2023 – A Very Busy Year

The 150th Anniversary of the RCMP was expected to be a busy year. We hoped there would be extra events that would highlight this important anniversary. Our hopes were answered big time!

We thought that 2022 had brought the band back to a more normal schedule after the COVID years, but 2023 ended up being well beyond expectations. In fact, 2023 equalled the previous busiest year in the Band’s history (2019), with performances at 41 different events. This compares to 26 events in 2022 and only 11 in 2021. As hoped, much of the activity was related to the celebration of the RCMP’s 150th Anniversary. The most significant for us was the presentation of the new RCMP Guidon in Regina, Saskatchewan in September, where we participated as part of a composite band with pipers and drummers from across the country.

Drum Altar at the RCMP Guidon presentation in Regina

The major activities of 2023 were a full band/dancer concert at Orleans United Church in the spring, 75th (+3) anniversary Liberation Ceremonies in the Netherlands (with side trips to Vimy in France and the Menin Gate in Ieper Belgium, and to Germany) for 2 weeks in April/May and to the Basel International Tattoo (Switzerland), the second largest tattoo in the world, in July.

The Band continued its support to the RCMP by parading at many garrison events, including the RCMP Commissioner Change of Command, the O Division Change of Command in Toronto, V Division Change of Command in Iqaluit, and a number of Long Service Medals Ceremonies in Ottawa.

It’s not just full band events that keep us busy. We had band members perform more than 120 solo/duo events through the year.

A sad but important task for the band is leading the troops parading to honour police officers killed on duty. Unfortunately, this happened often in 2023. Our band members joined those from other RCMP and police bands at the services for OPP Cst Pierzchala (Barrie), Surete du Quebec Sgt Brault (Trois Rivieres), RCMP Cst Dhami (Edmonton), OPP Sgt Mueller (Kanata), and RCMP Cst O’Brien (Vancouver). Along with the funerals, we attended the annual Ontario Police memorial in Toronto in April and the National Police Memorial in Ottawa in September.

Long time support also continued to local charity organizations such as the ALS, Cancer Society, Muscular Dystrophy, and the Shriners.

If it sounds to have been a busy year, it was. Band members logged over 20,000 volunteer hours in 2023, a doubling of the volunteer hours over 2022. 

Ahead for 2024

It is anticipated that 2024 could be another very busy year. While a full schedule has yet to be finalized, the Band will support numerous events in the National Capital Region, representing National Headquarters as well as collaborating with our sister RCMP Bands as appropriate. We already have two major events scheduled – the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Edinburgh, Scotland (the world’s largest and most famous tattoo), and the Scottish-Irish Festival of Estes Park, Colorado in early September. Watch our social media for more information as it becomes available. We hope to see you at our events.

Answering the Call in Nunavut

June 1st, 2023 was a very special occasion for two members of the Ottawa RCMP Pipe Band. Drum Major (acting as a piper) Brad Hampson and Drum Corporal Andy Main answered the call and traveled to Iqaluit, Nunavut to assist with the Change of Command Ceremony for the “V” Division Commanding Officer.

Chief Supt. Amanda Jones, who had been CO since 2019, was officially turning over the Division to Chief Supt. Andrew Blackadar. RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme was on hand to supervise the turnover.

Arrival in Iqaluit

The view flying in to Iqaluit

Drum Cpl. Main and Piper Hampson provided the march past and inspection music on the historic parade, amidst traditional Inuk throat singing, drumming, and dancing. The inclusion of live piping and drumming for the ceremony was a hit for the members in attendance.

The two band members enjoyed the opportunity to visit the area and take some great pictures around the town. This was a first for the Pipe Band and we hope it sets a precedent.

Leadership Changes in the RCMP Pipe Band

One of the realities of any group is that members eventually turn over and the planning for succession of the leadership is absolutely necessary to ensure the group can carry on into the future. Pipe bands are no exception. Sunday, May 27th, was a significant day in this process for the RCMP Pipe Band. Long-time Pipe Sergeants Gilbert Young and Donald Corbett have accepted new appointments as Pipe Sergeants Emeritus, while Pipe Corporals Jenny Putinski and Iain Tait have stepped up into the Pipe Sergeant roles.

Gilbert and Donald are both founding members of our leadership team and helped form this band into what it is today.

