Simon Fraser University piper Kevin McLean will play his bagpipes on stages of a different kind next week – the former battlefields of France.
The Maple Ridge piper has been invited to play during a week-long tour dubbed Vimy: Leadership Under Fire, and will perform on several First and Second World War battlefields, culminating with the famed Juno Beach on D-Day (June 6), marking the battle’s 69th anniversary.
McLean is the sole piper on the trip (with the exception of one other piper at Juno) and was introduced to organizers by a French piper with the SFU band, Xavier Bouderiou. After interviews and submitting recordings he was offered the role.
Retired military leaders, including Canada’s former chief of defense staff, General Rick Hillier, and historians will lead the third annual trek, aimed at introducing interested travelers, and Canadians in particular, to the historic sites.
In addition to beaches at Vimy and Dieppe the tour will visit the grave of James Cleland Richardson, a piper with the Seaforth Highlanders who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
His pipes were lost but eventually found and repatriated and are on display at the B.C. legislature in Victoria.
He’ll play The Maple Leaf Forever, Canada’s unofficial national anthem of the time, among other tunes at the site.
They’ll also stop at the grave of McLean’s great uncle – William McLean, who died during the 100-Day Offensive in 1918 and fought alongside his great grandfathers in the same battalion.
It will be a memorable moment, says the younger McLean, who’ll play the traditional piobaireachd (classic music of the highland pipes) of the McLean Clan called The Fingerlock.
McLean, a communication student at SFU, is also spearheading the band’s first fundraising campaign to raise funds for the group’s annual trip to Glasgow, Scotland to compete at the World Championships.