It’s almost summer solstice, which is my favourite time of year. I love the fact that Calgary actually looks lush and green in June, and I love the long hours of daylight, and I love how, at sundown, it doesn’t really get dark, it only gets sort of dark, and then stays dusk for at least another hour. And I love how the air is filled with the heady scents of spring flowers – first the lilies of the valley, then the lilacs, then the peonies, and then – my favourite – the wild roses.
Recently I was having some fun looking at the photos that I took when I was in Orkney and Shetland in mid to late June of 2015. What a great time that was! I remember being in Shetland just one day before summer solstice, and while it wasn’t exactly as light as midday at 2:30 a.m., it was already pretty light out. (I say “already”, because the sun had set, in a manner of speaking, and then started to rise again by that time.)
I arrived back in Kirkwall, Orkney just before midnight on June 20th, and walked from the Hatston Ferry Terminal back to my flat in the middle of Kirkwall, because it was still light enough to do that without fear of not being able to see the path. Here are a few late-night photos around solstice time taken in Orkney and Shetland:
St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall – you see the clock reading 20 minutes to midnight if you look closely
Below is the view as I was walking from the ferry terminal back into town
Fair Isle, Shetland, taken during the Ferry crossing from Lerwick, Shetland, back to Kirkwall, Orkney on the evening of June 19, 2015
And Kirkwall Harbour, almost at midnight. All pretty spectacular!
It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since that trip, and that means it’s been over two years now since I started sharing stories through this blog medium as Piperannie.
Looking back, it seems as though a common theme through the majority of my stories has been the thrill and excitement of going new places, trying new things, meeting new people. The joy of wandering; the happiness of pursuit.
But of course there’s also much to be said for repetition – maintaining friendships, being reunited with old friends, and following a seasonal routine. And just for something different, this post will focus on … well, not something different, but rather the joy in the familiar. How’s that for irony?
I’ve just returned from my third piping/pipe band competition of the season, so I figured it was time to share a few stories, before three turns into twelve and I’ve forgotten all the interesting bits from the first three! (Using the phrase “interesting bits” quite loosely… I’m sure that many things we pipe band folk find fun and interesting might not be quite as fun and/or interesting to the rest of the world)
The first competition of our 2017 season here in Alberta was the Ogden Legion Indoor competition, on May 6th. As the name would imply, this event is put on by the Ogden Legion Pipe Band, and they do a fabulous job, year after year. I could be off by a few years, but I believe this event has been ongoing for a decade now – always the Alberta season opener. The executive of the Alberta Society of Pipers & Drummers is also to be praised for their involvement in the running of this event. There was a full complement of solo events in the morning, and band events for grades 5, 4, 3, and 2 in the afternoon.
Robyn and I competed in the solos in the morning, and had great fun catching up with the other competitors in our class. It’s quite a fun and supportive group in the professional/open piping class here in Alberta, which makes competing less of a chore and more of a social event.
I judged the band events in the afternoon, and was most impressed at the level of play by all bands, so early in the season. The Edmonton & District grade 4 band, and the two Grade 2 bands in particular put on great performances. The grade 2 bands each played 2 events, although only the medley was for adjudication. The Rocky Mountain Pipe Band from Calgary had just returned from a very successful trip to Vancouver where they competed at the BC Pipers Annual Gathering and won the grade 2 event, and the North Stratton Pipe Band from Edmonton went on later in May to win the grade 2 events at the Costa Mesa Highland Games in California. All of the results from the Ogden Legion competition are published on the ASPD website.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos from the Ogden Legion competition. However, because this has been a lot of text with no break, I’ll throw in a couple photos of other things from early May.
Here’s a picture of a family of Canada geese. How adorable are those little goslings?!
And, not to be outdone by the geese, a duck family:
And here are a few pictures of my Mother’s Day gift:
(The big red lobster pot wasn’t the gift – it was what was inside it that was the gift!)
And finally, a photo of my mother’s day brunch with Robyn (trust me, I did hae more than a pint of Guinness for brunch!):
By the way, the mother’s day photos were all taken the day after the Ogden Legion competition, so the Mother’s Day photos are in a way related to the competition. Even though it wasn’t actually mother’s day, we did celebrate on May 7th, because Robyn was in Calgary that weekend.
