After a pandemic pause lasting more than two years, the NWT Pipe Band has decided to hold its Robert Burns dinner and dance once again at the Elks Lodge.
The event will take place on Jan. 28.
It’s based a tradition in Scotland which celebrates the life and poetry of Robert Burns. During the event, food and drink will be provided and pipers and drummers will perform. There will also be highland dancers on hand.
The NWT Pipe Band was formed in 1969, previously known as Yellowknife Pipe Band Society until 1978. The tartan was created in Scotland and shipped to an Ontario company to have a proper kilt made. There were also efforts to ensure all players have their instruments sound in the same tune.
Brad Heath, public relations officer and piper with NWT Pipe Band, said that the look of the bagpipe doesn’t really matter, but the chanter — the part that creates the melody — must be the same.
The society was established by Graham Scotty Trotterto, a drummer, and Andy Young. The pipers came together and put an advertisement in Yellowknifer. After that, people started to gather and formed the band.
The group promotes bagpipe music and provides lessons for people who are interested in learning the art.
However, with Yellowknife having a highly transient population, it has posed obstacles to maintaining continuity within the group.
“For us to keep people here — people will go down south for whatever reasons — to keep our numbers up is a big challenge,” Heath acknowledged.
The pandemic caused a lengthy hiatus as public gatherings were cancelled or severely restricted. Pipers would have been forced to wear masks, which would have prevented them from playing their bagpipes unless they had an electric chanter, which doesn’t require players to blow into the instrument.
To keep sharp, the band members would sometimes practice virtually “just to keep the thing going until we get back together,” Heath said.