It’s a Wednesday night and some lively tunes can be heard coming from the Royal Canadian Legion in Bedford. It sounds as if some 40 pipers and drummers are playing the music so familiar to many Nova Scotians.
The group’s enthusiasm—the ra-ta-tats of the snares, the side player’s acrobatic drumstick twirls, the ever-present pulse of the bass drum and the passionate pipers led by Lorna Kennedy’s tapping foot—explains the sheer power of their sound. But inside the Legion hall, there are only 10 or 12 musicians.
They are the Pipes and Drums of Clan Farquharson, Bedford’s only pipe band. The group started in 1981 and since 1986, has mostly been based at the Bedford Legion.
When the ensemble started wearing the Farquharson tartan, they decided to adopt the Clan’s name. In the early 1990s, the Chief of Clan Farquharson, Captain Alwyne Farquharson of Invercauld, gave them permission to carry a heraldic banner featuring the Clan’s Coat of Arms.
The Bedford group is also recognized as the Clan’s official band in Canada. Whenever the Chief of Clan Farquharson comes to Canada, pipe major Kennedy should also serve as his personal piper.
Kennedy is originally from Pictou County where she grew up heavily involved in Highland dancing and Scottish music. She’s been the Bedford band’s pipe major since 1989. A musician friend coaxed her to join the group. “He said, ‘The other bands may want you, but we need you,’” Kennedy recalls. “So I thought that was a pretty good selling line!”
In earlier years, the Clan Farquharson pipe band focused on competing. “We competed in local Highland games throughout Nova Scotia and then we ended our season at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire,” Kennedy says. “We worked hard and it was just an awesome experience for the band.”
More recently, the group has concentrated on performing in parades, for charity events, at memorials and other functions, allowing them to connect with the public more. They’ve played at events like the opening of the Confederation Bridge and the 50th anniversary of the Canso Causeway. “[We also] love getting out and doing the local stuff,” says Kennedy, like playing at Scott Manor House as part of Bedford Days every year.
Another highlight for the Clan Farquharson pipers and drummers was participating in Pipefest 2007, a global, massed pipe band initiative raising funds for cancer research and other charities. That event included 1,000 musicians in Halifax alone. “It started at Citadel Hill, we wound our way through downtown Halifax and ended up marching, front-to-back, across the floor of the [Scotiabank Centre} during the International Tattoo,” Kennedy says. “So that was a rush for us all.”
One of the most important days for Kennedy and her crew is Remembrance Day. “The Legion in Bedford has been a rock for us, and really it’s because of them that we are able to get together on a weekly basis and have a space to gather and rehearse,” she says. “In turn, we do their ceremony on Remembrance Day at Fish Hatchery Park. We march our Legionnaires down to the cenotaph and participate in their memorial service. Afterwards we all go back to the Legion and put on a performance for them.”
But the day does not end there. The Pipes and Drums of Clan Farquharson continue on their “Four Legion Tour” to play in Waverley, Elmsdale and two concerts in Sackville. “We start at 9 o’clock in the morning and we end about 7 o’clock in the evening,” Kennedy says. “It’s the highlight of the year for us. It’s our pleasure to give back to those who have served.”
The Bedford ensemble is currently recruiting members, looking for people with previous experience. They also welcome players who may be a little rusty. The musicians take pride in quality playing, but do not require members to commit to a strenuous performance schedule.
“Bedford is very central to our membership,” Kennedy says. “We draw from Halifax, Dartmouth, Cole Harbour, Sackville, Elmsdale, Enfield, of course Bedford, and as far away as Truro. It’s easy to get to us.”
As the Bedford ensemble’s pipe major for over 25 years, Kennedy does not appear to be leaving any time soon. “I’ve played with a lot of other bands, but this particular band has got a lot of heart and soul and it’s probably one of the best kept secrets in Bedford.”
For more information on the band, visit www.halifaxpipeband.ca.