The Paris Port Dover Pipe Band of Canada is now 22 years old, having formed in 2000 with ten pipers and one drummer and being led by Pipe Major Gordon Black. It has grown from its humble beginnings to currently more than 100 members. Members include pipers and drummers ranging in age and ability from beginner to advanced but all share a passion for Scottish music and culture. The band, as an organization, has had Graded champion competition pipe bands, performed at Glasgow’s World Pipe Band Championships, and is also currently known as a highly regarded international show band.
The Paris Port Dover Pipe Band has also had the opportunity and honour to play on two occasions for Sir Paul McCartney at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and once as the opening act for Sir Rod Stewart at the Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario. The band has been invited to and played at many other international events including the Virginia Tattoo in Norfolk VA, Juno Beach Celebrations in Normandy, the Marymass Festival held in Scotland, and the Calgary Stampede in Canada.
The band was invited to Crete in 2010 as guests of the Greek Minister of Tourism participating in parades and performances for thousands of spectators. In 2019, the band was invited to China to perform at the Qingdao International Beer Festival and was welcomed by crowds of nearly 100,000 each night.
The band has also performed at the International Basel Tattoo in Basel, Switzerland on four separate occasions in the past eight years. Even more, this was the third time the band had been invited to and performed at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. They departed Canada on Thursday, July 21st. Upon their arrival, they quickly checked in to the University of Edinburgh campus which would be their Edinburgh home for the next four weeks. For most of the band’s members, this was their first time participating in this prestigious event.
The first week was dedicated to bringing together all cast members from various countries. After months of individual learning and practicing their music, the bands and groups congregated to finalize the sets and learn the formations involved in the show. There were a few 13-hour days, but members rose early and gave it their all to get through the exhaustion that is part of this experience. Windburn and sunburns were quite evident after the long days of rehearsals in the Scottish elements. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo management team took extreme Covid-19 precautions. After having to cancel the event these past few years, it was evident that they wanted to ensure the show’s return to Edinburgh Castle would be successful.
A particular highlight during the final day of rehearsals for the band was the attendance of Her Royal Highness, Princess Royal, Anne, who holds several appointments in the armed forces of the Commonwealth realms. She took a great amount of time to personally speak with dignitaries as well as to four members of each band/group of performers. The Paris Port Dover Pipe Band was represented by Zara Malik, Scott Croome, Tony Johnson, and Paul Officer. The conversation centred around where our band called home, to which Princess Anne commented on the strength and number of pipe bands in Canada and their notable presence in the competition circuit.
Unforgettable life-long experience
When opening night finally arrived on Friday, August 5th and after several run-throughs of full-dress rehearsals earlier in the day, the first official show was a resounding success, despite the blustery Scottish winds causing the tails of feather bonnets to blow about. All the hard work and preparation had come together brilliantly and the cheers and applause from the stands assured the band members that their efforts were appreciated.
The weather in Scotland can be unforgiving but each night as they entered through the gates of the castle, the skies were clear and the temperatures quite pleasant. That was, until the night of August 16th when the island’s reputation of having frequent, heavy rains came to fruition. With no gear to protect them, the show went on as planned. It took the entire following day for everyone’s plaid, tunics, bonnets, and spats to dry and be ready for that evening’s performance.
All during August, whilst participating in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, The Paris Port Dover Pipe Band members were also able to meet up with friends from past Tattoos and make new friends as well. As the nightly shows fell into a regular schedule, members had the daytime hours free to rest, explore the city, or venture further afield and enjoy other activities. Everyone tried to look the other way when member Paul improvised his birdie at the Old St Andrew’s golf course by blowing on the ball as it rested on the edge of the hole.
Arthur’s Seat, which is situated adjacent to the residence where the majority of civilian bands and groups resided during the Tattoo, was a very common trek. Early morning climbs were generally preferred before the heat of the day made them more of a challenge. The view from the top was exceptional and worth the exhausting and strenuous hike. Overall, having participated in The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was a great, unforgettable life-long experience for everyone in the Paris Port Dover Pipe Band. Thank you, Scotland, for your wonderful hospitality once again.
The Paris Port Dover Pipe Band is located in Ontario, Canada. For further detail see: www.ppdpb.com