I had good intentions. Really I did. One of the Paris Port Dover Grade Pipes and Drums bands were at the 55th Cobourg Highland Games. Child and his bandie friends drove together, so the band parents drove together, too. Usually at Cobourg, I visit the beach just beyond the Games fence, but this time, I stayed with my friend for most of the day. I saw the beach from across the competition circle, but I didn’t strictly go to the beach. So, in lieu of a wander on the white sand beach at Cobourg anyway, I got a heartful of jig and march medleys. There was Wings, and Mairi’s Wedding, and Green Hills of Tyrol (and, oddly, Jingle Bells), and the massed Highland Fling. But there was no reallyreal beach time. Alas, also no La Boum, which I rarely hear, but loveLoveLOVE on the rare occasions when it figures into a medley.
But I digress.
The Cobourg Highland Games has the best massed bands of the competition circuit. There were 30+ full bands this year. Hundreds of bagpipers and the rumble of the bass drum… those 5 minutes of divine music are why I go, gleefully. They play other stuff too, like the obligatory Scotland the Brave, which sounds lovely with that many players, but it isn’t Amazing Grace.
Pipe bands, and massed bands in particular have spoiled me to other deliveries of Amazing Grace, too. We sing it at mass, periodically, and, I’m underwhelmed every time. You hear it at funerals sometimes, which lays down on top of the music its own layer of emotion. But there’s no pipe organ, faith choir, or bunch of warbling old ladies in the congregation that can do justice to Amazing Grace once you hear it done with bagpipes.
A few years back, the Commanding Officer of Child’s cadet corps was getting married, and his now-wife wanted a live pipe band as a surprise for her betrothed. As our mini-band warmed up at a friend’s house close to the chapel (to maintain the subterfuge as long as possible), a neighbour came out of his house and approached us. He said that his aunt had died that morning, and the pipe band playing outside was a comfort for him. When more of the family of the deceased arrived, our cadets went over to the house and played Amazing Grace as an offer of our condolences. The whole family burst into tears.
You can always heard it at Remembrance ceremonies and the poignancy of it punches you in the feels every time, but even that pales in comparison to the full massed band.
Cobourg doesn’t count toward my Beach Challenge tally, but the rolls of the bass and snare drum during Amazing Grace sound like the waves breaking on the beach, and I’ll take that as the best consolation prize ever.