Their journey began in September 2000, when the RCMP Pipe Band of Ottawa became official with the first band event, the Change of Command for Commissioner Zaccardelli. Gilbert Young served as the first Pipe Sergeant at that initial stage under Pipe Major Pat Hayes. Gilbert stepped down in 2002, but rejoined the RCMP band a short time later and has remained with us ever since. During that time, Pipe Sergeant Emeritus Young has done over 350 band events and contributed 6,000 volunteer hours.

Pipe Sergeant Emeritus Donald Corbett was one of the members, along with Gilbert, Graham Muir and then P/M Pat Hayes, who helped established Ottawa’s RCMP Pipe Band. He started as a piper, but stepped into the P/Sgt role when Gilbert left in 2002. He has remained as Pipe Sgt ever since, performing in over 320 band events and contributing over 8,000 volunteer hours during his service in Red Serge.

As a recognition of their incredible contributions to our band we held a small ceremony where they received their appointments as Pipe Sergeants Emeritus. Both will continue to wear their Sgt stripes for as long as they are with us. The good news is that both of these fine gentlemen will remain with the band as pipers.

Gilbert and Donald join two other “Emeritus” appointments with this band. Pipe Major Graeme Ogilvie and Drum Major Graham Muir both received that distinction in 2017 when both stepped into the back rank and allowed others to take their places in front. Graeme did return to the Pipe Major role shortly after, however, and remains as Pipe Major. Graham Muir has continued as an active piper.

Two new Pipe Sergeants were appointed on the same day to help lead the band into the future. Pipe Corporals Jenny Putinski and Iain Tait were both presented their stripes and will step into their new roles immediately. Jenny’s first gig with the band was 11 November 2010 and she brought years of experience with other bands with her. She was promoted to P/Cpl on 12 Apr 2022. Iain first paraded with RCMP on 11 November 2013 and was promoted to P/Cpl on 15 Oct 2019, also bringing a track record of excellence with other bands to us.

We are very pleased to say the future leadership of our band is secure with these two taking on this responsibility.

Thanks to Serge Gouin for the excellent photos of the presentations

RCMP Veterans Association Memorial Service

The RCMP Veterans Association, Ottawa Division, marked the RCMP’s 150th anniversary in May 2023 with two events over the weekend of 27/28 May. First, there was a sold out Regimental Ball at the Delta hotel, with 500 members and guests in attendance. This was followed by a Memorial Service at the Beechwood Cemetery’s section for the RCMP on the Saturday.

The Memorial service began with a parade. The Pipe Band led a contingent of Veterans and a full turnout of the Musical Ride to the RCMP Memorial where the service was held. Our esteemed Bugler, Charles Armstrong, played the Last Post and Reveille and the Pipe Major, Graeme Ogilvie played the lament.

Wreaths were laid by representatives of several groups and a short service was held. After the parade was dismissed a small gathering for refreshments was held as a fitting end to a memorable morning.

Many thanks to Serge Gouin and Christine Hehle for the photos.

RCMP 150th Anniversary Music Collection

**UPDATE** The publishing run of 250 books sold out in less than 24 hours.

Downloadable version of the collection coming in Fall 2023.

Stay tuned!

To celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the RCMP, the 25th anniversary of both the RCMP tartan and the national program of RCMP Community Bands of Pipes and Drums, a dedicated member has compiled a collection of new music for the Great Highland Bagpipe. Two years in the making, this book has gathered 227 tunes from 76 composers and arrangers. They are presented in a 260 page book with photos, stories and biographies.

The book was released for sale in a limited edition on 23 May 2023. You can get more information about the book and how to order a copy on our page here.

The Pipe Band moves Divisions

The RCMP Pipe Band and Dancers of National Division now has a new home. We have now moved under Deputy Commissioner of Federal Policing (DCFP).

The band has been a part of the RCMP’s National Program of Pipe Bands across Canada since 2000. We are one of eight bands across Canada. Since inception the band has been part of RCMP’s National Division in Ottawa (previously known as ‘A’ Division).  Due to an RCMP reorganization, our band transitioned on 1st April 2023 to our new home. We are not moving and not much changes, but we now fall under National Headquarters reporting to the Deputy Commissioner of Federal Policing (DCFP). So, we are now know as “RCMP Pipes, Drums and Dancers, National Capital Region”

In advance of our fundraising concert on 2 April, acting for our Deputy Commissioner, Chief Supt. Mitch Monette welcomed the band to their new Command. He also presented Drum Major Hampson the new Pipe Banner to be carried by the Pipe Major.

