Local musicians unite to form a new Highland-style pipes and drums band
CEDAR FALLS, IOWA (July 12, 2014) – Local pipers and drummers stepped up to fill a void in the 2014 Iowa Irish Fest opening ceremonies after the Iowa Scottish Pipes & Drums of Des Moines regretfully declined this year’s invitation due to a scheduling conflict.
With the Iowa Scottish Pipes & Drums unavailable, Irish Fest committee members needed to look no further than Cedar Falls to enlist the talents of experienced piper, Ross Schupbach.
Schupbach has played the pipes for about 15 years. He previously marched with the Thunder Mountain Pipe Band at Grand Junction, CO. Since moving to Cedar Falls, he has played at many local venues and community events, often performing as a duo with Russ Clarke, another Cedar Glen Pipes & Drums member with 10 years piping experience.
Rounding out the piper corps are Greg McConoughey, a veteran of the Detroit Caledonia Pipe Band, and two of Schupbach’s bagpipe students, Mike Knapp and Pat Morrissey.
“I knew at our first meeting we would be the best damn pipe band in town,” recalls Knapp.
“True, but we’re also the only pipe band in town,” testified Morrissey.
To compliment the piper corps, a drum corps needed to be assembled. Iowa Irish Fest committee member, Greg Tagtow, just happened to know a guy who could help. Tagtow contacted Ed Flack and introduced him to Schupbach.
Flack has performed three seasons as a concert drummer with the Waterloo Municipal Band and has an extensive background in field drumming through drum & bugle corps, high school and college marching bands, and the traditional American fife and drum style. He jumped at the opportunity to explore the Scottish Highland snare drum style which is famous for its rhythmic complexity and challenging techniques.
Drummer Elizabeth Collins brings two years of pipe band experience as a snare drummer with the Chesapeake Caledonian Pipes & Drums. Her understanding of the Highland drum style has helped enhance the drum section’s musical interpretation of traditional tunes.
Bass drummer Tom Blankenship supports the band with a steady current of low-end pulse. Blankenship has considerable drum and bugle corps experience and can play any drum in the line. Most recently, he played with The Drumslingers, an independent drum line from the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area.
Completing the drum corps midsection is Bill Brown on tenor drum. Highland tenor drumming is unique in the world of marching percussion in that it involves a complex series of mallet spinning techniques called “flourishes."
The Cedar Glen Pipes & Drums uniform consists of a Scottish cap called a “glengarry.” The glengarry worn by the pipers is solid black, while the drummers wear black trimmed with red and white dicing. Individuals add badges to their glengarry to represent a clan affiliation, military experience, or other preferred Celtic symbolism.
Each band member wears a white shirt and black tie. The kilt patterns, or “tartans,” are also an individual choice, usually representing a clan affiliation or military experience.
According to Pipe Major Schupbach, “In the beginning, my only concern was that we could all pull this off to a level that would sound decent to the average sober parade watcher.”
Band members now agree that in the short time since coming together, the group has exceeded all personal expectations.
“It’s amazing how well we have pulled it together,” said piper, Russ Clarke.
The members of the Cedar Glen Pipes & Drums feel honored and excited to perform at the 2014 Iowa Irish Fest. The band will lead the Opening Ceremonies Parade on Friday, August 1, at 4:00 PM.