Drum sergeant Neil Morrison and pipe major Maureen Soichuk wear the traditional tartan of the Kalamalka Highlanders Pipe Band

Drum sergeant Neil Morrison and pipe major Maureen Soichuk wear the traditional tartan of the Kalamalka Highlanders Pipe Band

The Pipes are still calling

The Kalamalka Highlanders Pipe Band brings the sounds of the Scottish Highlands to the Greater Vernon area.

It’s not unusual to hear the distinctive sound of a bagpipe, or the trill of a drum, wafting through the air on a Monday or Thursday evening during the summer months in Vernon.

It’s that sound – steeped in the Scottish Highlands – that the Kalamalka Highlanders Pipe Band (KPHB) has been making for the past 32 years.

Wearing their traditional tartan, the lads and lassies who make up the KHPB are a regular sight at parades, community events, charitable functions, and more recently at the Okanagan Military Tattoo (OMT), which was started in Vernon in 2013 by KHPB member Norm Crerar and returns to Kal Tire Place July 23 and 24.

One of the largest and most active pipe bands in the Okanagan, the KHPB currently has 18 pipers and nine drummers, who range in age from 10 to 82.

“The band began in 1984, when two separate groups in Vernon were trying to resurrect a pipe band. They joined together and the KHPB was formed,” said Kerry Parks, a piper with the band.

Reg Scott was the first pipe major and served in that role for 20 years. He now serves as pipe sergeant and quartermaster. Maureen Soichuk, also a founding member, is the current pipe major, while Neil Morrison is drum sergeant.

The Kalamalka Highlanders are called on to perform at many events, including Canada Day celebrations and Remembrance Day services, which is one of the band’s busiest times of year, as members also visit various schools in the Vernon district for Remembrance Day ceremonies.

In May of 2015, the KHPB hosted the 35th annual Spring Fling, where eight pipe bands from around the province descended on Vernon for a weekend of fun and friendly competitions in piping, drumming, dancing and skits.

“The annual competition will be hosted in 2016 in Trail and KHPB members have been working to retain their first place status,” said Parks.

The band encourages its members to improve and supports those wanting to compete.

In 2015, Soichuk competed with the Kamloops Pipe Band in various B.C. games and at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. She also won the B.C. Pipers Association 2015 Grand Aggregate Adults class and various medals for individual piping.

The KHPB has also supported a youth pipe band.

The Arran Campbell Memorial (ACM) Youth Pipe has encouraged young pipers and drummers to join the pipe band world, with a number of its players going on to play with the Robert Malcolm Memorial bands, which are associated with Simon Fraser University Pipe Band.

The ACM band is currently in a rebuilding phase, with many of its members having graduated to go off to university, college and trade schools, said Parks.

Outfitting a pipe band – in both uniforms and instruments – can also be a costly endeavour.

“To reach those needs, the KHPB has received support from the City of Vernon, Army Navy & Air Force Vernon branch, Royal Canadian Legion, B.C. Lotteries Corporation, various Rotary clubs and the Elks Lodge,” said Parks, adding, the band also raises money by playing at private functions and hosting its annual Robert Burns dinner and concerts such as next week’s Tartan Up.

The KPHB always welcomes new members. The band offers lessons in piping and drumming, with new sessions starting every fall. Band practices are held in Polson Park from June through September. The main practice is on Thursday evenings, with a smaller group practice on Monday evenings. Spectators are welcome to hear what that sound is all about.

For information on the band, visit kalpipeband.org or like them on Facebook.