The tradition of banners attached to the Pipe Major’s base drone dates back to the early Highland Regiments.  All of the RCMP pipe bands have a banner which has the RCMP badge on one side, and on the flip side, the initials of their Commanding Officer and the Ensign logo of their Division. The Deputy Commissioner Federal Policing logo consists of a gold crown with maple leaves and horseshes, embroidered in gold wire on the scarlet fringed banner

The band bids a fond farewell to National Division and our previous CO, Asst. Commr. Ches Parsons, whose support to us will be always remembered and look forward to working with our new Commanding Officer.

From left to right, Corps Sergeant Major Al McCambridge; Chief Supt. Mitch Monette, OIC Protective Operations DCFP, on behalf of Commissioner Duheme; Drum Major Brad Hampson; Pipe Major Graeme Ogilvie; our new Band Officer Inspector Aaron Toner; Sergeant Major Kathleen Aitken of National Division; Sgt Major Scott Williamson, Riding Master of the Musical Ride

Police Service Horse “Noble”

PSH Noble leading the Pipes and Drums

Have you ever wondered why parade horses, such as those of the RCMP Musical Ride, remain so calm when ridden? It is ALL about the training! This winter, the members of the RCMP Pipes, Drums and Dancers had an opportunity to assist in this training with one specific horse. Piping to train Noble – certainly exciting for the band, especially in this 150th anniversary year of the Force in 2023.

Over the past year, a 7 year old RCMP mare named “Her Noble” (Noble for short), was selected as an ideal gift for His Majesty King Charles III, the Honourary Commissioner of the RCMP, to celebrate his upcoming coronation ceremony. There is a long standing tradition of the RCMP gifting horses to the Royal Family. Because of the select breeding and training they receive, these horses are quite suitable to be ridden by the Royals for public ceremonial functions.

The most famous of the eight previously gifted horses, was the well-loved “Burmese”, gifted in 1969 to the late Queen, and on whom she rode for every Trooping of the Colour ceremony until 1986. The RCMP’s special association with the Royal Family began in 1897 when they represented Canada at the 1897 Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria. With many visits afterwards, the Mounted Police took part in successive coronation parades in 1937 and 1953, and many more visits on other Jubilee celebrations.

Police Service Horse Noble toured with the Musical Ride in 2022, with 90 public performances under her belt across Canada. She demonstrated a superior physical and athletic ability, and a calm demeanour. These traits, plus her size, made her an ideal horse for His Majesty.

Extra training for Noble began late in December, to prepare her for the challenges and unusual environment she would encounter in her new role. This is where the Pipe Band came in. Naturally, military parades involve music, so she had to become accustomed to the skirl of the pipes and the pounding of the drums, as well as the loud words of command and the movement of troops around her.

Band members travelled to the stables to serenade, march, and follow the horse, which became “normal” for her. Starting small with only a few pipers and drummers, eventually the full pipe band and dancers were marching and performing there every few days, as she curiously sniffed out instruments and the humans that played them. She took to it all like a champion, even coming over for a nibble at the tassels on the pipes and a turn at playing a snare drum.

On 17 February, a formal “passing out” grad parade was held with members of the Musical Ride forming the marching troop, led by the Pipes and Drums. Shortly after, Noble was flown over to the U.K. to take up residence at the Royal Mews in Windsor Castle. Our hope is that His Majesty the King will ride Noble in the annual Trooping of the Colour ceremonies.

The Royal Family has posted the story and some photos of Noble’s first encounter with His Majesty at the following link:

The Band was proud to participate in this effort and wishes Noble well in her new role with the Royal Family.

RCMP Pipes and Drums in Basel 2022

In July 2022, nineteen RCMP Pipers and Drummers assembled in Basel, Switzerland for the 2022 Basel Tattoo. Most were Ottawa members, but we were augmented with friends from RCMP Pipe Bands in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. The Tattoo had been cancelled for the previous two years, as had most big events due to Covid, so the chance to be there for the 15th anniversary of the Basel Tattoo was very exciting.

This year, we were the only Canadian band in the Tattoo. Pipe bands joining us on parade were from South Africa (2), Australia (1), Malta (1), the U.K. military (4) and from Switzerland itself (1). Military bands (brass and reed) were from Switzerland, Bulgaria, Norway and the U.K. Adding excitement to the show were the USAF Honor Guard drill team, the Kumudini Homes School Pipe Band from India, the Flings and Things Highland Dancers from Scotland, the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and the Top Secret Drum Corps, the local boys. Not to mention the Cows and singers from Les Armaillis de la Fete de Vignerons.

