If you listen closely, or sometimes not even that close, you’ll be able to hear the sounds of the Scottish Highlands calling out during the summer months in St. James.
Various city pipe bands use the green space in parks, and sometimes backyards, to practice, including 17-year-old Brad Hooper, a pipe general in the Lord Selkirk Boys Pipe Band.
The LSBPB has been practicing extra hard recently and will be competing in the World Pipe Band Championship in Glasgow, Scotland on Aug. 11. More than 200 bands from 32 countries around the world will be vying for the top prize.
But first place isn’t the main goal for Hooper, who started playing when he was 12-years-old and will graduate from the band this fall. It’s paying tribute to his friend and mentor, Pipe Major Robert Fraser, who passed away in March.
Fraser, originally from Scotland, started the LSBPB in 1957 and trained more than 1,000 pipers over the years. He was adamant that all instruction, instruments and uniforms be provided to the boys, aged eight to 18-years-old, at no cost because he felt that piping should be inclusive to all.
Hooper, now a Grade 1 soloist, says he was hooked on playing the bagpipes after his first practice with the band.
"The first day I got a chanter, what you practice on, and the person who started the organization, Mr. Robert Fraser, told me I would be a career piper because on the first day I learned the entire scale," says Hooper, who hopes to soon join the Winnipeg Police Pipe Band.
The legend of Fraser looms large for Hooper, who still feels honoured to play in his band.
"He taught me everything I know about piping. He taught me how to be a better piper, how to be a better person and be a gentleman overall. I owe a lot to him."
While in Scotland, the band will play at Stirling Castle and visit a direct descendent of Lord Selkirk, who established a Scottish settlement in Manitoba in 1812.
But Hooper expects the highlight to be playing in Arbroath, Fraser’s birthplace.
"I’ll be playing my heart out for him because we owe it to him to keep his band going and place as well as we can when we go to the worlds," Hooper says.
"It’s all about keeping his legacy around."
For more information on the LSBPB, visit www.lsbpb.ca.
Trevor Suffield is a community correspondent for St. James-Assiniboia. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.