Ian Evans, 1955-2021
Manitoba, Canada, lost one of its best-known exponents of pipe band music this week when Ian Evans died after a lengthy illness.
Ian grew up in East Kildonan on the north side of Winnipeg and was a Transcona Junior Pipe Band member from an early age, competing in solos and band events. In those days, the Winnipeg area was rich with experienced Scottish pipe band instructors, and Ian soaked it all in.
He became pipe-major of the Transcona Junior Pipe Band in 1975 and then in 1978 took over leadership of the senior pipe band, which had been competing successfully in Grades 2 and 1 at various times. Ian led the band for many years and successfully maintained the band’s reputation as a good band that loved to have fun. In 1982, Ian’s band travelled to the Chicago Highland Games, where it placed 4th in the large Grade 2 event and also performed by special request for then-Vice President George H. W. Bush in the Chicago Hilton!
Following the breakup of the original Transcona band in 1984, Ian played a vital role in several bands, first merging Transcona with the Stirling Pipe Band and then eventually becoming pipe major. During this time, Stirling became known for its innovative and high-energy performances, and the band did very well on the Grade 2 circuit in many parts of North America.
Long-time friend and fellow Transcona alumnus Roland Reid said, “Over the many years that I have known Ian and played in various bands with him, this never changed, his love for pipe band music and his desire to create music with others. He always looked for fresh ideas for medleys, finding new tunes, putting his twist on traditional pipe tunes, writing original tunes or using tunes written by other band members. He always kept the music interesting in the band.”
He was a rascal, a great character, and had a big soft heart that he didn’t like everyone to know about.
In 1994 the Stirling Pipe Band recorded a live CD titled Horse of a Different Colour, which featured the “Steam Train to Mallaig” by Mary-Ann MacKinnon and “Horse of a Different Colour” by Michael O’Neill, recorded by the CBC and first played by the band at the 1994 New Music Festival in Winnipeg.
Following Stirling, Ian worked with and led several other bands, including Winnipeg Celtic, Erin Street and Transcona & District. He continued writing and arranging music and medleys, judged, taught, and was always up for a chat about tunes, reeds, chanters, and anything band or piping related.
Ian was always at the centre of the circle, cigarette between fingers while he tuned chanters, blew reeds or practiced, and there are so many stories of his legendary adventures. He was a rascal, a great character, and had a big soft heart that he didn’t like everyone to know about. If you knew him at all, it was clear that he cared a lot about the people around him, especially his family and his band family.
Roland added, “As I grew older and became a member of the Transcona Senior Pipe Band, I got to know Ian even better. Now, after band practice, I’d hear Ian often saying, “Alright boys, to the P for a B,” which meant we were to head down to the Princess Hotel for draft beer and an evening of jokes, stories and lots of talk about pipe bands.”
Ian is survived by his wife Anita and their two sons, Seamus and Keegan. Condolences to the family and all his pipe band friends.
– Contributed by Iain MacDonald, Saskatchewan