Pipe Major The Reverend Dr. Kenneth B. Bice CD D.D. KGSJ first time in uniform with the 48th Highlanders and 50 Years later as Pipe Major of the Toronto Scottish
48th Highlanders Pipes and Drums in front of Moss Park Armoury – from left to right – Ken Bice 2nd row 1st piper on the left c. October 1968
Pipe Major Ken Bice with Scarborough Pipes and Drums at Pine Hills Remembrance Service
Picture of Pipe Major Ken Bice and the Toronto Service Battalion and some members of the Scarborough PIpes and Drums
Pipe Major Ken Bice with Toronto Scottish Remembrance Service – Mississauga Civic Centre
Outside of my various professional activities I started my musical career when I as 4 years old, studying Piano. Then learned to play the Piano Accordion through a next door neighbour in the Mimico area of Italian heritage.
I also took up side drumming through the Kinsmen Club’s Drum and Bugle Corps and graduated to the Traps (traps is short for trappings and are a set of drums, usually a bass, side, cymbals, and some other smaller drums mounted together played with drum sticks or brushes, except for the bass drum, while seated on a stool) taking lessons from a professional musician Johnny Lindon who worked in the Toronto area.
I also learned to play the clarinet and saxophone and I did study music while in High School, with these as my main instruments.
However, I started to learn to play the Great Highland Bagpipe when a co-worker of my adoptive father asked if I would like to learn to play the bagpipes.
This fellow’s name was John Gilmour. He owned and operated a business Highland Outfitting business that supplied Highland Dress and Musical Instruments in the Toronto area. Also, I attended school with his youngest Son, Kenny Gilmour and knew his oldest son William (Billy) Gilmour.
I started to learn the bagpipes when John Gilmour and his son Kenny took me down to the Toronto Scottish Regiment’s band practice and I started taking lessons from John Wakefield, who was Pipe Sgt. of the band at the time. I was with the band as a Boy Piper for a couple of years before enlisting in the Canadian Armed Forces Militia as a Piper with the 48th Highlanders of Canada.
While with the 48th Highlanders Pipes and Drums, I took further instruction in piping from Pipe Major Archie Dewar. I also received instruction in Piobaireachd from a future Pipe Major of the 48th Highlanders, Reay Mackay.
Over the years with the 48th, I played in the Regimental Band as well as the Grade 1 Competition Band which then Pipe Sgt. Reay Mackay (future Pipe Major of the band) was Pipe Major of the Grade 1 Competition Band.
I left the 48th Highlanders Pipes and Drums and joined the Metropolitan Toronto Police Pipes and Drums, acting as Pipe Sgt. for the Grade 2 band back when they started into competition under Pipe Major John Macdonald.
I left the Toronto Police Pipe Band and was teaching and instructing various civilian pipe bands when I was asked to take over as Pipe Major of the Scarborough Pipe Band to rebuild the nearly defunct band Over the period of my 10 years as Pipe Major, the band membership went from 4 pipers to 26 and from 3 drummers to a good mix of sides, tenors and a couple of bass drummers. We entered various competitions and eventually entered the Grade 4 Circuit in the Ontario Pipe Band Competitions and after a number of years moved to Grade 3.
During this period of time I was asked to assist the 25 Toronto Service Battalion Pipes and Drums, eventually being asked to take over as Pipe Major from Pipe Major Eddie Hanna McClure. For that occasion I composed a common time tune titled Pipe Major Eddie Hanna McClure which we used as a marching off tune whenever the band would win one of the competitions on the Grade 4 circuit. That tune was one of several tunes that I had composed over the years up to that point.
I was also Pipe Major of two other bands at that time. I took over as Pipe Major of the Rameses Shrine Pipe Band from Bob Hilbert who was busy playing with the Clan MacFarlane Pipe Band of St. Catherine’s. I also took over as Pipe Major of the Kilwinning Lodge Pipe Band from Pipe Major Jimmy Cramb and spent 20 years as the band’s Pipe Major.
Then I was appointed as Pipe Major of the Toronto Scottish Regiment (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s Own) Pipes and Drums to rebuild the band after a down turn in membership.
During my appointment as Pipe Major of the 25 Toronto Service Battalion Pipes and Drums, I was also the Lt. Governor of Ontario’s Official Piper for both their Honour’s Pauline McGibbon and John Black Aird. I have also played for many subsequent Lt. Governors over the years. In April 2016, I had the honour of playing The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell the current Lt. Governor of Ontario into the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada’s 50th Anniversary Dinner in April 2016 with a new tunes I composed for the occasions title “The Lt. Governor’s March” one of two 2 part 4/4 Marches I composed at that time, the other being “The Governor General’s March”.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to play in many special events and for many famous and not so famous personalities. I have also appeared on various television specials, the last from 2013, which was The Johnny Reid Christmas special “A Christmas Wish for You” filmed by Global Television. In fact that was a busy week, I had the opportunity to meet and Pipe in to the special dinner Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, the evening before the Johnny Reid special was taped then on the Friday night two days later, I had the band (Toronto Scottish Pipes and Drums) out to play for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards which had a number of Canadian Dignitaries, including the Governor General of Canada, Lt. Governor of Ontario and their Royal Highnesses the Earl and Duchess of Wessex, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie Ryes-Jones who were representing Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh on that occasion.
In the photo’s on this page, the top photo show’s me when I first started playing with the 48th Highlanders of Canada Pipes and Drums (black and white photo). I am playing my first set of pipes (Granger and Campbell, full ivory set) that I got from John Gilmour. In the side photo (colour photo) the pipes I am playing and which I still play today, I purchased from John Gilmour in 1965. They area set of Silver and Ivory Robertson’s. They were the second last set manufactured by Robertson’s of Edinburgh. They were purchased by the Pipe Major of the Winnipeg Police Pipe Band (he purchased 2 sets, the last and second last set manufactured). However, the one set (second last set manufactured) was for use by his son. However for some reason, John Gilmour received them back and knew I was looking for a set of Silver and Ivory pipes. John contacted me and I jumped at the chance purchase the set for $350.00 (normally selling at $475.00 in 1965). That was a lot of money back in those days, but no nearly as much as your have to pay for a used set of Sliver and Ivory Robertson today.
Today I am still piping for various events as well as officiating weddings, baptisms and funeral/life celebration services as well as piping for various events including the double duty as a Piper and Wedding Officiate, which got me the nickname “The Piping Padre”.