The words of Prince Edward Island author Lucy Maud Montgomery rang true this past weekend in British Columbia. While it may not be June, May in the Lower Mainland of BC has many comparisons to June in PEI. L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” recounted life in the Cavendish area of PEI, where “the beauties of nature unfold by the sea”. Here in BC, the past weekend was worth writing about: the azaleas and lilacs were blooming, the sun was shining, children playing and lawn-mowers humming. And with the dregs of winter and spring finally shaken off, it’s time to start the outdoor bagpiping season.
Vancouver and Lower Mainland outdoor weddings are always a highlight. New lives started under brilliant skies, warm breezes and of course bagpipes to lead in the bride, introduce the new couple to the world or entertain guests. In dozens of small communities, the sound of pipe bands marching down streets is always a thrill for young and old. Many pipe bands turn out for these events, ours being no exception. This weekend, our band partakes in one of our favourites: the Cloverdale Rodeo parade on Saturday morning. The parade is also our way of giving back to the community that has been very supportive of our band. This being a rodeo parade, there is always the added challenge of navigating city streets behind the “left-overs” from horses, cows and assorted other well-fed ruminant animals. Every bagpiper and drummer knows what I mean.
The soft summer and spring evenings are an invitation to bagpipers to play outside. Growing up in Nova Scotia, residents in my small community could often hear pipers on the evening breezes, practicing in backyards or empty fields. In a big city, it is always difficult to find the ideal practice location. Recent turmoil in Vancouver over the “noise” from buskers has highlighted what every piper must deal with in an urban setting: where to practice without disturbing people. Practice is the opportunity to improve execution, expression and memory of tunes; it should not be a show to raise money. So finding a private location away from the madding crowd is often a challenge. In this quest, I have usually been lucky. In Coquitlam, the oak trees and quiet green spaces of the expansive Riverview Hospital complex have been my private practice hall. In Vancouver, I share my music with the pines and firs of Deadman’s Island near Stanley Park. (FYI: Both required permission.) Outdoors, the pipes sound sweeter, the tunes more beautiful and the fusion of nature and music adding to the experience of playing this majestic instrument.
For those looking for the sound of pipes, then the outdoor piping competition season has begun. At these events you will find the best in BC and the Pacific Northwest. On Saturday, May 19, the Comox Valley Highland Games gets underway, followed the next day by the Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival.
Here’s a list of upcoming games. Load up the car, throw in the kids and take off to enjoy one of the highlights of the summer bagpiping season in Vancouver, the Lower Mainland and the Pacific Northwest: