The Last Post. Two minutes of silence. Then the Lament. The order is always the same, replayed in Remembrance Day ceremonies across Canada every November 11th.
For the past 11 years, Pieter Jansen has gladly filled the role of official bagpiper for the Invermere service, the service at David Thompson Secondary School, and sometimes standing in at the Edgewater service too. He breaks the silence at exactly 11:02 a.m. with a haunting rendition of the Lament on his bagpipes.
“It’s important to honour the sacrifice given,” he says. “It’s the right thing to do.”
In 2018, Mr. Jansen added another duty to his day’s events, joining pipers across Canada who paid tribute to the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice (which ended the fighting between Allies and Germany in the First World War) by playing When the Battle is Over at the Invermere cenotaph at 6 a.m..
And this spring 2020, Mr. Jansen is heading to Holland and France with an 80-person pipe and drum band, gathered together from across B.C. The band will be playing at parades and concerts in the park in Holland.
In France, they will be performing at Vimy Ridge, the site of Canada’s most celebrated military victory from the First World War and the place where more than 10,600 Canadians were killed or wounded. Vimy Ridge has long been touted as a defining moment for Canada as a separate entity from the mother country Britain.
“It’s on my bucket list,” says Mr. Jansen. “Every Canadian should try to get to Vimy Ridge, if possible.”
In 2020, it will also be 75 years since the Dutch were liberated from the Germans during the Second World War. Following the war, the Dutch parliament declared that May 5 would be known as Liberation Day. Every five years from then on, they have a big celebration. Mr. Jansen’s pipe group will be in Holland during the celebrations.
The trip was first proposed by members of the Kelowna Pipe Band, who easily attracted a large contingent of B.C. pipers and drummers to join in this historic trip.
“It’s going to be a rush … I’ve never played at something that big,” says Mr. Jansen.
Mr. Jansen was born in Holland, moving to Canada when he was a young child. He even has relatives still back in Holland he hopes to connect with while on the trip.
When he was nine, Mr. Jansen saw a boat of army cadets with a piper playing onboard. He decided then and there he wanted to learn the pipes, beginning when he was 10.
“I knew some people in the Cadet corps. I started hanging around with them. Then eventually just worked my way into playing bagpipe before I was old enough to even join the Cadet corp. So when I did join the Cadet corps, they didn’t have to train me. I was already a piper,” he explains.
Mr. Jansen likes to practice his booming bagpipes through the warm summer months on a bluff near where a friend died a long time ago.
“Nobody can bother me, and I don’t bother anybody there,” he says. “People come by, they stop and listen, then just keep going.”