The Wardens, a country, roots and folk band hailing from Banff Alberta, are heading to Revelstoke. Members of the aptly named group, Scott Ward, Bradley Bischoff and Ray Schmidt, are are all veteran national park workers experienced in a range of jobs, from acting as remote wardens on horseback to dog handling, and from avalanche forecasting to working as fire crew members.
The all-original music played by the group is steeped in personal experience that reflect some of the adventures that befell them in the parks. The country and mountains are indelibly etched in their music.
Scott Ward knows Revelstoke well. A warden in Banff during summer and an avalanche forecaster in winter, then a dog handler performing search and rescue, working to catch poachers and find missing persons for Parks Canada, he won the Governor Generals award as a peace officer in 2006.
“When I worked as a dog handler for Banff National Park, we trained in Rogers Pass for a couple weeks every winter,” he said. “My last rescue with my dog was in Rogers Pass.”
It is a job both rewarding and traumatizing; when Ward retired his third dog after 17 years on the job he returned to riding horseback through the parks as a warden.
“They must be sensible horses,” I noted.
Ward laughed. “Well there are sensible ones and the newer you were the more sensible of a horse you seemed to get. For my last several years I rode three year old broke but green colts from the ranch.”
Though Ward never lost a horse on the job, “They lost me once,” he joked.
“I had turned them out for the night and was bringing them oats, and all but one were gone. They went back to the cabin we had been at the night before.”
Ward proceeded to catch the remaining horse and ride all night to capture his wayward colts.
In Ward’s era, being a warden was often a solitary job, working alone with your horses for the late spring and summer months and with a partner during the fall hunting season. Winter meant skiing and doing avalanche patrol.
“It was very multifunctional,” Ward said. “We were law enforcement, public safety and resource conservation.”
Having only one truly worrying accident that resulted in a helicopter evacuation, Ward notes he’s been lucky. “Most people working outside all day, they have a wreck or two in their career,” he said.
The Wardens’ music reflects the members’ lifetime in the back country. Ward and Bischoff have written all the songs and the performances are half-storytelling and half-singing.
“We start with a story, a gripping true story, and it turns into the song,” Ward said.
Ward and Bischoff play the six string acoustic guitar and sing, and Schmidt plays a stand-up bass and sings harmony. Behind them a digital screen shares slides of past park wardens in the field.
Last year, The Wardens attended the Alberta showcase, hosted by the Arts Touring Alliance of Alberta. Of the 39 groups that attended, The Wardens were sixth in popularity and bookings.
After leaving Revelstoke, The Wardens will be heading to Burnaby to attend the B.C. showcase. Since the release of their first CD in 2013, the band has been on CTV National News and has been played on the radio. Their second CD was released last winter, and the group is aiming to release their third CD this fall.
A town of people passionate about mountains and the great outdoors will find plenty to like in the Wardens’ performance.
Check out www.banffwardens.com to hear some of their original music. Watch them live on Tuesday, April 7 at the Revelstoke Performing Art Center. Tickets are $10, available at the Visitor Information Centre or Arts First!