RCMP Pipes and Drums in Basel 2022

In July 2022, nineteen 19 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.

Thornton Award for 2021

Every year one very special person is identified as the recipient of the Thornton Award, which goes to the band member or dancer who has served as a role model by being the ultimate team player through exceptional commitment, motivation, perseverance, and cooperation. You can read about the award’s beginnings in the 2012 History post here

At the band’s Regimental Dining-In on Saturday night, the award for 2021 was presented to Jenny Putinski. Congratulations, Jenny, from the band management team, and all band members and dancers, on this extremely befitting honour. So very much deserved.The citation for the award follows:

Citation

Jenny Putinski came to the band in 2010, and although she was not sure at first about playing for a non-competitive band, she quickly came to enjoy all the amazing events the band had to offer, including over the next two years, a Dominion Chalmers concert, a trip to Loon Mountain as Duty Band, and the FIMMQ Tattoo in Quebec City.

Already a well-accomplished piper, pipe major, and drummer, and extremely well regarded within the pipe band community of Eastern Ontario, she quickly immersed himself in the band as a committed team player whose presence has had a significant positive impact ever since.  She has participated in more than 150 events in red serge, many of them major occasions such as the presentation to the Princess Royal at the RCMP stables, and as well as domestic trips to Quebec City and Halifax, international trips to the Netherlands, Loon Mountain, Estes Park, Belfast, Edinburgh, and China.

Jenny has also done more than 30 solo events and far more than the 5,000 volunteer hours itself would belie, her commitment to representing the RCMP has been exemplary.  But even more important has been Jenny’s commitment to being the ultimate team player.

Jenny has volunteered as member on the Board of Directors, she has been acting/Pipe Major, and she has been an acting/Pipe Sergeant on many occasions.  She has also voluntarily taken on the role as one of the band’s most influential teachers and mentors, significantly helping the overall quality and presentation of the band.

Jenny’s exceptional commitment, motivation, perseverance and cooperation, serving as a role model to others in the band, makes her this year’s Thornton Award winner.

RCMP Pipe Band History Series – 2020

Considering how limited the “free” time in 2020 was, the band still managed to get in some interesting performances, starting with the production of the video for Governor Bruce’s Ramparts. You can read the full story of that event here. The cover picture for this post is from that recording session, which was actually the last time the band and dancers performed together. Over the summer, small contingents of pipers and drummers gave short shows at a number of Long Term Care homes to raise the spirits of the residents. We also snuck in a show for Canada Day at the Orleans Legion.

Like many organizations in 2020, we ended up resorting to Zoom meetings for practices. We even had our AGM, Regimental Dinner and our Christmas party by Zoom. This kept us in touch and kept our tunes fresh in our minds, ready for when we can finally get back to live shows. We hope 2021 brings normalcy back soon, to permit the band to bring our music to events again.

This issue is the final installment of the RCMP Pipe Band History Series that we have been posting over the course of the year 2020. The series was intended to mark the 20th anniversary of the National Division Pipe Band by reflecting on where we’ve been. What a history! While 2020 has certainly been a quiet year, the band has done an incredible number of memorable events in prior years. The number of trips and tattoos in which band members have participated is extraordinary. Bands or mini-bands have performed in China, Hong Kong, Mexico and the Netherlands as well as London and Edinburgh, Las Vegas and New York. We have been involved with many Military Tattoos and celebrations across Canada from the Maritimes to the Prairies. We hope you have enjoyed reading these stories and maybe will go back and have a look from time to time.

You can access the full story for 2020 here. Enjoy.

Band History series – 2019

The band history series is almost caught up, with only one year left to summarize. Each year over the history has brought challenges, new events, new accomplishments and ever higher demands on the volunteers. 2019 was definitely a pinnacle year, with the presentation of a concert at Dominion Chalmers, followed by participation in the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo and the Belfast Tattoo and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo; all of which are very demanding events in their own right. The cover photo for this post is of the Edinburgh Tattoo massed pipe bands marching down the Royal Mile, led by our own Pipe Major, Brad Hampson. There were many highlights during this year, but sad times too, as well as changes in the band’s leadership team and supporting elements.

Read all about this remarkable year by opening the PDF document here. Enjoy the many photos and anecdotes provided.

Pipe Band History Series – 2018

While there have been many incredible years for the band over the first 18 years of its life, 2018 was a standout. This was the year the RCMP Pipe Band program was awarded a Unit Commendation for the accomplishments over the years and its contribution to the RCMP’s program. As you’ll read, this was a first for the RCMP and was a great honour for the band members.

The band participated in 34 events over the year, including a Ceilidh to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the RCMP Tartan. This was held at the Cartier Square Drill Hall and was a sellout event. A group also participated in the Belfast Tattoo and was one of the featured acts.

One of the biggest events of the year was the trip to China for the Shanghai Tourist Festival. A large composite band, with members from across the country, participated in the parade. The estimated television audience for the event is 200 million people, so that is definitely the largest crowd we’ve played for. Naturally, the band took the opportunity to visit many interesting sights in China, including the Great Wall and Tianamen Square. We also had the chance to sample lots of Chinese cuisine in several different cities. The title photo is of the dancers on the trip, outside one of the dining spots. The whole story, along with many photos, are in this post’s write up, so please take the opportunity to have a read. The document can be reached here.

