When Northyards resident and Squamish Elementary School teacher Andrew Georgy-Embree heard that people were showing their support for front-line workers by clapping and making noise, he joined in with the loudest noisemaker in his home: His bagpipes.
It is one of the best instruments to make a noise, Andrew says, and he has been playing it every evening since March last year to honour front-line workers.
“Apart from wanting to acknowledge the tireless and selfless work they were doing, I felt it was important to join in on the support,” he says.
For the 7 pm routine, Andrew first started playing the bagpipes in different areas of Northyards, but now meanders on the sidewalk in front of his house to play for about five minutes.
“Since it has become a nightly event, I don’t want to torture my neighbours with extended playing. I feel a short little music interlude is sufficient,” he says.
Born in Vanderhoof, Andrew moved to Squamish with his wife and two kids after living in Greater Vancouver for a decade.
He started playing the bagpipes since he was in elementary school, one of the two in town who eventually mastered the instrument.
Remembrance Day, Canada Day, and Robbie Burns Day were the big three events where he played regularly. He has also played at the University of Northern BC with a startup band, and briefly with the Black Tusk Caledonia Pipes and Drums a few years ago.
“I began with a teacher in my hometown whose own son didn’t want to learn so he took me on as his only student. We were the only two pipers in town so when my teacher moved away, I assumed all the bagpiping-related gigs in town,” he says.
In Squamish, Andrew plans to keep playing the bagpipes in Northyards.
“I really want to express my gratitude towards those fighting on the front-lines of this pandemic and I’ve been at a loss for good and creative ideas. Playing the bagpipes is one thing I know how to do which maintains a highly visible state of awareness, and that’s why I want to keep up with the playing,” he says.
Andrew recalls there were days when the act felt hard, which also reminded him of the sacrifices being made by healthcare workers across the country.
“It’s on those days in which I start to understand the struggle of those amazing people who are tirelessly fighting each day against an overwhelming foe,” he says.