Brandon University president to wind down public bagpiping

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It wasn’t included in the province’s Phase 3 re-opening guidelines, but another pandemic response measure is coming to an end. Brandon University President David Docherty will be playing just two more shows on his bagpipes: tonight and Canada Day.

Docherty has been piping in the driveway of his southwest Brandon home every Friday evening since early spring, to help honour frontline workers. Typically, he plays a repertoire of Scottish classics mixed with bagpipe takes on tunes like Jesus Christ, Superstar and the theme from the Flintstones.

“People around the world were banging pots and pans out their windows, doing everything they could to demonstrate their respect and appreciation for people heading to their essential jobs during the pandemic,” Docherty said. “With my family, I was self-isolating at home, and I wanted to show my support as well.”

While he doesn’t advertise his exact address to prevent too many people showing up, he says that bagpipe sounds carry far enough that a wide swathe of the neighbourhood can hear him, and he has a number of regulars who come by every week.

“My neighbours all come out into their own driveways, and plenty of people out for a bike ride will follow the sound of skirling to find me. We also have a few people who drive over each and every week,” he says. “People say I’ve been dedicated, but some of my listeners have been plenty dedicated as well, and let’s not forget that what we’re really doing is honouring the daily dedication of frontline workers right here in Brandon.”

For a performance late last month, on what would have been BU’s Convocation Day, Docherty donned his official BU presidential robes to also honour the university’s nearly 600 graduates this year.

“I was planning on piping in our grads to Convocation ceremonies, which is my favourite day of the academic year, and although we had to postpone those ceremonies, I still wanted to mark the occasion and celebrate their accomplishment,” he said.

On that day, Docherty was surprised by BU Dean of Music Greg Gatien and associate professor Aaron Wilson, who walked up with a saxophone and trombone respectively and tackled the challenge of jamming with a bagpipe for a few songs.

“That was a really special moment, because so much of Convocation is about coming together in a big group, and having even a couple of people join me to celebrate our grads made it a lot of fun,” he said.

Docherty will play his final Friday concert tonight at around 7 p.m., and will wrap up the spring series with a special concluding Canada Day concert on Wednesday, July 1, at 7 p.m.

“We have been blessed with great weather throughout the spring, but it’s getting hotter, and even though I knew a few tricks to keep things cool in a kilt, Canada Day feels like a natural time for my finale,” he said. “Thank you to all who have helped me show support for frontline workers, for BU students, and for everyone who continues to do their part to flatten the curve and keep Manitoba safe.”


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