Pipe & Drum Corps play a concert, and a musical role on campus

Norwich members of the Pipe and Drum corps, who play a big role in providing music for important events at the school.

Norwich members of the Pipe and Drum corps, who play a big role in providing music for important events at the school.

Ryan Dodge came to Norwich in 2010, and brought his love of music with him. He and a few other students arrived with a desire to play bagpipes. They were lucky enough to find Iain MacHarg, a music professor at Norwich, and a professional piper.

MacHarg is actually Vermont’s only full-time piping instructor, and has been offering bagpipe lessons to students since before Dodge’s class arrived.

Under MacHarg’s instruction, the Norwich University Pipes and Drums were born. “We assembled it, and it’s been taking off ever since,” said Dodge, who plays both pipes and drums, and sings, too.

The Pipes and Drums held their second concert of the year in Dole Auditorium on Saturday, March 6. The hour long concert featured performances by everyone in the group, as well as guest player Madonna Commo.

Commo, who works at the Norwich University Barber Shop, played a fiddle and hand-drum piece with her husband, after a pipe solo by MacHarg.

The group played both traditional tunes and some more modern Celtic rock, and drew a significant crowd.

Erik Avery, a junior and the group’s drum sergeant, and sophomore Scott Zerull played the unforgettable drum score from John F. Kennedy’s funeral. Avery was one of four regimental band members chosen to represent Norwich at a national military band festival, where he won an award for percussion.

For pipe solos, there were two by freshman, Gavin Mitchell and Patrick Cahill, and the one by MacHarg himself.

Dodge sang The Glengarry Bhoys’ Paddy Whack, with Matthew Purdy on bass guitar, Avery on the drum set.

They were joined by senior piper Andrew O’Sullivan for The Drop Kick Murphys’ version of the Fields of Athenry

For the finale, the entire group came out to play a song, based off an arrangement by the Canadian band Enter the Haggis, called “The Minstrel Boy”.

The Norwich Pipes and Drums perform two concerts each year, one at the beginning of December for St. Andrew’s Day, and one around spring break in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, according to Dodge.

In years past, the concerts have been held in White Memorial Chapel, but Dodge said that they decided to change the venue last year to Dole Auditorium.

Dole’s less formal atmosphere provides them the opportunity to play a wider range of music. “We decided to go away from the traditional band tunes and just piping solos and incorporate a lot of rock to it,” Dodge said.

MacHarg had plenty to offer in the way of Celtic rock, as a founding member of the American Celtic rock group Prydein, which was formed in Burlington, Vt., in 1999. MacHarg also founded three Highland Pipe Bands in Vermont.

Outside their concerts, the Norwich Pipes and Drums play mostly traditional pipe and drum music. They’re featured at many events throughout the year.

For the corps of cadets, the Pipes and Drums lead various march-downs, where the entire regiment marches from the Upper Parade Ground to a sports venue, such as Sabine Field for football games.

Additionally, the Pipes and Drums play while the football team goes from Plumley Armory to Sabine Field. “They always go screaming through us right to the gauntlet,” Dodge said.

In the fall season, they also play for seniors marching down to the Regimental Ball, and in the spring, they lead the juniors to the Junior Ring Ball, both held in Plumley Armory.

The Pipes and Drums have also lead the rook class down to their recognition ceremony for the last four years, starting for the class of 2014. They’ve played for numerous football games, parades, and march-downs since 2010.

“I came in with no experience at all, and fourth year I’m playing and in charge of the band basically,” said Dodge, a 22-year-old senior civil engineering major from Westfield, Mass.

“There’s other people that come here that have plenty of experience so it’s a great mix,” he added.

The group welcomes any interested student, with any level of experience. They will teach the skills needed to play in no time.

“Currently we have about eight or nine full-time pipers,” Dodge said. Five new members are learning and “about to get on the pipes,” Dodge added. As far as percussion goes, they have five drummers, with three on the snare drums, two on tenors, and one bass drummer.

The corps of cadets does now have a Pipes Band section in Band Company, which has the positions of pipes major and pipes drum major available as cadet jobs which carry the rank of cadet 1st Lt. for seniors in the corps, and cadet Master Sgt. for corps juniors.

Since their start, the Norwich Pipes and Drums have been steadily growing each year, according to Dodge. The sound of a bagpipe and drum section works for many functions at a military school.

In addition to leading the regiment as they march for parades or sporting events, the Norwich Pipes and Drums even play for the most solemn of Norwich ceremonies; at memorials for the deaths of students, or in remembrance of the September 11 attacks.

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