By Kim Lyle
There is one day a year when the bellowing sounds of bagpipe echoing throughout the Garden District are entirely normal – St. Patrick’s Day. Historically, the instrument was used by the Scots to intimidate enemies on the battlefield. But this Saturday, they will be used to signal the arrival of festive, bead bearing floats.
Leading the parade alongside the pipers will be a squad of mostly female drummers, who are well versed in the art. Collectively, they call themselves the Baton Rouge Pipes and Drums band.
It’s Bob Cargo’s lungs that power the lead bagpipe, while David Goldsmith is the longstanding drum major. Each spoke in depth about their intentions for the band as well as how they have evolved over the years into a group of refined musicians.
“It’s really quite challenging to start a bagpipe band from scratch,” said Goldsmith. “In the beginning, we needed all the help we could get. We borrowed drums from high school bands and we got different folks to lend a hand and carry flags and banners.”
“We had been in existence about 30 days when we played our first St. Patrick’s Day parade and we managed to get 22 people to participate in that,” added Cargo.
Since then, the band has continued to grow while having a positive effect on the surrounding community. The group holds regular bagpipe lessons every Tuesday at Jefferson Methodist Church, free of charge. Not coincidentally, this is where many of their band members are recruited.
“We like beginners. Young or old, male or female. If anybody wants to come and learn, we’re open to it,” said Goldsmith.
“Sometimes I’ve found that people who aren’t schooled in music do better with the bagpipes than people who are because they don’t have to unlearn anything. It’s such a different instrument,” Cargo added.
Their inclusive attitude has attracted musicians and music lovers from across the state.
“We have people drive in every week from New Orleans, Lafayette, New Roads, and Livingston. It’s a divers group.” Informed Cargo. “It’s neat that we’ve got doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, salesman, teachers, housewives, veterans, and interior designers. We even have the four time yo-yo world champion join us.”