Boghall and Bathgate star in Canada!
On Tuesday 11th June a group of 44 musicians left Edinburgh and began a 10 hour journey to Toronto. Despite a slight hiccup with two of our overseas members missing their connecting flights from Frankfurt and Amsterdam and one bag and one drum not turning up in Canada, everyone was hugely excited to arrive in Ontario. We were met by our hosts from the Cobourg Highland Games Committee at the airport and it was immediately apparent that they had taken great care to ensure our every need would be met during our stay. We travelled around two hours by coach to the beautiful city of Cobourg on the shores of Lake Ontario where we were staying for the duration of the trip and were delighted by the warm welcome we received on arrival (including the fact that the hotel staff had already gone to the effort of checking where the nearest open bar was!)
The following day we woke to blue skies and a temperature of around 22 degrees and took advantage of the chance to practice outside and get some air through the pipes - if only practices at home were like that….! After a productive session most of the band took the opportunity of a free afternoon to travel back into Toronto and had a great time taking in famous sights such as the CN tower and the Rogers Centre where the Toronto Blue Jays play their home games. Interestingly, the Rogers Centre was hosting a Taylor Swift Concert on the Friday night and clearly missed out on some ticket sales to Ontario’s pipe band fans - we’re still not sure who sold more tickets that night!
With the jetlag subsiding, the following day saw the band turn their focus seriously towards concert preparation with multiple band practices and stage setup at the recently built Cobourg Community Centre which usually functions as a hockey arena. After an intense day of practicing, the band were delighted to attend a reception dinner hosted by the local pipe band at the Cobourg Branch (133) of the Royal Canadian Legion. This was a fantastic opportunity for us to meet some local pipers and drummers and gave us a feel for the enormous amount of enthusiasm there is for piping and drumming in Ontario. We were also introduced to some local dignitaries and were honoured to see P/M Ross Walker presented with the keys to the City of Cobourg.
Friday saw the arrival of concert day and we were all greatly looking forward to having the chance to perform a version of our Forte concert to a new audience. With 8 new players on stage since last years concert in Glasgow, this was a great chance for some of our new players to experience the buzz of putting on a big concert. The concert began with a performance from a local pipe band, Highland Creek, led by their well known Pipe Major, Glenn Healy (an ex NHL goalkeeper with the Toronto Maple Leafs and now an NHL commentator with CBC) and provided a great introduction to around 1000 eagerly waiting spectators. Boghall and Bathgate then took to the stage to an incredible reception from a sizable and knowledgable audience. With 19 pipers, 11 snares, 7 tenors and a bass, the band opened their performance with an excellent rendition of the Mason’s Apron which set the tone for an exciting and varied concert. This was followed by some very musical sets including the fantastic Allan MacDonald composition, Lo Delo Delo featuring our backing musicians (Stevie Lawrence, Douglas Millar and Marissa Waite). One particular highlight of the first half also saw one of our new players featuring on the big screen as piper Adam Stevenson solved a mixed up Rubic Cube within the three and a half minutes it took the band to play their uptempo “Rubic Cube” set.
The second half of the concert was another great success with notable highlights being a mesmerising trio set from young pipers David Burnside, Paul Brown and Jonathon Simpson and the band debuting its 2013 competition medley. After closing the concert with 2 hornpipes the band were coaxed back on stage to perform an encore and were delighted to receive a standing ovation from the fantastic audience.
After all the excitement of playing another successful concert the band were mindful that the following day would also see them compete in a strong Grade 1 contest at the Cobourg Highland Games. This was the first time a Scottish Grade 1 band had competed in North America for 25 years and as such there was a sizeable crowd following the band’s setup on the day. Playing first in the MSR contest, the band drew its number 1 set, Abercairney Highlanders, Susan McLeod and John Morrison of Assynt House. After a great performance, the band were delighted to be announced as winners of the contest, taking four 1st places. This was a fantastic day overall, with the venue on the shores of Lake Ontario proving to be a great success for the games. With an impromptu post-contest performance in the beer tent starting the night in great style, the band had a fantastic time making new friends and enjoying the atmosphere of what is undoubtedly one of the best contests the band has ever attended.
The following day saw the band squeeze in some last minute sight seeing with a trip to Niagara Falls before embarking on the long journey home. Overall we had an incredible time. We cannot thank the Cobourg Highland Games Committee enough for their hospitality and the invitation to perform. Everyone we met was so welcoming and so pleased to see the band attend and we hope that we will see some of our new friends coming across to Scotland in the future. Similarly, we hope that we can return to Canada again one day soon! We all have a host of fantastic memories, photos and videos from the trip - keep an eye on the band twitter and Facebook and we will get these online ASAP!