On to the next event! And back to the theme of recurring events. The Victoria Highland Games are always a treat. The drive from Calgary to Victoria is stunningly beautiful, and particularly so in late spring. (Or early fall, but since we’re talking about events that happened in May, we’ll stick with late spring.) I never tire of that drive, and the Highland Games in Victoria are always fun to attend. This was the first year I played in the solo events for quite some time. In both 2014 and 2016, the LA Scots Pipe Band attended the games, but this year my trip was for the purpose of playing in the solos, and socializing. And what better purpose in life than the quest for music, merriment and mirth?
Before I started law school back in the fall of 2004, I had done quite a bit of competing on the British Columbia solo circuit. One of the enjoyable things about being back at the Victoria games these past three years is seeing so many of the people I had met back then. The names and faces of the competitors have changed a fair bit (how did they all get to be so young??), but a lot of the volunteers with the BC Pipers’ Association are still there – in particular the stewards. It’s such fun to reconnect with them, and hear how their kids (and grandkids!) are doing.
Robyn also came to the Victoria games, but due to work commitments she flew out from Edmonton, rather than driving across.
My trusted steed saw me through the journey well, for the second year in a row. Here are a few photos of the first day’s portion of the drive, from Calgary through to Revelstoke, BC.
Leaving the city limits, and heading west:
And below is a photo of said steed, at our first rest stop (and I would like to note here that we’re being good neighbours and not littering):
And some mountains!
After spending the night in Revelstoke, I carried on to Victoria the next day, arriving late afternoon. It was another beauty of a day, and the balance of the drive, as well as the ride on the Ferry, were both relaxing and fun.
There’s always time for ice cream…
And there’s always time for a photo of my travelling shoes…
And a few pictures during the crossing, because it really is quite spectacular! (Even though these photos don’t do it justice)
We had great fun competing at the games, as we do. It was especially fun to run into lots of our friends whom we hadn’t seen in a few years, and also to be hosted (again) by the inimitable Kim Smith-Jones, who has been a friend of mine and of Robyn’s for almost all of Robyn’s life.
Some pictures from the Victoria Highland Games. First we have Robyn competing in the piobaireachd event on the Saturday morning. She played The Groat, and did a splendid job of it. (#likeachamp)
And a New Westminster Police Pipe Band reunion photo – it’s always so great to run into people we’ve played in bands with!
Some photos of the pipe bands who were competing – the Alberta Firefighters Pipe Band and the Grande Prairie Pipes & Drums (yes, both of the bands competing in the grade 5 event at the Victoria Highland Games were from Alberta!)
The Greighlan Crossing Pipe Band, under their new Pipe Major Myles Wilcott
A few of the distinguished judges…
and a few of the distinguished audience members!
Full results from the Victoria Highland Games Here.
The drive back home started with another fun ferry ride with some great sunrise views – although perhaps not such a great parking location on the ferry! (“Herbie and the Hearse” – now there’s a tune just waiting to be written)
and the beginnings of a wonderful (and very patriotic) day.
Sadly, this was to be our last visit with Kim in her Sidney, BC home, and she is retiring and moving to the Okanagan Valley. It’s sometimes disappointing when something that has been a fun routine, or annual event, comes to an end – but of course an exciting new opportunity for her, and a new place for Robyn and me to visit. And we must embrace change, just as we embrace and enjoy routine and familiarity.
I have two more stories to share, one of which has very little to do with my piping hobby, and the other has everything to do with it.
At the beginning of this month I drove up to St. Paul to spend the weekend with Robyn. We had registered for an Art Walk, in aid of the St. Paul & District Arts Foundation which would involve becoming art. Having no idea how this would work, we prepared ourselves for the 5 kilometre walk by having an energy-packed breakfast (okay, it was just coffee), and headed to the area where the walk would begin. (It was actually a run/walk, but since we walked, I’m going to completely ignore the fact that a few people actually ran the 5k)
We were given white t-shirts and a packet of powdered paint. We had fun throwing the paint at each other, so that we had some colour on our shirts before we even started our walk.