RCMP Band History Series – 2017

In 2017, the band performed at 40 different events, 10 of those with dancers. Individual pipers performed at 98 solo events, so another busy year. The Perley Rideau concert started the year off, followed by a public concert at Dominion Chalmers. In September, the band returned to Loon Mountain for the New Hampshire games. To the absolute delight of the whole band, our dancers were invited to join the famous Red Hot Chilli Pipers for their evening show. They still rave about that opportunity. Take a look at the cover photo from that event.

To top off the year, a small contingent went to Merida Mexico to play for the International Festival of Mayan Culture, and a group had the pleasure of playing for the Grey Cup festival at Lansdowne park.

It wasn’t all play, though. Band members still attended both the Ontario and the National Police Memorial service, and helped new Drum Majors learn their stuff when the course was run at the Carleton University campus, plus local RCMP functions when called upon.

As usual, this was just a small taste. Read the article and check out the many great photos in the document here.

RCMP Pipe Band History Series – 2016

The band history series continues, fueled by the dedication of our Pipe Major, Graeme Ogilve and his great record keeping! 2016 was a year of major change for the band; a new Pipe Major, a new Band Officer, a new Commanding Officer and a new lead for the dance team. The band also moved their quartermaster stores to the new HQ building on Leikin Road, which made life much easier for anyone needing uniform adjustment.

But the music went on. April featured a spring concert at Dominion Chalmers and September had the band flying off to Estes Park Colorado for a unique performance at the Scottish Festival there. There were 31 band events in total, with the dancers performing at 12 of them.

The year was also marked by the presentation of a new regimental mace. This was a gift to the band from former piper Kenneth Thornton. This allowed the original mace, dated from 1932, to be retired to the museum for safe keeping.

2016 was also memorable for featuring the very first time the RCMP Pipe Band of National Division actually wore their rain capes on parade (see post title photo).

More on this and many other stories in the full history document, which you can find by clicking here.

RCMP Band History – 2015

After a relatively quiet 2014, with no international trips, 2015 was a huge surge forward. The band participated in two overseas events that the members still talk about and hope to repeat.

The celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands in May, was an extraordinary experience. The hospitality of the Dutch towards the Canadians was incredible. Many strong friendships were forged on that trip and lifelong memories were made. This post’s cover photo is from one of the events on that trip.

Then to make for an even more outstanding year, many of the members headed off to Edinburgh in July to join in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The REMT is a month long, daily parade commitment. It is a hard slog, but one that the band members agree was well worth it. After all, performing at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a bucket list item for most pipers! Note that both of these were “Composite Band” events, which means members from the other RCMP bands across the country joined in, making the events an opportunity to make new friendships from across the country.

Even with those two demanding events to deal with, the band still supported another 25 events over the year, including the 5th annual spring concert at the Perley Rideau Veteran’s home. It was also the year the dance team joined up with the Ottawa Police Service dancers to provide spectacular performances for both bands.

It was a great year, full of interesting stories. Read all about it here.

RCMP Pipe Band History series – 2014

The RCMP Pipe Band had a somewhat quieter year in 2014, in that there was no international travel for the first time since 2004. There were still 42 events for the band, however, including 17 in which the dancers were a key part.

One sad duty of the band is leading the parade at funerals of police officers and 2014 had one of those occasions. Three RCMP officers were killed in Moncton that year by a crazed gunman and band members from across the country joined police officers from Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. to honour them.

There were many happier events too, including a freezing cold march in the annual St Patrick’s day parade in Montreal; a show for the Beau’s Oktoberfest; performing at a Redblacks game in September; and presenting a gift of RCMP Tartan to Princess Anne at the musical ride stables in November. We also took part in the observances of the Afghanistan National Day of Honour, which took place on Parliament Hill on 9 May. The feature photo for this post is of the band on the Hill that day.

The band tried something new in 2014 by preparing an arrangement of “the Gael”, which is an interesting pipe tune on its own. You’ll have to read the history document for the details of that.

One of the articles highlights band members’ participation in the Soldier On program by offering a “Saddle Up” course for ill and injured Canadian Forces veterans. Another great cause supported by our dedicated team of volunteers.

Note that after this week, the History series articles will be presented bi-weekly vice weekly. Don’t forget to check back to see them, since there were lots more adventures in the next few years up to today.

Read the whole great story of 2014 here.

RCMP Pipe Band History series – 2013

I hope you are finding the The Band History program writeups as entertaining as I am. Every year, it seems, some new and interesting event pops into the band’s schedule, along with some of the ones that had become regular. Life stayed hectic for the members. The 2013 write up contains so much interesting material, it has to be in two separate documents.

Piping Today magazine featured an article about the RCMP Pipes, Drums and Dancers in November 2013 and it was a very nice overview of the band’s history and program. There is mention of it in the main writeup, but a separate document provides a more readable copy here.

Graeme has also included interesting anecdotes about band members that give some insight into their motivation and contribution. In the 2013 write up, he has included an article on our piper/bugler; a man whose passion has re-started the tradition of bugle calls in the RCMP. There is also a story about the Tartan Day parade in New York City in a driving snowstorm. The cover photo for this post is from that parade.

Find those stories, and more, here.