In the world of pipe bands, there are only a few occasions when both competitive and performance pipe bands play together. The June 14 “Bagpipes by the Beach” in West Vancouver is one of those occasions.
In the Lower Mainland of BC, we are fortunate to be a hotbed of both competitive and performance pipe bands, with two top-level, competitive Grade I bands (Simon Fraser University Pipe Band and Dowco Triumph Street Pipe Band) and a number of bands in Grade II, III & IV divisions. Along with these competition bands, there are a number of performance bands, including the RCMP E. Division Pipe Band, the Vancouver Police, Delta Police pipe bands, J.P. Fell Pipe Band of North Vancouver and the Irish Regiment, to name a few.
On June 14, at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver, many of these bands will come together in a united effort to help raise funds for the West Vancouver Fire Fighters Charitable Society. The WVFFCS is a volunteer organization of West Vancouver fire fighters who donate their off-duty free time to raising funds to benefit the citizens in and around West Vancouver. They have participated in United Way campaigns, the Muscular Dystrophy Boot Drive and the Bright Lights event at Stanley Park in December which is organized by the BC Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund. In 2013 the Society raised more than $27,000 for local programs.
However, their marquee event is Bagpipes by the Beach. This will be the seventh year for this great evening, which brings together both competitive and non-competitive pipe bands to perform for a large family-oriented crowd who gather with their lawn chairs and blankets on the grass at Ambleside Park to enjoy the scenery along the shores of English Bay and a great spring evening of pipe music. The RCMP E. Division Pipe Band (of which I am a member) will be performing, along with the Vancouver Police Pipe Band, J.P. Fell and the newly formed Surrey Fire Fighter’s Pipe Band.
For pipers and drummers, this is a great event that brings together many bands that normally don’t cross paths during the year. At parades, we form up and march separately. The various summer highland games are almost exclusively the domain of competitive pipe bands and solo players and special events such as civic occasions and memorials are usually reserved solely for one pipe band. To have us all together is a great opportunity to chat with former colleagues and to enjoy the wonderful hospitality of the West Van fire fighters, who feed and water both the musicians and their families.
This is a great event on Saturday, June 14. Take your lawn chair and your family and enjoy a wonderful spring evening, listening to the pipes, savouring the spring weather and helping to raise funds for a good cause.
FYI: Ambleside Park can be found at the foot of 13th Street in West Van, at Ambleside Beach. Gates open at 5 pm with performances scheduled to begin at 6 pm, followed by a massed band performance at approximately 7:30 pm.