Canadian bagpipers prepare to play for the Queen in Scotland
Not everyone enjoys the very distinctive sound of the bagpipes. But Queen Elizabeth certainly does -- she's had a piper play for her every day of her reign.
Later this week, a bagpipe band from Ottawa -- called the Sons of Scotland Pipe Band -- will be paying a visit to the Queen at Balmoral Castle near Aberdeen, playing for her for a second time.
And how did the band get invited to play not once but twice at the Queen’s Scottish residence? Band leader Bethany Bisaillion says she simply wrote to the Queen and asked.
“All it took was another letter in the mail,” Bisaillion told CTV’s Canada AM Tuesday, speaking from Ottawa “So the long-lost art of letter-writing is not lost on me.”
The Sons of Scotland Pipe Band played for the Queen back in 2005. That time, a total of 95 band members, dancers and relatives went along. This time, their group will number somewhere around 200 as the band brings along highland dancers from three Canadian dance schools, as well as their family members.
“Our band has a whole range of members from aged six to 80. On this particular trip, we have a lot of guests who will come and watch their kids highland dance. We have a whole range of levels of players, pipers and drummers alike. And it’s just going to be magnificent,” she says.
Bisaillion admits the first time they headed to Balmoral to play, she was feeling rather nervous about meeting the Queen.
“But when I got there and I was in front of her, she has a really great sense of humour and she’s quite dry,” she says. “She made us feel so at ease and she’s very, very funny and really knows how to connect with the people who are with us. So she made my job so easy.”
The band will be performing in five other shows during their two-week trip and will attend the World Pipe Band Championships as well.
“We have a number of shows before we hit Balmoral so we can get the bugs out and the fears out -- until we pull into the parking lot and then it’ll probably start all over again,” she says with a laugh.
Bisaillion says she, like the Queen, has had a love for the bagpipes since she was a young girl. Her father was a self-taught piper and wanted all his kids to play as well.
“So when we become old enough after we learned how to highland dance, all four of us learned to either pipe or drum and all four of us still play today,” she says.
Bisaillion went on to found the Ottawa City Piping College and eventually become pipe major of the Sons of Scotland Pipe Band, which happens to be the oldest civilian pipe band in Canada, dating back to 1896.
Bisaillion says while the Queen is sure to be at the castle during their stop, a few other royal family members might drop by as well.
“There is word that if the Duke of Edinburgh is feeling up to it, he might be up there doing some recuperation and resting at Balmoral,” she says.
“And there’s a very slight chance there might be the youngest and smallest of royals there.”
With that possibility in mind, Bisaillion is packing along a small gift she hopes to be able to present to Prince George that will remind him of his Scottish connections.
“It’s a little wee kilt for the young prince of behalf of the people of Canada,” she says.