Courtesy of The Wardens - A trio composed of current and former Canadian park wardens will be performing a mix of original storytelling and song at the Errington Hall on Nov. 1.

Band composed of Banff park wardens to play Errington Hall

‘You just can’t make this stuff up’: stories from a lifetime of national park service

Humans have been pulling inspiration from the rugged, lonesome Canadian wilderness since time immemorial.

From the traditional songs of this land’s first peoples to the novels penned by first generation immigrants, Canadians have long looked to artists to interpret, translate and immortalize the solitude and grandeur of our expansive landscape.

Former Jasper National Park warden Bradley Bischoff and his fellow warden musicians who together form The Wardens have firmly entrenched themselves in this tradition of landscape-inspired storytelling.

The trio composed of Bischoff on vocals and lead/rhythm guitar, Ray Schmidt on vocals, upright bass and mandolin and Scott Ward on vocals and fingerstyle guitar will be bringing their stories, instruments, and years of park experience to the Errington Hall on Nov. 1.

All three are currently based in the Banff National Park-area. Ward was a warden in Banff for over thirty years, and Schmidt is currently posted in Rogers Pass. They are the original members of the group, with Bischoff joining shortly after they formed. The NEWS reached Bischoff in his Canmore, Alta. home.

Bischoff came out west from Ottawa in 1977.

“The rest, as they say, is history,” said Bischoff with a laugh.

He started working in Jasper National Park in 1981. Fast forward to a warden reunion in Banff in 2009 that brought wardens from across the country together. Schmidt and Ward had formed a duo and were playing songs inspired by their time out in the parks. Bischoff was doing the same but on his own, and all three performed throughout the weekend.

“We decided to get together and start working up some songs. And son of a gun, that was you know, 11 years ago, and we’re just going full steam ahead and really enjoying it all,” said Bischoff.

“I knew from the start that we had something very unique, and something appealing. With a little practice, I think most people can have some success singing and playing the guitar. But it’s making a show of it, making a concert of it – that’s when the magic happens. That’s something that we work very very hard on. Our vocals are very strong, our storytelling integral to a warden show.”

The trio often preface special tunes with a back story of how the song came to be. They also bring a large format slide projection show that will roll images that correspond with the music as they play.

“It really is an engaging concert… we love the connection that we make with our audiences, with our performances, and people are really enjoying it,” said Bischoff.

During his career, Bischoff would spend 17 days alone in the back country, come back to civilization for four days and then head out again.

“It was me, three horses, and a goodly portion of Jasper National Park,” said Bischoff.

Though that may sound daunting to some, Bischoff had found his calling.

The stewardship of such lands is an artistry of itself, but for Bischoff it begets something more.

“I really enjoyed the solitude of it… that’s just something that I really enjoyed, just being out there. Certainly a lot of time to think about songwriting, and just an endless supply of material to draw from, from a career like that. From the wilderness, and the horses, to the people you meet out there. The history of the warden service, some of the characters from years gone by and such,” said Bischoff.

Translated, it all comes out sounding like a sublime slice of Canadiana.

“The well’s pretty deep. We continue to draw from that. We’re into our fourth album right now, and you know, still really just scratching the surface as to what material might be available to us as wardens and songwriters from the lifestyle that we’ve experienced for 30 years,” said Bischoff.

Since the songs and stories are inspired by the landscape and the creatures encountered therein, it only makes sense that Bischoff’s best writing comes when he’s out in the wilderness. Though he’s retired now, he still gets out with his horses and always keeps a notebook in his breast pocket for when the words inevitably start to flow.

“When you’re out there on the trail, when you’re out there in the elements – it seems to be easier to grasp when you’re in the thick of it, instead of trying to put yourself out there when you’re in your living room, or in your car or something,” said Bischoff.

“When you’re up to your eyeballs in it, the inspiration comes more quickly and more readily, I suspect.”

The Wardens will tour throughout Vancouver Island in the first half of November, heading to Sidney, Ucluelet, Roberts Creek and many other locations on the coast.

The show at the Errington Hall on Nov. 1 starts at 8 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the Errington General Store, Cranky Dog and Heaven on Earth for $20.

They are also available online for $22.50 at erringtonhall.tickit.ca. Youth ages six to 12 are $5 at the door and those under six get in free.

Anyone interested in finding out more about The Wardens music can head to www.thewardensmusic.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Uptick in calls to Haven Society crisis line as restrictions ease

Organization reminds people of their range of services

ICET provides Qualicum Beach with $250K for East Village project

Town expects revitalization plan to attract more developments

COVID-19: Garage sales should follow mass gathering guidelines

City has received variety of queries on the issue

Parksville’s ‘Support Local’ parade celebrates businesses

Approximately 30 vehicles turn out for event

COVID-19: Qualicum Beach man stages concerts for charity out of his garage

Larry MacDougall says reception from neighbours has been heartening

Vancouver Island bride held wedding in seniors home so dying stepdad could walk her down aisle

Ceremony held amidst pandemic in order to fulfill bride’s wish to have stepdad give her away

Yukon ready to lift COVID travel restrictions with B.C. in July: premier

Premier Sandy Silver says the territory’s health-care system can cope with the virus.

‘It is dire:’ Study finds B.C. logging continues on critical caribou habitat

The federal Species At Risk Act requires provinces to identify critical habitat for caribou herds

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Missing man thought to be in Nanaimo

Nanaimo RCMP ask for public’s help in locating Kevin Golze, 45

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Telegraph Cove Resort will open June 1 to self-contained campers only

Washrooms, showers and all other amenities will remain closed for now

B.C. aquaculture farm’s employees sweat it out to raise funds for food banks

For every five minutes of exercise recorded, Cermaq Canada is donating a dollar to local food banks in communities they operate

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

Most Read