Ten feel-good stories in 2020 from pipes|drums
The unforgettable year 2020 is one most of us would just as soon forget, but there were indelible memories of pipers and drummers stepping up to do good things, to remind us that it’s our community, more than our competitions, that makes us great.
It was actually difficult because there were so many to choose from, but we picked 10 favourite feel-good stories published by pipes|drums over the last 12 months, and with four days on the calendar still to go, there’s still time yet.
In no specific order:
By November, we’d all had more than enough of COVID-19 and all of us were eager for a sign that pipe bands could actually perform live, in-person, for an audience. We got our wish when New Zealand opened things up and St. Andrew’s College Pipe Band of Christchurch and Hamilton Caledonian of Hamilton, New Zealand, delivered concerts to large and appreciative audiences.
The World’s was off and the month of August looked bleak with pipers and drummers all over the globe were locked down at home rather than making their annual pilgrimage to Glasgow’s piping and drumming Mecca. The Grade 3 Kilmarnock Pipe Band of Kilmarnock, Scotland, refused to sit still, literally walking the talk with sponsored 24-mile walks (the distance from the town to Glasgow Green) in aid of charity.
A piping and drumming silver lining to the pandemic has been creativity, and heralded composer Roddy “R.S.” MacDonald put his talents to work with one of the best 2/4 marches made in the last 50 years. pipes|drums got an exclusive first-airing of “Sir Timothy D’arte MacIntosh of Clachenfugle.” Through it all, the indomitable creative spirit goes on and the music endures.
We love this one. The Grade 2 City of Regina of Regina, Saskatchewan, brought some joy to dads and their families by providing custom performances in return for a charity donation. This band has always put their community first, and this effort impressed on so many levels.
Celebrated piper, organizer and quasi-raconteur Skye Richendrfr of Mount Vernon, Washington, shared his personal journey with hearing loss and recovery in a story that likely inspired other pipers and drummers to have their conditions assessed and treated. It takes a certain amount of courage to admit a problem, and it takes a certain type of person who can turn it into a positive for others.
Grade 2 Highland Granite from Aberdeen stepped up to pay homage to the soldiers of “The Forgotten Battle” of St. Valery, when, in 1940, the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division suffered huge losses. The band came together on video to play “The Heroes of St Valery,” the famous retreat march by Donald MacLean in aid of the charitable organization, Poppy Scotland.
This one might be our favourite of the year. We orchestrated a surprise feature story, asking pipers and drummers with moms who are also pipers or drummers to provide a few words about them for Mother’s Day. (We put together a similar piece for Father’s Day.)
The Simon Fraser University Pipe Band organization is one of the most charity-minded in the world, and this year they put together a fun video of pipers from the Grade 1 band performing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” In lieu of their leading of the annual Santa Claus Parade through downtown Vancouver, band member Alastair Lee orchestrated an arrangement of the Christmas classic, even carving an extra hole in a chanter to get the right sharps and flats, with donations going to charities.
It was Thursday, April 2nd, and we were just starting to realize how serious the situation was. Pipers and drummers worldwide answered the call to pay tribute to front line health workers, bringing us together when we were being kept apart.
Owen Reid was a piper with one of the world’s top Grade 1 bands in the 1970s. Like many of us, he drifted away from the rigours of competition, putting his pipes in the box for nearly 40 years until he got back into it with the Vancouver Police Pipe Band. Without an emphasis on competition, he rediscovered the joy of playing music with others.
We hope that revisiting these stories brought you all the feels. It was a hard year, a dark year, a desperate and divided year, but we remember the bright spots, too.