The Story of Jack Bernard
From Govan, Scotland to London, Ontario, Jack Bernard emerges as the most powerful and popular musical weapon in the repertoire of Jubilee Brass.
Jack's weapon of choice? The Highland bagpipe.
In a group of accomplished band soloists five-foot Jack stands seven feet tall when it comes to crowd appreciation. 'Amazing Grace', with band accompaniment, does it every time.
Jack, 75, began playing the pipes at 11. He's been huffing and puffing those great sounds for 64 years. Pipes aren't his only claim to musical fame. He boasts skills on the cornet, Ebbass and the baritone. Until now, Bandmaster Jim Gorden has used him as a stand-up soloist on the pipes only.
A true blue Scot, Jack was always drawn to the bagpipes, Scotland's national instrument. As a wee Scottish lad he was determined to play and master the instrument. He began his quest on a practice chanter that looks like a recorder. After a year he was given his first set of pipes.
At 12 Jack joined the Boy's Brigade and went straight into the pipe band having already mastered the practice chanter. Jack was called up to the Royal Air Force when he was 18, but returned to the Boy's Brigade as an officer following demobilization.
One of his most memorable accomplishments on the pipes came when he played at a Scotland/England International soccer match in Glasgow during the Second World War. It was 1944 and he was 12. His cousin was a professional soccer player who was selected to play for the National team. Jack boasts that both he and his cousin played for Scotland on the same day and on the same field.
The top pipe band in the world at that time was the Glasgow Police Pipe Band and a member of that band, Doug Seaton, taught Jack while he was still playing with the Boy's Brigade. By 14 he was being tutored by pipe major Robert Black of the Red Hackle Pipe Band. He entered Jack into several solo pipe competitions.
While in the Royal Air Force Jack played in the pipe band entertaining King George VI and his brother the Duke of Gloucester. Later, while playing with the Royal Canadian Regiment, he twice played for the Queen and thrice for the Duke of Edinburgh who was, and is, the Colonel in Chief of the RCR. He was thrilled to have had a few words with the Duke.
His pipe prowess reputation preceded his arrival in Canada in 1967 and he became a member of the Perth Regimental Band, after amalgamating with the Royal Canadian Regiment where he was pipe sergeant. He did a couple of years with the Hespeler Legion Pipe Band while also being a ringer with the St. Mary's Pipe Band.
Jack, along with his charming wife Margaret, has an interesting church and Salvation Army history. They grew up in a Baptist church in Scotland, which was forced to close its doors in 1959 due to declining membership. Neighbouring Salvationists Len and Catherine Fraser were soldiers at Govan Citadel and soon encouraged them to attend The Salvation Army. They initially and graciously declined.
Next came the invitation from the Frasers to take their four-year-old son, Alan, to Sunday school at the Army until they found another church home. This was friendship evangelism at its best. As time went on the Danforth Citadel songsters from Toronto, Canada visited Govan during their tour of Britain and there were Len and Catherine again inviting Jack and Margaret to the Saturday evening concert. At that moment Jack says they were 'hooked' and attended all three services the next day. They had found their new church home.
Within weeks they became uniformed soldiers with Jack being asked to be the band colour sergeant and Margaret the girl guide captain. Jack never made it into the Govan band as they weren't looking for pipers and the best he could do with a flugel horn they gave him was to make strange noises.
After five years at Govan and a move to a distant new home, they transferred to the Paisley West corps. By this time the family included three sons. Jack became the deputy songster leader and tackled the E flat tuba. After coming to Canada in 1967 they maintained their soldiership at Paisley West but attended a Baptist church. They linked up again with the Salvation Army in Midland, Ontario where Jack soon became the corps sergeant major and Margaret the league of mercy secretary. Jack moved up the instrumental chain from tuba to cornet. The year 1994 brought retirement and a move to Port Stanley, Ontario. This followed service in the St. Thomas corps and now London Citadel.
The Govan corps band toured Canada in 2000 and Jack met up with old friends in the Woodstock corps. He was so excited he piped the band into the building with a real Scottish welcome. In the ensuing concert he was invited to play 'Highland Cathedral' with the Govan piper. Jack had finally passed the Govan audition. His prowess on the pipes brought him an invitation to join the divisional senior's band and he was quickly outfitted with a borrowed London Citadel baritone and admonished to get his lip in.
Jack is now the Jubilee Brass resident piper, second baritone player and band sergeant. While living in Midland he decided to place his 'Hallelujah' flag on his pipes and declared that from that day forward he would play his bagpipes for the glory of God only.
Jack is motivated by the sheer joy of music and the positive reaction of listeners who love the music of the bagpipes. For his listening pleasure he favors Welsh male voice choirs and selections such as 'œIt is well with my soul' and 'Midnight in Camp'. Jack says it takes seven years and seven generations to make a true piper and to budding players he advises, practice, practice, practice, and when you are done that, practice some more. The neighbours will love you. Piper Jack Bernard hasn't yet been asked to perform with the Canadian Staff Band in the Roy Thompson Hall on either 'Highland Cathedral' or 'Amazing Grace' but you just never know if that call is yet to come. If it does, Jack will be ready.
by Lt-Colonel Merv Leach