At Remembrance Day this year Grade 8 student Paighton Bings will be joining the members of the Williams Lake Pipe Band for her first Remembrance Day performance.
Bings is in Grade 8 and has been practising with the Pipe Band for the last three years, first playing publically over the last year. Together with Grade 5 Student Declan Earnshaw, she is part of a push by the Pipe Band to pass on their skills and knowledge to the youth.
Starting on the practice chanter, both Bings and Earnshaw agree that learning the bagpipes is a huge commitment, but is one they have both enjoyed. Bings got involved initially for something to do after school but have since found a sort of calling to play the pipes.
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“The culture, the songs and everything else around them is super interesting,” Bings said. “I’ve learned that it’s not easy and it takes a lot of devotion, effort and the urge to learn about it more. It’s very fun, there are tons of songs, some are super hard and some are easy.”
Both Bings and Earnshaw, with the support of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139 in Williams Lake, got to go to the Piping Hot Summer Drummer camp in Vernon, B.C. to further enhance their skills. With teachers like the likes of world-class bagpiper Jack Lee, the two went through an intense but enjoyable one-week bagpiping camp.
“There are lots of very interesting bagpipers there and they’ll teach you lots about, not just the songs but also about the culture, the history, all that stuff,” Bings said. “It was really fun, there are lots of activities you can do, like pennywhistles.”
Going into Remembrance Day this year Bing said she is nervous but excited. This year, along with the rest of the Williams Lake Pipe Band, she will be playing two sets at the march and ceremony at City Hall, before marching to the Legion where they will repeat these sets again. Previously, Bings has played at last year’s Christmas tree lighting and the Robbie Burns Night, making this her third public performance.
“I’m pretty nervous because Robbie Burns and the Christmas tree lighting weren’t super huge events, but the Remembrance Day Ceremony is. There are four songs in the two sets and they’re pretty complicated. You have to remember all of them and the transitions, so it’s a bit nerve-racking but there’s quite a bit of excitement as well,” Bings said.
“There are all these people who I get to help show the importance of remembering soldiers.”
In general, Bings thinks people should learn more about bagpipes throughout the year and not just around Remembrance Day.
They are complicated instruments to learn that require real devotion but Bings said that everyone remotely interested in them should try them at least once.
“They should go to the Legion, on Tuesday, and talk to us about learning how to play, it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can be any age, we’ll talk to you an arrange things and enjoy,” Bings concluded.
Earnshaw may not have built up the lung capacity required to play the bagpipes or perform at Remembrance Day this year but said that his desire to play them remains undiminished. He first started practising in Grade Three two years ago and joined after a member of the Pipe Band came to his school and asked if any of his class were interested in trying the pipes.
“I did try it and I did like it. I’ve come to the Legion to do it every Tuesday and now I do it every Friday and Tuesday,” Earnshaw said. “I just thought it was cool and it was in my family’s history, so I thought that I would do it. I want to keep playing them the rest of my life.”
At the camp, Earnshaw got to serve as the pipe major and won himself a scholarship and said he really enjoyed exploring the resort they were at in his downtime.
John Visentin is a long time member of the pipers and is helping to spearhead the push to engage more young people with the band. Due to age and people moving away, the band has seen their numbers shrink in recent years and Visentin hopes to reverse this trend.
“It’s not an instrument you can donate 15 to 20 minutes a week to, it’s something that takes commitment,” Visentin said. “Paighton is basically the longest student that we’ve had. She’s been studying and she shows a great deal of promise, she’s very dedicated and excited, she’s got her first set of pipes now.”
Visentin wishes to thank all the people who have supported the band and their efforts to teach Earnshaw and Bings the pipes and send them to last summer’s camp. The Legion, Johnston Meier Insurance and the Log Haulers Association have all been staunch supporters of the band and Visentin said they would like to thank them all from the bottoms of their hearts.
“I think, as an individual, if you have a skill you can pass on to the next generation why not? I think it’s a great way of keeping the traditions, music, dancing, whatever it is, alive,” Visentin said.
He is proud that Bings feels ready to perform at Remembrance Day and jokes he only hopes she knows how to march for the procession. The Legion’s Remembrance Day celebrations begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Gibraltar Room this Sunday.