There was no secret handshake, no phone call at two in the morning that would tell Doug Roxburgh he would be sharing a stage with one of the world's most famous musicians.
Instead, Roxburgh and the Winnipeg Police Pipe Band, of which he is the pipe major, learned little by little they were chosen to play with Sir Paul McCartney at Investors Group Field on Monday.
"There wasn't an official day. It just progressed from speaking to the promoter to speaking to Paul Wickens (the musical director). Once we got in touch with (Wickens) we knew that we were good to go," Roxburgh said.
The band performed Mull of Kintyre, a song McCartney wrote with his band Wings, and traditionally performs at his concerts with the help of a local pipe band. The song is an ode to Scotland, and McCartney said at his concert Monday he likes to play it for those of Scottish heritage.
Roxburgh said some members of the Winnipeg Police Pipe Band were part of a now-defunct band, the Heather Belles Pipe Band, that performed with McCartney when he came to Winnipeg in 1993. When it was announced McCartney would be coming around again, they jumped at the opportunity to get back onstage with him, Roxburgh said.
"We were very much aware of the potential. A number of our members tried to put out some feelers through different promoters," Roxburgh said.
Once they knew they got the gig, Roxburgh said keeping the whole thing under wraps was incredibly important. While there wasn't any rule that said they would be fired if word got out, he said the organizers asked to keep things quiet.
"It was just kind of expressed that this is the way we like to do things. It's a professional entity and this is what we expect," he said.
This isn't the band's first big gig. They played at two royal visits by Queen Elizabeth, the Rose Bowl Parade and are regular performers at Grey Cup festivities.
According to the band's website, they are the only pipe band to have played in every Grey Cup city.
Being on stage with McCartney also meant doing a sound check with him. Roxburgh said there wasn't much chance to talk to McCartney while rehearsing, because etiquette dictates that the performers focus on rehearsing rather than socializing. But Roxburgh still got to spend that time close to the former Beatle, and said he was very soft-spoken and had a very warm personality during the preparations.
"It was surprising because he actually communicated through his mike. Whether he was saving his voice for the concert, which at the end of the day was 40 songs... " he said.
"When we were backstage you could just feel the energy building, and a soon as that first kilt walked across that stage, the crowd response was absolutely spectacular," Roxburgh said.