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Pipe band celebrates spring

Posted on March 12, 2014 by Lethbridge Sun Times

photo Submitted by the lethbridge legion pipe band

Members of the Lethbridge Legion Pipe Band perform in a parade last summer in Lundbreck.

Pipers, drummers and highland dancers will highlight a Spring Fling and Ceilidh fundraising event for the Lethbridge Legion Pipe Band on Saturday.

“Ceilidh means ‘dance party’ in Gaelic and that’s exactly what we’re having,” says band spokesman David Kaminski.

This year marks the first time the annual fundraiser for the Pipe Band has been held in the spring, and organizers have planned it with a St. Patrick’s Day celebration theme, he says.

“Traditionally, it’s been held in the fall, but it has been conflicting with other events so we decided to change the date,” says Kaminski.

Fundraising is undertaken mainly to help offset the cost of equipment and the traditional attire worn by the performers, which the band provides at no charge to its members. This consists of a kilt in a hunting Stewart tartan in weathered colours (muted tones), a short-sleeve shirt, thick socks (hose), belt, and a Glengarry cap.

For formal occasions, band members will don a dress shirt, tie, vest and black jacket, he says.

Kaminski says the local pipe band traces its roots back to the early 1950s. The band began life as the Army, Navy, Airforce Pipe Band in 1952. The first pipe major was Mary Smith (nee MacPherson), but in 1954, the role of pipe major fell to Andrew S. McColl.

In 1958, the band moved to the Legion, still under control of Pipe Major McColl. In the following year, Alastair Gilchrist took over as Pipe Major.

The band is now officially called the Pipes and Drums of the General Stewart Royal Canadian Legion Branch #4 after being resurrected in its current incarnation in 2005. It was incorporated as a non-profit society in the spring of 2007.

While membership has fluctuated over the years and even had periods of inactivity, the group now stands at 16 pipers and drummers, says Kaminski, the current Pipe Major for the band.

“We have male and female members who come from all walks of life and range in age from high school students to retirees,” he says.

New members are always welcome, with members of the band tutoring newcomers on the instruments. While drums are provided by the band, pipe players are expected to eventually purchase their own bagpipes, he says.

Pipers start out playing a practice chanter, a small, recorder-like device designed to help new players learn the fingering positions of the actual instrument, without having to worry about managing their air.

Kaminski says it usually takes would-be pipers anywhere from six months to a year to graduate from the practice chanter to the bagpipes.

The band practices weekly, with major performances being held during Remembrance Day events. They also perform throughout the summer at various parades in the region.

“The band adds pomp to any ceremony,” Kaminski says. “Whenever there is a procession, it’s a nice touch to be led off by a piper.”

The Spring Fling is being held in the Memorial Hall of the Lethbridge Legion, which seats 180 people. Doors open at 7:30 pm and the Lethbridge Legion Pipe Band and the Lethbridge Highland Dancers will begin performing at 8 pm.

Kaminski says a dance featuring the music of Ian Hepher and D’Arcy Kavanagh, both former members of a local group called Glencoulee, will follow those performances.

“The music will be quite varied, from folk and pop tunes to traditional Irish and Scottish songs,” he says. “There’ll be something for everyone.”

The evening will also feature a cash bar, a light lunch, door prizes and a 50/50 draw.

“We’re very grateful for the business community that has been so supportive by donating items for a silent auction for the event,” he says.

Anyone interested in attending the Spring Fling event can purchase tickets at the Lethbridge Legion, from band members or at the door on the day of the event. Tickets are $20 each, with children under 12 (accompanied by an adult) free of charge.

For more information, visit the group’s website at: http://members.shaw.ca/dkaminski/index.html.

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