two of the Games greatest supporters.  Also, United Scottish Cultural Soc. president and Games committee member Peter Richards, and committee members Fran Caruth, Vivian Newstead and Donna Main.

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Canada Day Backyard Bagpiper in Vancouver

It will definitely be a different Canada Day in 2020. But it doesn’t have to be.

After years of playing for new Canadians at Vancouver’s Canada Place, the citizenship ceremony this year is, like everything else in Canada, cancelled for 2020.  No grand parade of dignitaries, no cutting of the cake with a big RCMP sword, no inspiring words of wisdom for our new fellow Canadians and no march off the stage.  It’s all so sad.

However, there is hope.  If you are planning a backyard Canada Day party for your close family, friends and others in your “bubble”,  invite a bagpiper to set the tone for your event.  A piper can start on the street, march into your yard, play upbeat jigs, reels and hornpipes – and of course, play Happy Birthday to Canada as everyone sings along. Special discount for seniors.

Contact me now to plan your “drive-by-bagpiper” visit on July 1, 2020.


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Birthdays, Bagpipes & Pandemics – in Vancouver

Bill Ewing listening in (from 2m away) to his birthday tunes.

In a world turned upside down because of Covid 19, it’s good to know that music can help comfort some of those isolated in their homes, condos and retirement residences around the Lower Mainland. That’s what I did this past week.

It was Bill Ewing’s 90th birthday, and his daughter in Toronto wanted to do something to commemorate the occasion. But like most folks, Bill (a former CFL Calgary Stampeder) is social-isolating in his high rise condo in North Vancouver, with no visitors. What to do?

Well, that’s where a bagpiper comes in. Daughter Lori contacted me last week and asked me to be her birthday present to her loving dad. A friend told Bill he needed to be outside at 11 am. I showed up outside his building. and for an hour I played Scottish melodies for Bill and quite a few neighbours who joined him around the front of the building, listening   to a bit of piping and being transported away from the worries of this world for a brief moment.  Of course, I also played Happy Birthday. Unfortunately, there was no cake.

I don’t know how they found out, but CBC Vancouver also showed up and did a story about Bill, his birthday and bagpipes. The photos are from the CBC story.

I’ve also been visiting some of my favourite clients who I play for on Remembrance Day or Robbie Burns week. These are the senior homes and companies who hire me each year to play for special events. Now, it’s my turn to give back, and provide a bit of comfort during World War C.  With the Rocky Mountaineer season cancelled, these performances keep an old piper like me in playing shape and hopefully delivering a bit of comfort during these topsy turvy times.

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Bagpiping in Vancouver, Bagpiping in Cape Breton

It was a great week of Celtic music. Lots of piping, fiddling, Gaelic singing and plenty of dancing. The 23rd Celtic Colours International Festival, held from October 12-19 all over Cape Breton Island drew sell-out crowds to all the official events, and many of the unofficial ones. Hurricane Dorian stripped much of the “colour” from the surrounding hillsides, but it was still spectacular driving through Cape Breton to small communities all over the island (like Broad Cove, above), enjoying visits with friends and even a bit of autumn fly fishing for elusive Atlantic salmon on the Baddeck, Margaree and other local rivers.

Brebach and Beolach were two of the great bands playing at Celtic Colours. Hopefully one day soon they will be out in the BC area for everyone to enjoy. Now, with November upon us, it’s time to start thinking about Remembrance Day. It will be a busy time for pipers as they march through many small towns and communities throughout the Pacific Northwest.

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