BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - Saint Patrick's Day will be a busy one for Greater Binghamton's original bagpipe band.
And it's eager to share the celebration with the entire community.
Before the toast, before the parade, before the party at Seton, comes the practice.
B.C. Celtic meets every Tuesday evening to rehearse and provide lessons to interested newcomers.
Learning to play the bagpipes takes more than a year.
Beginners start by fingering on a chanter.
Later, they'll master when to blow and when to squeeze and how to march in time.
"When you get to that point that you get on your pipes and you play, it's extremely rewarding," said Pipe Major Steve Cole.
When B.C. Celtic first formed in 1987, the founders didn't have the benefit of an established band to tutor them.
Doug Arnott is an original member.
"It was seat of the pants because there wasn't anything in this area for bagpiping and drumming like that. So, if you knew something, then you could help some of the other people," said Arnott.
Initial gatherings were in the Binghamton Police Department's pistol range in the basement of City Hall.
What originally was to be a police and fire band expanded to include anyone, from any background, with an interest in piping and drumming.
Their first parade was in Binghamton in 1988.
From there, things grew steadily.
"We went someplace once and we won a trophy. Nobody had any idea that we'd win a trophy. We didn't even know what to do with it so we gave it to our pipe major," said Arnott.
And the band attracted new members.
Gates Murchie joined in 1991.
"I always wanted to play the bagpipes and these people were offering free lessons. I was Scottish and how could I turn down free," said Murchie.
In 2002, Murchie put down the pipes and picked up the mace, a staff used to direct the band.
"I always love it after a parade when people come up to me and say, 'You guys sounded great.' And I can say, 'Yeah, I had nothing to do with that. I'm just here to look pretty.'"said Murchie.
Murchie, who turns 69 this year, is retiring as Drum Major after parade and graduation season.
But as he marches off stage, new pipers and drummers are stepping up to keep B.C. Celtic strong for more decades to come.
For information on how to join the band, go to BCCPD.org.
On Friday, B.C. Celtic plans a series of appearances around town.
They'll be at the Old Union Hotel at 5 p.m. then South Side Publick House, Cortese, House of Reardon's and finishing at McGirk's at about 8:30 p.m.
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