Eighties to the Present
In addition to its military responsibilities, the band performs at approximately seventy-five community events each year throughout Edmonton and Northern Alberta. Numerous towns and cities have recognized the pipe band for giving their hometown events that highland music touch. The police officers who comprise the band are true ambassadors to the City of Edmonton and its Police Service. Click on any photo to enlarge.
An annual highlight for the band is a week-long gift of Christmas concerts that are performed for seniors at auxiliary hospitals throughout the City of Edmonton. This annual tradition began in 1972 to celebrate Christmas with the city’s hospitalized and bed-ridden senior citizens. These concerts are a highlight for the hundreds who join in song and Christmas cheer as the band plays its Christmas music, highland style.
The band has also had occasion to perform for many small communities in Canada’s north. With assistance from the Canadian Government, bandsmen were flown to Inuvik, Northwest Territories to help celebrate their 25th Anniversary as a community. In Uranium City, Saskatchewan the band assisted townspeople to rebuild their community hall, which had been devastated by fire.
In September 1992, the band played for the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry ‘s Colonel-in-Chief, Lady Patricia, the Countess Mountbatten of Burma at the first jump of the regiment’s newly formed parachute company.
In June 2001, the band participated in the 3rd Battalion PPCLI’s sunset ceremony in St. Albert after that city granted this unit The Freedom of the City. Then in August 2002, the EPS Pipes and Drums proudly led the 3rd Battalion PPCLI Battle Group on their welcoming back home parade after their tour of duty in Afghanistan. Several weeks later, the band assisted 3 PPCLI during the Commanding Officer’s Change of Command ceremony. In June 2003, the band participated in the Freedom of the City ceremony for 1 Service Battalion in Spruce Grove, and in a similar ceremony for 1 Combat Engineers Regiment in Edmonton in October 2003. In June 2004, the band assisted the 1st. Battalion PPCLI when the City of Edmonton granted them the Freedom of the City, plus several other functions when the PPCLI celebrated its 90th Anniversary.
In June 2003, the band was one of several pipe bands invited to participate in the dedication ceremony of the Juno Beach Centre in Normandy, France, the site of the Canadian landings during D-Day in 1944. Twenty-two members of the band traveled to England and France playing at several Canadian and Allied battle fields, memorial services with the British Paratroopers Association and the Normandy Veterans Association. Performances were also conducted in London, Aldershot Military Base, a Canadian staging base during WW II; Portsmouth D-Day Museum, HMS Warrior and Admiral Horatio Nelson’s flagship – the HMS Victory; Vimy Ridge, Beaumont-Hamel, and the Pipers Memorial at Longueval, France situated amidst the First World War battlefields.
In June 2004, the band was once again invited back to Normandy, this time to participate in the 60th anniversary ceremonies of D-Day. The band’s trip included a performance for Lady Patricia, the Countess Mountbatten of Burma, Colonel in Chief of the PPCLI at Chelsea Veterans Hospital in London, a Beat the Retreat Ceremony with the Royal Marines Band and Royal Navy Veterans in Portsmouth with His Royal Highness Prince Charles as reviewing officer and a later meeting with HRH at a reception.
The band then traveled to Normandy where they performed on the beaches of Normandy, the Juno Beach Centre, and several communities liberated by Allied forces in 1944. Members toured Dieppe, the site of a failed 1942 invasion attempt by Canadian troops, before moving on to Ypres, Belgium. Here, the band performed a memorial service at the New Passchendale Cemetery at the grave of Alex Decoteau, a member of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment and former member of the Edmonton Police Department who was killed in action during WW I in 1917. Sgt. Alex Decoteau was the first aboriginal police officer of the Edmonton Police Service and the first full time aboriginal police officer in Canada in 1907. He was also an Olympic athlete, having won a silver medal in track at the Helsinki Olympics.
Members then toured the Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest cemetery of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission system where 12,000 soldiers are buried. The highlight of the Ypres visit was having the honour of participating in the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate, where members of the local Fire Brigade have each evening since 1927 paid tribute to all the fallen soldiers during the Great War and to some 55,000 soldiers who have no known grave and whose names are engraved on the walls of this great arch. This was a truly moving and sombre event. A final to visit to Amsterdam concluded the 2004 pilgrimage.
During the band’s visit to Ypres, the band retrieved an old bass drum with the PPCLI logos on it. In 1918, when the Armistice was signed, a group of soldiers from the PPCLI left this drum behind in a café in Mons. This drum sat idle in a second hand shop for many years until several years ago, a Canadian tourist met with the family of the long deceased second hand shop owner and learned of the existence of the drum. They notified a friend who got in touch with the PPCLI and arrangements were made with the EPS Pipes and Drums to bring the drum home. This drum was presented back to the PPCLI’s Honourary Colonel, Major General Stewart by the band at a Sunset Ceremony during the PPCLI’s 90th anniversary celebrations, thus fulfilling the band’s promise to the PPCLI in 1914 to pipe the Regiment to France and back.
Each year since 1983, members of the band represent Edmonton and the Edmonton Police Service by participating in the St. Patrick’s Day parade and festivities in Butte, Montana, a city whose ancestors emigrated from Ireland in the late 1800’s. The band is the highlight of this event, which is on par as a national holiday in this city.
In addition to acting as an ambassador for the Service at military functions and ceremonies, the band plays at numerous community functions, parades, and non-profit charity events in and around the Edmonton area, not to mention the countless hours of practice band members contribute throughout the entire year. The band has led the annual Klondike Days parade for practically every year since 1962. The band also hosts an annual Robbie Burns dinner, complete with haggis, and dance each year on the Saturday closest to Scotland’s most revered poet’s birthday of January 25.
The Pipes & Drums of the Edmonton Police Service do not charge any fee for its gift of music to its citizens and communities. (Photo taken at “Stars of Hope” fundraiser for Kids with Cancer Society). Funds received through donations are used for the maintenance of instruments and the replacement of uniforms as the need arises. With a few exceptions (two military member and several retired police officers), the musicians in the pipe band are all sworn police officers having regular police duties in a widely diverse cross section of areas within the police service. These men and women, consider the role of the band in building partnerships with communities and the citizenry as a whole as important an aspect of policing as their regular duty to protect life and property.