David Hogg: celebrating a career in teaching and 59 years of bagpiping

The Citizen of the Year banquet will be held April 12

As a child, David Hogg travelled every day by ferry from his home on Johnstone Road to Hume School. 

When the (not yet orange) bridge opened in 1957, “it was a very big deal,” he says.

The Kootenay Kiltie Pipe Band led the parade at the opening ceremony of the new bridge and they made a strong impression on him.

Hogg’s mother was doing a census, going door-to-door, and Keith Langhorn, who lived near the newly built North Shore Hall was playing bagpipes in his backyard when she visited his house.

Hogg’s mother told him her 10-year-old son liked the sound of bagpipes. Langhorn offered to teach him, and Hogg started taking lessons.

That year his grandmother took him to visit his great grandmother in London, where Hogg received his first set of bagpipes, sent directly from Scotland.

“I remember they came in a box. I was delighted to get these, the smell of the leather, you know, it was fantastic.”

He joined the Kootenay Kiltie Pipe Band in 1961 at the age of 11 — by far the youngest member of the group.

Two 100th birthdays

Last month Hogg played the bagpipes at Lionel Binette’s funeral. Had he lived a few months longer, Binette would have been the same age as the Kootenay Kiltie Pipe Band.

They were both born a century ago, in 1919.

Hogg, who has been the Pipe Major of the band for 30 years, asked his friend Iain MacCrimmon, a celebrated piper, to compose a song for the band’s 100th birthday concert. MacCrimmon obliged, and composed a piece entitled “Since 1919.”

Hogg played the piece at Binette’s funeral. He will play it again at the at the band’s 100th anniversary concert in Nelson on April 13.

That’s the day following a banquet at which Hogg will be honoured as Nelson’s Citizen of the Year for 2018.

A teacher and a piper

Hogg graduated from L.V. Rogers in 1968, got a bachelor of science at UBC, and then a teaching certificate.

His 30-year teaching career took him to schools in Surrey and Princeton, then a principalship in Cassiar, then Salmo Secondary — close enough to rejoin the pipe band. Then he worked as a principal in Castlegar.

It was a satisfying career.

“I loved being a teacher and a principal.”

Outside the family, teacher and piper have been Hogg’s main identities, he says.

“Everybody has something they tend to hang onto, or that tend to define them outside their family, outside dad, mom, uncle or whatever. When I was a principal I was defined by that role. There are still people who cannot call me David, they still call me Mr. Hogg. They can’t do it even at my insistence.”

Since retirement, Hogg says now he defines himself as a piper.

“I do other things of course, but it is the one reason I have had this honour [Citizen of the Year] bestowed on me because of my long association with this band and leading it.

“The pipe major chooses the music, teaches the music, presents the band, so for the last 30 years that is what I have done. Lots of men and women have joined the band and left and moved on and passed on. Thirty years is a long time to do anything.

“I have been associated with bagpiping for 59 years now. I don’t want to think about what would it be like to get up and not pick up my practice chanter and play some tunes. I have no idea.”

Citizen of the Year

How did Hogg react when first told about the award?

“My wife is an incredible person, does lots of things, and it was a bit embarrassing that I would be getting this kind of recognition when she does so much too. But I look at the context: the band is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and I have been associated with it off and on for more than half of its life.”

He says he sees the award as recognition of the history of the band in Nelson, as shown in photos in a current exhibit about the band at Touchstones Museum.

“You will see photos of the Kootenay Kiltie Pipe Band on Baker or Ward, you will see buildings that you may recognize or which have long been gone. If you have lived around Nelson for a while it will not be just a pipe band, but it will be a walk back in history in Nelson for 100 years.”

‘Like standing inside an organ’

“Listening to a well-tuned bagpipe play, for me, it is like standing in an organ,” Hogg says. “It is an amazing sound. I can’t describe it. And to hear a master player play a bagpipe, is it amazing what they do. But to stand within that sound is really a thrill.”

Hogg admits not everyone loves bagpipes. Hogg says that’s because they are difficult to play and especially difficult to tune. As a result, they often aren’t played well, he says. He explains there are lots of moving parts.

“You have to fill up a bag and maintain constant pressure in that bag and you have one source of air going in and three sources of air going out. You have got the chanter you have to be thinking about. The three drones have to be tuned together in tune with the chanter.

“If the pressure is low it is going to be flat, if too high it will be sharp. So you have to maintain pressure to maintain tone and pitch.

“It is complicated. It is a fairly physical instrument, and it is a serious workout.”

‘Developing band members to performance strength’

In a letter supporting the nomination of Hogg for the citizen award, Angus Graeme, the chair of the Kootenay Kilties Pipe Band Society, wrote:

“He is a teacher by profession and it shows in the outcomes. His commitment to developing band members to performance strength has resulted in repeated successful appearances at community events in the region … consistently high quality performances at regional competitions, and memorable cultural exchange performances in sister communities as close as Sandpoint, Idaho, and as far away as Japan.”

Graeme also wrote about the time and effort Hogg puts into the band.

“Mr. Hogg volunteers countless hours reviewing musical scores, developing annual tune lists for learning and rehearsal, leading practices, assisting with instrument maintenance and tuning, and providing individualized tuition. In the last couple of years he has been teaching snare drums to a couple of new band members, first by teaching himself the drums!”

The Citizen of the Year is chosen by the Knights of Columbus and sponsored by the Nelson Star based on nominations submitted by the public.

The banquet at which Hogg will be honoured takes place at St. Joseph School at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 12. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at the Nelson Star office at 91 Baker St. with cash or cheque only.

The Kootenay Kiltie Pipe Band will play a 100-year-anniversary concert at the Capitol Theatre on April 13. Tickets are available at the theatre box office or online at capitoltheatre.ca.

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