By Josette Keelor
The City of Winchester Pipes and Drums Band will march Saturday to the tune of folk songs and old favorites.
For the 10th Annual Irish Pub Tour, part of the band will begin playing at 5 p.m. at Irish Isle in Middletown before joining the rest of the band in Winchester at Buffalo Wild Wings, then on to the Cork Street Tavern, the Union Jack Pub, Brewbakers Restaurant and Piccadilly's Public House.
"We will play traditional Irish melodies," said drummer and original member Bill Germelman.
Songs like "Irish Washer Woman," "Danny Boy" and "The Minstrel Boy" will guide the band along its path.
Now in its 10th year, the band made its first appearance at the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in 2003, Germelman said.
"I was the second drummer that was invited to join the band," he said. "Drummers are a little bit easier to incorporate into the band."
Pipers take longer because of the learning curve, he said, which takes about three years.
"Currently we have six drummers and 17 pipers," he said. But, they're always looking for more members. "And the band does do tutoring for pipers especially," he said.
The band draws professional assistance from the City of Washington Pipes band, which Germelman said is a grade one band.
"We're a grade five band, which is novice," he said.
The Washington band formed in 1961 as the Denny & Dunipace Pipe Band, according to its website www.cityofwashingtonpipeband.org.
"They are so big and so famous, they don't march in parades any longer," Germelman said.
Being a member of the Winchester band requires an initial monetary investment, Germelman said. Excluding musical instruments, equipment costs between $700 and $900 per member.
"Just the equipment and quilts and headgear ... gets expensive," he said.
Pipe bands consist of three types of drums -- usually a single bass drum, side drums known as tenor drums and a high-tension snare, Germelman said. The band uses great highland war pipes, which are larger than Irish pipes and were developed for military purposes to carry sound at greater distances.
Members rehearse regularly one night a week, August through the end of May, in the the War Memorial Building cafeteria at Jim Barnett Park. The band performs at parades and community events. "Which ties back into why are we doing the pub tour," Germelman said. "We do it because we love doing ... things in the community," he said.
Though St. Patrick's Day falls on a Sunday this year, the pub tour will be Saturday to accommodate locations that are closed Sundays. Germelman said he expects some patrons to follow the band from one performance to the next Saturday, but he recommends that customers arrive at their chosen location early since some, particularly in downtown Winchester, will fill up quickly.
What began as a nucleus of five pipers in 2002 has expanded into a group that centers very much on family, Germelman said.
He's seen fathers and sons, couples and even entire families take part in the band, which draws membership from the Northern Shenandoah Valley and West Virginia.
Though younger members are welcome, Germelman said participation depends not only on individual experience but also on being able to carry the instruments.
"The drums are rather heavy, so it's difficult for someone smaller to carry the weight," he said.
"We've enjoyed a nice family tradition with our band," he said, adding he wants to continue that tradition into the future.
As for the pub tour, he said, "All of these shows are age friendly. We're looking forward to it and this is our 10th -- [a] big year."
The 10th Annual Irish Pub Tour begins at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Irish Isle in Middletown. Reservations are required. The band will continue on to Winchester to the Buffalo Wild Wings Restaurant at 6:30 p.m., then to Cork Street Tavern's east and west rooms at 7:15 p.m., to the Union Jack Pub at 8 p.m, Brewbakers Restaurant at 8:30 p.m. and Piccadilly's Public House at 9:15 p.m.
For more information about the City of Winchester Pipes and Drums band, visit www.winchesterpipesanddrums.org or find the band on Facebook.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org