Shamrocks and bagpipes: Five great ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Vancouver.

1. Hire a bagpiper for your St. Patrick’s Day party or pub crawl.Top off your green-themed house

Four Leaf Clover

Four Leaf Clover

party with a grand entrance of a fully kilted bagpiper. Celtic tunes echo while everyone dances and drinks green beer. Or join any number of pubs and bars in Vancouver throwing parties with pipers and dancers this weekend. There’s nothing like great piping to set the scene.

2. Wear green. Dig out that green Christmas tie from your 65810_leprechaun 2mother-in-law or your least favourite green sweater. It’s perfect for St. Patrick’s Day. Today’s the day to flaunt the green. And for those who feel particularly pumped about St. Patrick’s Day, wear a leprechaun costume.

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Playing bagpipes for Police Funerals and for Deputy Sherriff Jeremiah MacKay

A lone piper stood outside the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office on February 14,

Dep. Jeremiah MacKay, San Bernardino Sherriff's Dept. Bagpiper, father.

Dep. Jeremiah MacKay, San Bernardino Sherriff’s Dept. Bagpiper, father.

lamenting the death of a fellow piper and deputy sheriff, Jeremiah MacKay.  After years of playing at funerals for fallen police colleagues as the chief piper for the Inland Empire Emerald Society, friends are now playing for Jeremiah MacKay.

MacKay was killed in a shoot-out with ex-LAPD police officer Christopher Dorner in California who was found dead in a burning cabin after a shootout with authorities.

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The Pied Piper of East Van

Pied-Piper-3The ancient story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin is a well known children’s fairy tale.

The citizens of the German town of Hamelin needed to rid their community of rats. They hired a piper for the job, who played his pipes and led all the rodents from their nooks and cranny’s to their death in the nearby Wiser River. The mayor refused to pay him so the piper turned on the magic once again and led all the children from the village, never to be seen again. Continue reading

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Top 10 reasons a bagpiper can transform an event

I monitored a Twitter conversation recently about bagpipes. The “tweeters” seemed to associate the bagpipes solely with funerals and death. A Yahoo conversation was similar; many people south of the border have only heard the pipes at funerals of police officers, firefighters and soldiers. It’s kinda sad. They don’t know what they’re missing.Piping for city crew II

BC (and the Pacific Northwest) is a hotbed of great bagpiping. A long history that continues today with two of the top 10 pipe bands in the world. Eighth place Dowco Triumph Street Pipe Band (Pipe Major Dave Hilder) and third place Simon Fraser University Pipe Band (Pipe Major Terry Lee), also six time World champions. However, it’s not always about competition.

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Brightening “a stable all forlorn” with bagpipes and celebration

Domenichino's The Adoration of the ShepherdsIn the Christmas song “Mary’s Little Boy Child” written by Jester Hairston (check out this corny but popular disco version by Boney M), the song relates the story of Christ’s birth “in a stable all forlorn”. The song relates that “trumpets sound and angels sing”. From the famous 17th century painting “The Adoration of the Shepherds”, Italian painter Domenichino has captured singing angels, but there’s no trumpet. Instead, a bagpiper is seen soothing the new born child. The poor shepherds had been alerted to the birth by a bright star and angels singing and have come to the stable to visit and adore. The pipes were a common accompaniment while working in the fields and it would be very appropriate for a few tunes to be played for the Christ Child.  

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New Years, Auld Lang Syng, First-Footing & bagpipes!

Happy New YearThe door is suddenly thrown open. The midnight countdown has ended. The crowded room stops, stares, then cheer as a bagpiper, in full regalia, playing Auld Lang Syng strides into the centre of the room. Music fills the house as guests join hands in a large circle, singing the traditional Scottish New Year’s poem penned by Scotlands’ bard Robert Burns.Ian McKinnon, Rawlins Cross

In British Columbia, this event happens twice a year.  For local residents, the countdown to New Year is at its traditional time: midnight. For ex-patriots of Scotland, the celebration arrives eight hours earlier – 4pm New Year’s eve: midnight in Scotland. For years Lower Mainland Scots have been celebrating this milestone at homes and in pubs with food, singing and of course, bagpipes.  The strong contingent of Scots are proud to gather together in local pubs to mark the turning of the year in true Scottish style with whisky, beer and bagpipes. But it’s not only the Scots who are getting in on the bagpiping act. Continue reading

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Thirty years of great piping and drumming & six World Championships: SFU Pipe Band

Jack and Terry Lee reflect on the past 30 years of the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Pipe Band

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The Fab 18: Delta Police Pipers & Paul McCartney

It was quite a performance, and one the 18 members of the Delta Police Pipe Band will not soon forget. Several months ago, PM John Ralston contacted the McCartney folks to see if they wanted a pipe band to join him on-stage at his November 25 concert in Vancouver. It had been 50 years since McCartney performed in Vancouver with The Beatles. The offer was accepted, the musical repertoire set and the rest is history. Here’s what it all sounded like.

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