For nearly fifty years, the people of Glengarry and beyond have been so very lucky and blessed to have the Glengarry Pipe Band in their midst. Indeed, it is gratifying to know how the wonderful traditions of Scottish culture have benefited from the influence of this band.
So many parades, socials, concerts, galas, competitions, etc. in Glengarry and afar have had this well dressed, smart looking group, who always made musical excellence their goal, the mainstay of the different activities. One of the events to be closely associated with the GPB is the Glengarry Highland Games.
Because the first Glengarry Highland Games was such a success, it was suggested that there be a pipe band in the Glengarry area to complement the Games. Therefore, in 1961, The Glengarry Highland Games’ Committee approached the Clan MacLeod Society and a campaign was begun to raise funds to have and equip this band. John Jamieson was the first Secretary and Gordon Kippen was the first Pipe Major of the band. In 1967, Morlin Campbell became the new President of the Band and a movement was started to have a School of Piping and Drumming instruction which would in time ensure a steady supply of new band members.
A few years after the beginning of the band in 1969, plans were made for a three week tour of Scotland; there were 35 members in this original band. This trip lasted three weeks and during this time, the Band competed at the Cowal Games where they placed in the top ten in their grade. They also appeared in Dunbar, Dundee, Montrose, Aberfeldy, Stonehaven and Kingussie. They made many friends who would be visited again on the second trip to Scotland.
To help raise funds for their second trip to Scotland in 1972, the Band accompanied by the MacCulloch Dancers presented The Opening Ceremonies and the Halftime Show for the Montreal Alouettes’ first game of the 1971 season. Two airplanes were chartered for the trip; one went to Prestwick, Scotland and the other went to Heathrow, England. This time, the Band included a complete concert party of dancers and singers. Their time in Scotland was divided among Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh. While in Edinburgh, they staged a very successful concert at Princess Street Gardens. Both PM J.T. MacKenzie and David Danskin were very positive influences on the GPB.
The love of Celtic music and the many related traditions and activities in Glengarry have fueled the spirit of the Band’s continued growth. The GPB continues to represent not only Glengarry, but also Canada in a positive and beneficial way, all the while striving for musical excellence. Indeed, it is gratifying to know how the strong traditions of Scottish culture in Glengarry and beyond have been strengthened even more by the influence of the GPB. Over the years, the band has acted as both a community band, playing at local parades and shows and as a competing pipe band traveling across North America and Scotland, bringing the Celtic influence to all.
With the arrival from Scotland of Colin MacLellan as Pipe Major in 1987 the GBP was making positive strides and completing regularly as a Grade Four Band. It won many competitions including the Grade Four North American Championship at the Glengarry Highland Games in Maxville and the PPBSO Grade Four Championship Supreme in 1987. In addition, the Grade 2 won the Canadian Pipe Band Championship twice and the Chevrolet Celtic Classic title.
Because of their success at the grade four level, the band was promoted to Grade Three. This caused an obvious need to start training pipers at a basic level, thus a second junior band was formed to compete at the Grade Four level. This progressive system allowed many players to move from learners to the Junior Band to the Senior Band. Some consideration was given to forming a Grade One, but it didn’t happen. Under the leadership of Ross May two bands continued to compete at the Grade Four and Grade Three levels from 1997 to 2001.
In 2001, a senior Grade Two Pipe Band was again formed under the leadership of PM Colin Clansey, a professional piper from the Simon Fraser University Pipe Band. Since then this senior band has succeeded in winning prizes in Canada, the United States and at the World Pipe Band Championship in 2004 in Scotland. The Junior Band continued under PM Ross May and has also been successful in their grade four competitions in Ontario, New York and Nova Scotia. In 2006, this band won prizes at the North American contests and place 3rd in the Grade Four B at the World Pipe Band Championship in Glasgow Scotland with Shawn MacRae as the Pipe Major.
As a rule, the Glengarry Pipe Band Association is divided into three levels: a grade Two Band which focuses on competing in Canada, the U.S. and Scotland, a junior band in Grade Four which combines competitions and community activities and a training band in Grade Five level where students learn the fundamentals of playing in a band. Currently, the competing bands in Grade Two and Four number 60 members. In 2008, when Colin Clansey was assigned to duty in Afghanistan, Ed Bush assumed the Pipe Major’s position.
In a country so full of so many varied cultures, it is heartening to know that our own Celtic traditions and valuable artistic expressions are thriving, especially in Glengarry. Without a doubt, the Glengarry Pipe Band has made and is still making a huge contribution in this regard. The band has seen hundreds of young people play, learn and enjoy the music and form friendships that have lasted over many years. It is creating a legacy of the love of pipe music and accomplishments that will be difficult to surpass.
Currently, recruiting pipers and drummers, the band bills itself as a progressive, charity-based competitive grades two and four pipe bands that strive to accomplish the best in music and in developing a competitive spirit and strong ethical attributes in youth.