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Wichita bagpipe group heading to Philadelphia for July 4 parade (VIDEO)

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, June 29, 2014, at 10:10 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, June 30, 2014, at 9:01 a.m.


Local Bagpipers Get Ready for Fourth of July Event

The Wichita Caledonian Pipes and Drummers rehearse for their upcoming Fourth of July event in Philadelphia. (Video by Fernando Salazar)

Funding the whole kilt and caboodle

Playing in a pipe band is not always cheap, but members of the Wichita Caledonian Pipes and Drums typically are provided with drums and kilts. Other items, like bagpipes, are not provided.

Chris Bailey, a drummer with the band, gives this rundown on average prices for a pipe and drum band.

Kilts: Because the band uses high-quality kilts manufactured by Houston Kiltmakers in Paisley, Scotland, they can be a little pricey. A new kilt usually costs between $400 and $500, Bailey said.

“It’s very heavy wool, usually about 13 or 16 ounces per yard,” Bailey said.

Belts or suspenders are usually used to keep the kilts on, which is essential, Bailey said. He’s “been close before” to having it fall down.

“They have a weird way of measuring you, they ship it off to Scotland, and eight weeks later, you get the finished product and hope it worked out right,” Bailey said. “There’s no chance to try it on – you get what you get.”

Drums: The band also provides drums to its members; Bailey said a new drum could cost about $800.

“It’s not just something you ask, ‘If you want to volunteer to play with us, we need you to buy this $800 drum,’ ” Bailey said. “It’s not something you’re going to use anywhere else.”

Bagpipes: “Bagpipes are a little different story – that’s kind of a personalized item,” Bailey said. “If you’re going to want to play the bagpipes, they’re going to ask that you commit and buy a set of bagpipes.”

Plastic bagpipes can be as cheap as $600, but Bailey said he can only wholeheartedly recommend pipes in the $1,000 to $1,200 range.

“(Plastic pipes) look good by the fireplace, but I wouldn’t recommend it,” he said. “They are just a wreck.”

More info

For more information on the Wichita Caledonian Pipes and Drums, visit the group’s Facebook page or its website at www.wichitapipeband.com.

To watch the group perform, go to h ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo7XDUuEWrI.

There’s no fashion statement more daring than the traditional Scottish kilt.

Amid the plethora of country and punk metal acts that populate Wichita’s music scene, a thriving community of Scottish bagpipers and drummers, the Wichita Caledonian Pipes and Drums, plays on, kilts and all.

“The ladies always say they like men in kilts,” said bagpiper Jeff Fetter, who has been playing with the group for six years.

Fetter and his fellow pipers and drummers will travel to Philadelphia this week to participate in an Independence Day parade on Friday, the third time the group has been invited to play on the East Coast in four years.

“We certainly don’t go into it lighthearted,” said Rob Farmer, a drummer in the band. “We feel to a certain extent we are representing Wichita and Kansas.

“We want to represent well so people don’t think of us just as dragging horse-drawn trailers.”

Since its founding in 2006, the band has performed at services at the Kansas Fallen Firefighters Memorial and the Law Enforcement Memorial, in addition to weddings, funerals and various parades across the region. It is usually booked for St. Patrick’s Day festivities as well, Farmer said.

“Everybody loves pipers on St. Patty’s Day, which is wonderfully ironic,” Farmer said. “That’s most people’s day to be Irish, and we play Highland Scottish music.”

Members of the group give free lessons every Thursday night before practices start. The group normally meets at 5:30 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Center, 332 E. First St.

People from 14 to 68 years old play in the band.

“When you play the pipes, you play them for a long time,” Fetter said.

Fetter said the reception the group gets is sometimes mixed.

“You either love bagpipe music or you hate bagpipe music,” Fetter said. “The people that hate it usually stay home.

“What we have are the people that love us. They think we’re the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

Farmer said the band recognizes that bagpipe tunes can all sound similar after a while. Consequently, the band tries to vary performances with traditional marches and jigs in conjunction with modern music and solos.

“We’re trying to keep it entertaining beyond the novelty of a dude in a kilt,” Farmer said. “It’s actually intriguing music.”

The band raises funds for its trips, primarily through a St. Patrick’s Day 5K run at Old Cowtown Museum. Though it will cost roughly $23,000 to bring about 20 people along for the Philadelphia trip, Farmer said he’s confident the group will muster up the cash.

“We will somehow come up with enough dough to get to the coast,” Farmer said.

Reach Matt Riedl at 316-269-6791 or mriedl@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @riedlmatt.

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