Pipe bands do much more than just blow wind

Members of the Kalamalka Highlanders and Arran Campbell Memorial Pipe Bands perform in the Salute to Veterans during halftime at the B.C. Lions versus Saskatchewan Roughriders game at B.C. Place in November - submitted
Members of the Kalamalka Highlanders and Arran Campbell Memorial Pipe Bands perform in the Salute to Veterans during halftime at the B.C. Lions versus Saskatchewan Roughriders game at B.C. Place in November
— image credit: submitted

It’s that time of year again when the Scottish community fish their tartan kilts and sporran pouches out of the closet to celebrate the birthday of the most famous Scot in history.

And Vernon is no exception.

Scheduled for Jan. 26 at the Vernon Recreation Centre, the Kalamalka Highlanders (KHPB) and Arran Campbell Memorial (ACMPB) Pipe Bands are raising a glass and their bagpipes and drumsticks  to 18th century Scottish bard Robbie Burns.

“It’s the cultural event for those who are Scottish or for those who want to be Scottish,” said KHPB president Norm Crerar.

The night consists of a traditional supper of tatties (potatoes) and bashed neeps (turnips), haggis, as well as roast beef or veggie fare for those who don’t want to eat sheep’s pluck. There’s also the piping in and address of the haggis, the toast to the lassies, and readings of Burns’ poetry, Scottish vernacular and all.

“We’ll have some pipe music and we finish the evening with the Scottish Country Dancers, with lessons included so everyone can dance,” said Crerar.

The Burns supper is a major fundraiser for both the senior (KHPB) and youth (ACMPB) bands, who are some of the busiest musicians around.

“We do an average of 30 performances a year and most of them are non-revenue for not-for-profit organizations,” said Crerar.

Whether pipes are a-blaring at the annual Santas Anonymous Pub Crawl, or drums rat-a-tatting at the Vernon Winter Carnival parade, the two groups make their presence known.

“This year our pub crawl raised $3,900 in just a couple of hours for Santas Anonymous in early December,” said Crerar.

Band members also make regular appearances at charitable events such as Run for the Cure, Do it for Dad, Relay for Cancer, as well as for community functions such as Canada Day, the Interior Provincial Exhibition parade, Lumby Days, and of course, Remembrance Day.

This past November, both bands performed during the halftime show between CFL teams the B.C. Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders at B.C. Place. The show was a salute to veterans, and included military and pipe bands from around B.C., said Crerar.

Now under the direction of pipe major Gord Mathers, the bands are planning for some other major events this year.

First and foremost is the inaugural Okanagan International Tattoo (a festival of  military music, ceremony, entertainment and more) scheduled to take place at Vernon’s Wesbild Centre on the August long weekend.

“There is lots of enthusiasm for the tattoo. We have Kelly March from the army cadet band and others helping,” said Crerar. “We’re leaning on the history and importance of the army and the cadet camp, highlighting what youth do.”

Besides pipe, cadet and other military bands, there will be Highland and Ukrainian dance, taiko drumming and more, he added.

The event should also bring attention to the Arran Campbell Memorial band, named after the late Vernon drummer and member of the world champion SFU Pipe Band, which is planning to attend the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow in summer of 2014.

There are currently openings for student players who want to learn pipes and drums. For more information, call 250-542-2936 or visit www.kalamalkahighlanders.com.

Tickets for the annual Robbie Burns supper at the Vernon Recreation Centre, which starts at  5:30 p.m. Jan. 26, are $35 for adults/seniors and $20 for children 12 and under. They are available at the Ticket Seller box office in the Performing Arts Centre. Call 250-549-7469 or order online at www.ticketseller.ca.


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