When Marvin Lange was a young man, he wanted to play the drums, but his father didn’t approve. So instead, Lange learned various other instruments including the saxophone and piano.
But one day, his dream opportunity presented itself when the EPS Pipes and Drums was recruiting members.
“At the time, they were looking for tall people, to be a bass player,” says Lange, who stands at 6’3. “One of the best things I did in my police career was join the EPS Pipes and Drums,” he says.
Forty years have passed since Lange first played bass drum with the band, after joining the tightly knit group as a young police officer in the summer of 1978.
“Learning the bag pipes is not easy, it’s a lot of work. And there’s a real dedication that comes with that,” says Lange, pointing out that unlike sports teams that are seasonal, the commitment to the band is year-round.
And just like Lange with the bass drum, at least three quarters of the band learned to play the bag pipes when they joined the band, with no previous experience.
The EPS Pipes and Drums was conceived in 1959 when a few members of the EPS expressed interest. Two years of practice paid off when Chief Constable M.F.E. Anthony gave his official sanction after hearing the members play Scots Wha Hae. The band’s first public parade was on Nov. 11, 1962, and accordingly, the band celebrated it’s 60th anniversary on that same date.
The band was recognized on Nov. 18, 2022, at the annual EPS and EPC award ceremonies, where Chief Dale McFee presented a Commendation to band members for upholding their proud musical tradition within policing and the community for 60 years after a special tribute.
“It’s quite an honour to be part of something that has a history that goes back to the first world war,” says Lange, speaking about the tradition of the band.
The EPS Pipes and Drums is likely the only civilian pipe band in the Commonwealth to wear four hat badges: their own plus three military badges which include the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry, The Loyal Edmonton Regiment, and the Airborne Regiment.
The list of people that have contributed to the long-standing traditions of the EPS Pipes and Drums since its inception spans 125 different names since 1962.
The band has played locally and internationally, representing the EPS at parades, funerals, seniors’ homes, ceremonies for dignitaries (they even played for the Queen) and on stage with Paul McCartney. But the main focus is the community.
“The band is a community band and wherever the band goes, it gets involved in the community,” says Lange, pointing out that smaller community performances are some of the most rewarding.
Lange has proudly fulfilled the role of Drum Major for more than a decade, but the time has come for that appointment to be passed down to another dedicated member on January 21, 2023, at the annual Robbie Burns Dinner.
“When you’re marching down the street, it’s a pretty exhilarating feeling. But you have to be on your toes because if you make a mistake if affects everybody else. There’s a big responsibility that comes with it,” he says.
Det. Dale McDonald, who has played with the band for 20 years and recently took over as Pipe Major, says there are a lot of fond memories throughout his time with the band.
“It’s been like a family, brothers and sisters who have followed me all the way through my career. The hard times you have on this job, they’ve been through it too,” he says.
The history and tradition are also special to him.
“It’s been quite an honour to build on and maintain a culture of the pipes and drums.”
The most memorable event for him was being able to honour a fallen fellow officer, Const. Dan Woodall.
“It felt like (we marched) 10 kilometres. To be ahead of thousands of officers marching down the road and seeing the community come out in support was a really big moment,” he says.
For Sgt. Tracy Gulinosky, who joined in 2004, the traditions of the band drew her in.
“The ceremony and history of the band was something I automatically wanted to be part of,” she says, pointing out she plans to play with the band even after retirement from EPS.
“It’s part of my life.”
Half of the 30-member band continued its dedication after retirement, with many contributing four decades of commitment.