For March, in honor of St Patrick’s day, we’re proud to showcase fellow Chicago locals, the City of Chicago Pipe Band! We asked Andrew Hoinacki, leading drummer, to tell us a bit more about the band.
Pipe bands seem like a unique way to gather people together. How did the Chicago Pipe Band get started?
You’re spot on! Pipe bands are a global phenomenon popping up in places you wouldn’t even imagine. Our story isn’t as mysterious in that Chicago’s Irish ancestry is among the most prominent outside Ireland, alongside other cities with prevalent Irish heritage like New York. The founders of our band mostly grew up together playing in a few of the local bands, going to school together, and forging friendships which have lasted decades. There was a point in time where we decided it was necessary to establish a new organization where we could develop our competitive ambitions and desire to create an educational program for future pipers and drummers. In the summer of 2003 the City of Chicago Pipe Band was founded and most of that nucleus is still involved in the band fifteen years later!
It looks like the COC Pipe Band has a big event coming up — the Party in Plaid. What sort of celebrations will be taking place there?
Party in Plaid is being held in the Turf Club at Hawthorne Race Course on Saturday, March 3rd, from 7pm to 10pm. It is a chance for people in the Chicago area to experience a variety of music and dance from Celtic backgrounds. There will be bagpipes and drums of course, but also Scottish dancing and Irish music. The entertainment roster includes the Chicago Academy of Piping and Drumming, the Thistle & Heather Highland Dancers of Chicagoland, Bangers and Mash Rhythm Experience, the Milwaukee-based Irish band áthas, and of course a performance by the City of Chicago Pipe Band.
We’re celebrating fifteen years together as an organization while also raising funds for a new and exciting venture as we take the band to the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, this summer for the first time in our history. A number of our members have been with other groups, but this will be the first time our band is going and is a first for the majority of our pipers and drummers! So we’re hoping that we’ll have a hall full of well-wishers at Party in Plaid to show what serious pipe band music is all about, but also to have a great time and help us make a little history in the process with our first trip to the homeland of pipe band music.
St Patrick’s day is a big deal in Chicago! Can we expect the City of Chicago Pipe Band to make some local appearances too?
As mentioned before, Chicago is one of the biggest Irish cities outside Ireland! Our band is actually made up of a lot of members who are primarily Irish with only a few in the band having Scottish heritage. But as anyone who’s been in Chicago around St. Patrick’s Day knows, you don’t have to be Irish to be Chi-rish! We’re kicking off what we call “St. Patrick’s Day Season” with Party in Plaid and then moving on to a number of other performances through the following weeks.
On Saturday, March 10th, we’ll be marching in the Countryside St. Patrick’s Parade out in the suburbs for the third time. On Sunday, March 11th, we are excited to be returning to the Chicago South Side Irish Parade which was an event the band used to march in our first few years. The next weekend we are going to be opening for the infamous Celtic band Gaelic Storm at the House of Blues Chicago for their shows on Friday, March 16th, and Saturday, March 17th. On top of this, many of our members will be performing smaller functions throughout the city and suburbs as we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and continue to try and raise the funds necessary to support our overseas trip this summer.
On top of preparing for our performances and to be judged by some of the world’s best over the summer, we’ve also been making sure our appearance as a group is world-class. We made some significant upgrades over the past 18 months which has included replacing every single uniform item other than the kilts themselves. We believe that it is important to present a strong clean uniform as a band, and it had been a decade since our uniform had received a proper makeover. We’ve purchased new vests, new socks, new hat badges, and new sporrans (the leather purse we wear around our waist).
However, the most talked about item of our new uniform was our new tie from Shop4ties. It was important to us to have an instant recognition of the band’s Chicago pride so we wanted the blue stripes and red stars featured prominently in the design. From there we wanted to have our name woven into the design as a subtle stripe rather than one large icon below the knot, so we used the blue color from Chicago’s flag to have “City of Chicago Pipe Band” in a repeating pattern interlaced with more Chicago stars. Lastly we wanted something that would ‘pop’ without being too over the top. Black wouldn’t match our uniform at all, navy was too risky since that’s the color of our vests, and there’s already enough red in the uniform with our kilts – so a super cool gray was the perfect middle ground to let all the elements stand on their own behind the navy vest on the backdrop of a crisp white shirt.
Since debuting these new ties in the summer season of 2017, they have been quite highly coveted with many people asking about purchasing them. However, at this time we feel that with as iconic as the tie has become for us as members, you have to earn the right to wear one! We can’t say enough about how easy it was to put this all together with your staff and how happy we have been with the result. It’s the cherry on our uniform sundae!