Band members arrived on 11 July and settled into the hotel. The next morning, we started four days of intensive rehearsals to fine tune the formations and the choreography. The music came together quickly as all of the bands had done their homework and were ready to play. The choreography took a bit longer as there were many adjustments to the plan until the Director was satisfied. Then, it was on to the first of 11 shows on 15 July.

Saturday, 16 July was a very busy day. It featured a 2 km street parade, with the Tattoo acts joined by over 20 guest formations. This was a popular event, with an estimated 100,000 spectators lining the route. There is a great video of the entire parade on YouTube if you’d like to watch. Just search for “2022 Basel Tattoo Parade”, or click here. After the parade, we changed to dress uniforms and presented an afternoon and an evening show, both to a full house of over 8000. I think the spectators were overjoyed to have live events again as the ovations were long and enthusiastic!

View of the parade on the Rhine bridge

The last day of the Tattoo was Saturday, 23 July and a special event took place – Children’s day. Many of the participating acts took place, giving the visiting kids a chance to try out instruments, ask questions and admire the uniforms. The RCMP tent was a popular stop. Five members were on the show floor handing out candies and RCMP and Canada flag pins. They also allowed the kids to try their hand at both snare and tenor drums, under drummer supervision of course. Many kids took the opportunity to get their photos taken holding the Drum Major’s mace and wearing some of the uniform accoutrements. Then, of course, all members were back into full uniform and marching on for the 5:30 and 9:30 PM shows to wrap up the tattoo experience.

Photos from Childrens’ Day

Basel was a very warm place to be in July, with the temperatures in the high 30s, reaching 37 degrees on one day. We were happy the majority of the shows only started at 9 PM when it was a tad cooler. Of course, it was not all hot, sunny days. Thunderstorms moved in Thursday night and pelted the city with monsoon like rain. Fortunately for us, the rain ended before the Massed Pipe Bands marched back on, but the band of the Welsh Guards got a drenching.

Band of the Welsh Guards – they don’t let the rain deter them

I should mention that the Tattoo was very well organized and took good care of the participants. Each band had a liaison officer assigned who made sure our needs were met and that we made it to our commitments on time. They brought in many pallets of water to help keep us well hydrated on those warm days. The food and accommodation was great and the passes for the city transit system were well used. It was nice to feel wanted.

Tattoos are hard work, but there is time for fun and comradeship as well. One of the highlights for many was a float down the Rhine; especially appropriate given the heat. Not everyone tried it, but many wished they had. Recreational trips organized by the Tattoo were popular, with visits to Bern and Lake Neuchatel, a day in the Alps at Stoos and Fronalpstock, a visit to the St Beatus Caves and a chocolate tasting among the offerings. On the 25th, those of us still in Basel took the opportunity to ride the local tram to the area where France, Germany and Switzerland meet. Not often you get a chance to have breakfast in Switzerland, a beverage in France, lunch in Germany and back to supper in Basel, all in the same day!

The two weeks of the Tattoo commitment signalled a return to a more normal year for the RCMP Pipes and Drums and was an experience we won’t soon forget.

Royal Visit 2022

On 18 May 2022, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visited the RCMP Musical Ride at the Canadian Police College in Ottawa. Their visit was part of the celebration of the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

The band and dancers had the privilege of assisting at the show. We marched the RCMP Guidon on parade to the RCMP Regimental March, then proceeded to the menage to perform for the assembled crowd. Our job was to entertain those attending while they waited for the arrival of the special guests, who were visiting with the Ride members and the horses.

After our performance, we were able to watch the Ride before forming up once more to play for the departure. It was a perfect day for the show.

The cover photo for the post took advantage of the rare opportunity for the band to get a nice photo with the full band and the Musical Ride. Scroll down to see a larger selection of photos from the event. Also enjoy the vido of the dancers, performing to “Corky’s Gift”, a tune written by our Pipe Major, Graeme Ogilvie.

The RCMP and the Monarchy

Members of the RCMP Pipes, Drums and Dancers have had the privilege of performing for members of the monarchy on many occasions. We look forward to any further opportunities in future. The RCMP has a long association with the monarchy and with our current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II who is a strong proponent of the Force. The Vancouver branch of the RCMP Veterans Association published a very interesting history of the association between the monarch and the RCMP. It turns out it has existed since the very early years.

It is well worth your time to have a read of this article. We hope you enjoy it!