Bagpipes and Brotherhood on St. Patrick’s Day
Five years ago, Mike Baxter witnessed Seattle Firefighters Pipes and Drums perform and was forever changed. Baxter, a captain with the Bend Fire Department, recalls, “It was the first time I’d really heard a fire department pipe band. They played Amazing Grace—it was really inspiring.”
Flash forward to this Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day 2011, and you can watch Baxter and the other members of the Bend Fire Department Pipe and Drum Band perform their own version of Amazing Grace in downtown Bend.
After that night in Seattle, Baxter knew Bend Fire needed a pipe and drum band. The sound of bagpipes and snare drums playing traditional Celtic tunes is not only moving, it is a longstanding firefighter tradition. “I knew this was something we needed.”
He also knew he couldn’t do it alone. Pipe and drum bands, like firefighting, are a brotherhood. (Or a sisterhood. Bend Fire Pipe and Drum Band has one female member—Trish Connolly, who is also an engineer with the Department.) The members take it seriously, work hard, and are very tight knit.
Historically, bagpipes are played at firefighter’s funerals. The tradition comes from Ireland and Scotland, which was the birthplace of many American firefighters 100 to 150 years ago. Their ritual caught on, and many fire departments around the country still have pipe bands to honor their fallen brothers, as well as mark special events like retirements.
But bagpipes and drums can be played in pure celebration, too—like for St. Patrick’s Day. Bend Fire Pipe and Drum debuted last year on March 17. Their first public appearance was thrilling, but nerve-wracking, says Baxter. “We’ll be much better this year,” he says. “We know more tunes, we’re better performers.”
Baxter was recently in Seattle, again, too. This time, he played his own set of bagpipes alongside Seattle Pipes and Drums. “It was really a full circle night for me,” he says. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Bend Fire Pipes and Drums will play at Central Oregon Community College in the cafeteria on March 17 at 1 p.m. That evening, catch them throughout downtown Bend at many locations, including J.C.’s, McMenamins Old St. Francis School, 10 Barrel Brewing, Bend Brewing Co., and at the Domino Room, where they will play with band Five Pint Mary.
For a complete schedule see http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bend-Fire-Pipes-and-Drums/106098089417666
Oregon has three other Fire Department Pipe and Drum bands, each of which will also play in various locations on St. Patrick’s Day. See Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Pipes and Drum, Salem Professional Firefighters Pipes and Drums, and Eugene Firefighters Pipes and Drums.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
About the Author: Kim Cooper Findling
Kim Cooper Findling grew up on the Oregon Coast but became a Central Oregon girl in the mid-90s, taking in the sunny skies and never looking back (expect a few wistful glances at the ocean). She is the editor of “Central Oregon Magazine” and the author of “Day Trips From Portland: Getaway Ideas for the Local Traveler” and “Chance of Sun: An Oregon Memoir.” Catch her around the state sampling microbrews, hiking river trails, taking silly pictures with her iPhone, and camping with her husband and two daughters in the family tent trailer, Brutus.