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Photo: Provided by Jeff Craig
The Cincinnati Caledonian Pipes and Drums Band, early 1900s.
The bagpipe is arguably one of the most unmistakable instruments around. It doesn’t exactly transcend genre but it is a distinguished symbol of culture, history and music. When the sharp pitch of a bagpipe sounds, you might think of Scottish or Irish tunes, the excitement of a parade or the honorable regards during a funeral – but have you ever recognized the music’s connection to Cincinnati?
The Cincinnati Caledonian Pipes & Drums Band is one of the oldest pipe bands in the country. Scottish immigrants to Cincinnati founded the band in 1912, which makes it 111 years old today.
The group is now a nonprofit that seeks to preserve and promote Scottish arts. Members compete nationally, offer free lessons and celebrate the spirit of Celtic music. On April 15, the Caledonian Pipes & Drums Band is having an “eleventy-first” anniversary celebration that will honor its history, look forward to its future and raise funds, band President Jeff Craig says.
“Since we picked the 111th anniversary, it's a fun way to celebrate our continued existence and perseverance, especially after the pandemic,” Craig said in an email to CityBeat
. “I'm looking forward to playing some new tunes we've been practicing. And [we] will debut a ‘Quick March Medley’ which are four tunes we play together as a set. The drummers will also perform a ‘Drum Fanfare’ that is always fun to do for the crowd with some special stick flourishes.”
The Manor House will host the Spring Tartan Ceilidh on April 15. The celebration includes a sit-down dinner, Scotch tasting, a Scottish-style bake sale, a continuous lineup of Celtic entertainment and a performance by the band.
Tartan is the crisscrossed, plaid-like pattern seen on kilts. “MacKenzie” tartan is the style the Caledonian Pipes and Drums band wears. It is symbolic of the regiment that the founders of the band were associated with in Scotland, Craig says. Ceilidh (pronounced KAY-lee) is a traditional Scottish or Irish social gathering.
The band has more than 20 members who participate on the pipes or drums. Craig joined the band in 1992, when he started learning the snare drum. A piper in the band, Caitlin Schneider has been a member for five years. Snare drummer Johnny Hume joined 40 years ago.
“Drumming in a pipe band is stylistically different from most types of drumming elsewhere,” Hume said. “We still use the same types of rudiments as most do and add a bit of our own flare to some that have been developed within the pipe band drumming community. People that play, or have played percussion in their respective genres, can adapt pretty quickly to the Scottish style of drumming with the proper tutoring. Very few schools in the US offer this type of music as an elective study.”
Senior band members volunteer their time to teach students how to play these specialty instruments. Currently, the band is teaching 10 students weekly at the Springdale Nazarene Church, Craig says.
“We don't want to charge people any money, which could deter them from coming to learn from us,” Craig says. “More senior members donate their time before our weekly practice to teach new students.”
A visit to the band’s website
imparts a range of knowledge about its rich history in Cincinnati, including founding member William Lorne Nimmo’s story as a Canadian immigrant. According to the website, in 1970 the band held its first Tartan Ball, which coincided with National Tartan Day (April 6). In 2002 the band acquired nonprofit status and was declared Cincinnati’s official pipe and drum band. The band also leads the St. Patrick’s Day parade annually.
The Cincinnati Caledonian Pipes & Drums Band’s Spring Tartan Ceilidh is on April 15 from 6-10:30 p.m. at The Manor House in Mason. For more information and tickets visit cincypipesanddrums.org.
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