November 19, 2021

Montreal gets fashionable with return of quality downtown piping

Jenna Dennison with her fashion-forward look as Holt Renfrew Ogilvy’s piper.

There was some outrage in 2017 when the Ogilvy department store in Montreal’s bustling downtown discontinued its tradition of a piper playing at lunchtime during the holidays, but four years later and with the merger with fashion-forward Holt Renfrew, the tradition has been restored with a stylistic twist.

Jenna Dennison, a competitive piper and former pipe-major of the Grade 4 Montréal Pipes & Drums, has been awarded the gig, and kitted out with a designer’s take on traditional Highland dress: “a modern approach including a bespoke, magenta tartan that respects the storied, Scottish tradition. The magenta kilt represents the colours of Holt Renfrew Ogilvy and was created by Canada’s premier kilt maker, Burnett’s & Struth Scottish Regalia Ltd. and registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans. Along with the kilt, Dennison will be styled with seasonal fashions, currently available at Holt Renfrew including a blazer by Canadian brand, Smythe, a Chloe bag and Doc Martens boots,” the department store outlined in a statement.

The Holt Renfrew Ogilvy performances will be for special events and holidays, and frequency will depend on Covid-19 restrictions, Dennison said.

The return coincides to some extent with her own return to piping after a “piping-induced throat injury” in 2013 caused her to stop playing for nearly five years.

“I took a long break while I focused on grad school instead, and eventually decided to have another go at piping, making sure to ease back into it gradually, consulting with a laryngologist, an osteopath, and piping instructors as I went,” she said. “I’m much more mindful of my technique now, and thankfully it’s paying off.”

Pre-pandemic, she was gaining prizes in Grade 3 amateur events, and has been successful in online contests during the pandemic. “The lockdown was such a cultural vacuum, I started recording from home, and even took a few private lessons with Stuart Liddell to stay motivated. I never would have dreamed of such a thing a few years ago. It’s amazing how small the world has become.”

“We are very excited to bring back the traditional bagpiper at Holt Renfrew Ogilvy with a fresh approach,” Natalie Lord, divisional vice-president and general manager of Holt Renfrew Ogilvy. “After a tough few years we can’t wait to launch our new tradition and celebrate with our customers while honouring our past and spreading some holiday cheer.”

The city of Montreal has a centuries-long tradition of quality piping and drumming, thanks to its strong Scottish immigrant roots. The annual Montreal Highland Games, held the days after the North American Championships at the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville, Ontario, are one of the more popular piping and drumming competitions in Canada.





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