At each 1 kilometre mark along the way, volunteers were throwing scoops full of powered paint at the walkers. It was great fun!
By the end of the walk, we looked like this –
A great day, and a great weekend visit with my chickie.
I said that this story had very little to do with piping – but we did both manage to get our pipes out and play a bit, going over some of the music for the band that we have recently joined – Hamilton Police Pipe Band. We even made sure our pipes were decked out in the HPPB bag covers and cords.
A couple nice-looking set of instruments, aren’t they?!
My final story for this post is that I went to the Georgetown Highland Games this past weekend for my first outing with the Hamilton Police Pipe Band. It was great to be back in Ontario for a Highland Games weekend. I’ve not been to one since Maxville in 2011, with the New Westminster Police Pipe Band. Always fun to see familiar faces, and listen to some great tunes.
This is Andrea Boyd, playing The Big Spree for Jim MacGillivary. And a fine job she did! I believe she came third in this event, which was the A grade piobaireachd (#likeachamp). I always enjoy running into Andrea, and am always pleased to see how well she’s doing in her solo piping competitions – not just in Canada, but throughout North America, and in Scotland. When I left Nova Scotia in 1986 to move to Calgary, she was just a small child, and I had been playing in a pipe band with her father and her uncle for a number of years. Isn’t continuity grand?
And speaking of continuity… as mentioned, I’m now a member of the Hamilton Police Pipe Band, a grade 3 pipe band based out of Hamilton Ontario. There are a number of really great things about this, but two of the top things are these: first, that I have the honour of still playing in a band with which John Elliott, (Sound Supreme reeds) is involved (he played with me in the LA Scots Pipe Band since I joined in the fall of 2012, and he was there long before that as well); and second, that the Pipe Major of this band is one of the former members of the Gaelic College Pipe Band when I was Pipe Major of that group back in the 1980’s. Full circle indeed!
The Hamilton Police Pipe Band has a grade 5 group as well. This is the grade 5 band below, almost ready to go on for their event. Two of the pipers in this band were my students – and friends – at the Gaelic College when I was teaching there in the late 1990’s – and it’s been great to catch up with them. The grade 5 band won their event at the Georgetown games, and very convincingly. (Full results for the day here)
Here is the grade 3 band, getting ready to go on. P/M Trish Kirkwood is third from the left in the front, and I am to the left of her. Also in the pipe section are some former members of the Toronto & District Pipe Band (later to become the Peel Police Pipe Band), and the Clan MacFarlane Pipe Band. Quite a remarkable group, and not only from a historical point of view!
Below is one of the pipers in the grade 3 band. His name is Shaun Smyth. I met Shaun when I first moved to Calgary back in 1986. We were both playing in the Clan McBain Pipe Band, and then later we were both involved in the Ogden Legion Pipe Band organization. Shaun is playing pipes again after a twenty year hiatus (I think that’s what he told me!) – he’s playing great, and seems to be enjoying it. If he looks familiar, and you don’t think it’s through pipe bands, it could be because Shaun is a very successful actor, having several stage shows to his credit, as well as a major role in Season 5 of the Sci-Fi TV series “Fringe“, in which he played the role of Anil, complete with a most believable Scottish accent!
And the final photo for this post is a “then & now” – on the left, Trish Kirkwood and I playing in the Gaelic College Pipe Band, in a parade in Halifax in either 1983 or 1984 – and on the right, the two of us in Georgetown, Ontario, on July 10, 2017.
The pipe band world is indeed a small one. It’s filled with friends of all ages, from all different walks of life, all sharing a common interest in making this unique music and playing it to the best of our ability, and still finding time for fun and socializing. And these are definitely a few of my favourite things.
The Hamilton Police Pipe Band, both grade 5 and grade 3, will be travelling to the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland this coming August. No doubt there will be many stories to tell about that!
If you’re wondering why the “Take 2” in the title – this is the second time I’ve published this Blog post. The first time was in error, so now this is my second attempt. I am actually trying to make it visible this time – hopefully it has worked. Thanks for your patience – and thanks for reading. I hope you all have good days, and stay tuned. Please feel free to follow me on Instagram: piperannie; and on twitter @anngray2015