Published: March 05, 2009

Passing notes

Going Home.Yesterday brought bad news of yet more Canadian casualties in Afghanistan. Warrant Officer Dennis Raymond Brown from the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, Corporal Dany Oliver Fortin from the 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron and Corporal Kenneth Chad O’Quinn from the 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signals Squadron were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb, one of the devices that they had just finished clearing.

Their deaths bring the total number of Canadians killed in Afghanistan to 111, and each time a soldier makes the supreme sacrifice the media coverage in Canada is widespread. And so too is the sound of the pipes.

Each “ramp ceremony” – the military procedure that begins the repatriation of the fallen – has a solo piper from the Canadian Forces, and always a very good one at that. The Canadian Forces clearly knows that only excellent piping will do when paying allegiance to excellent service. Fraser Clark, a Captain with the Canadian Forces’ Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (KPRT), Task Force 1-08, wrote about the experience passionately last August in a pipes|drums feature story that I hope everyone reads again.

If there were ever a positive to these sacrifices, it’s the small fact that millions of Canadians are exposed to the sound of the instrument as it should be.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I’m sorry, but as much as I love the pipes, and with due respect, it’s not about us.

    IMHO, the positive will be when all nations in the world realize we all have to exist here, together, and the sooner we learn to do it together, or separately, without one running rough-shod over another, the better. Then the souls sent heav’n-bound, as well as those of us left behind, will know their efforts and lives were not wasted.

  2. As a member of the Canadian Forces on full time service, one is never prepared for news that another CF member has made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country. Once you’ve piped at a funeral for a fallen comrade (I’ve played for two funerals where the member died in Afghanistan), it leaves you a changed person. Apart from the news of the latest deaths overseas, the point made by Andrew is that at least if there’s piping in the media, it is of a high quality and not of a sub-standard nature. Rightly said, Andrew.

  3. Bob — I didn’t intend to insinuate that it’s about us pipers and drummers. Just looking for a positive as it pertains to our frivolous kilted world. I think it’s a credit to the Canadian Forces — and any country’s armed forces — when they ensure that the piping is as good as it is.

  4. I recently returned from KAF (Kandahar Airfield) and will be returning again this spring.
    I recall many people telling me that the piping during the ramp ceremonies was of an excellent quality and quite moving. (probably the best piping they have ever heard) Fortunately, there were also a few circumstances to hear piping at other events.
    Speaks volumes for the ability of the piper to get pipes ready and well tuned in the worst of conditions. (hot and dusty) not to mention keep their composure during a solemn event

    Although, I do have to mention for the better part of 2008 and into 2009 the piper they were talking about was Colin Clansey.

    Cheers,

  5. I’ve got to respectfully disagree. The vast majority of ramp ceremonies in Afghanistan that I’ve seen have featured ill-tuned pipes and poor playing.
    I’m more of the opinion that it’s the thought/sentiment that counts more than the actual quality of the playing. That goes for when a piper plays at any event, be it a ramp ceremony or a birthday party, so it really doesn’t matter to me personally. But surely no one can maintain that these particular ceremonies feature “excellent playing” that’s of an abnormally high class.
    Maybe I’m belittling the issue, or maybe I’ve just not heard what everyone else has heard.
    But just listen to the video.

  6. A friend of mine, an open class piper and former Grade I Band player has just signed up with the Canadian Armed Forces to take a posting in Winnipeg as a full time military piper. The night before he left for basic training, three of us, all former members of Grade I Bands, got together to wish him well. At that time he mentioned that present playing members of the 78th Frasers, The Peel Regional Police and I believe also the Toronto Police were also trying out for full time piping positions in the forces. With that kind of talent joining up, the standards of the military pipers wil certainly be at least maintained if not improved. My hat is off to him for taking a step like that at his age and serving our country. It certainly has made me think more about the Aghanistan situation when combined with knowledge that I already know two of the other pipers serving over there either now or recently.
    For me pesonally, there is a definite link between the military and the PPBSO.
    Here’s wishing them well.

  7. I’ve never heard of course of the people who have died, haven’t heard any of the clips of the pipers who’ve played. Just a comment though on ‘passing notes’. They’re often regarded as unimportant, not main themal notes, ‘just’ passing notes. However, they have great importance imho in terms of their getting us from one place to another, linking things up, and making it easier for us when listening. Those same qualities are perhaps only-too-present when we think of those people who have died, or indeed of this or that piper who finds himself playing at the ceremonies. Whatever we think of war and conflict, presumably the soldiers view is that he is doing something to try and get us all to a better place, making more sense in and for the world, and making things easier for whoever it is that’s being defended and fought for. Similarly, the piper plays his part in the proceedings – helping or contributing by providing a music which perhaps steadies, respects, honours, and maybe gives people somewhere to put their focus and their sadness at such a wretched time. So with these ‘passings ‘ of people, I can’t help feeling the choice of title is very apt, as the importance of passing notes, is brought forward for us all to be reminded of it, whether in human terms or piping, or in the interface between them both.

  8. R.I.P.

    Warrant Officer Dennis Raymond Brown from the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, Corporal Dany Oliver Fortin from the 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron and Corporal Kenneth Chad O’Quinn from the 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signals Squadron were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb, one of the devices that they had just finished clearing.

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