Washington, D.C. can thank the United States Air Force for its proud pipe band history.
Eager to distinguish itself from the older services, the Air Force set about recruiting some of the top pipers and drummers in the United States in the 1950s under Pipe Major Sandy Jones and Drum Sergeant John Bosworth. The U.S. Air Force Pipe Band quickly established an international reputation for itself in ceremonial duties at the White House, Arlington National Cemetery and other landmarks in the Nation's Capital. All that was missing was a competition band. Since Air Force regulations prevented the band from showing its talent in the pipe band competition circuit, members of the band joined with local talent in the Washington area in 1961 to form a civilian Grade Two competition band, which they named Denny & Dunipace, after two towns in Scotland.
The 1960's ...
Denny & Dunipace turned out that first season wearing the MacDonald of Clan Ranald tartan.
The line up included Pipe Major Bill Logan and Drum Sergeant Walt Birtles, along with other veteran Air Force pipers like Jim Neary. Filling out the ranks of the band were the Carey boys, Timmy and Rob. The Earlys, Jerry, Stewart and Roseanne. (Jerry would enjoy some considerable solo success in the States and Canada). Also in the drum corps was young Ronnie Birtles, who is currently playing with the Gr. 3 MacMillan-Birtles Pipe Band in Rockville, named in part for his dad. Also starting with the band in this era were Bob Meade (tenor or bass, as needed) and Dave Ricklis in the drum major spot. Both would see the band right on into the 2000's, in one guise or another.
The 1970's ...
In 1970 Pipe Major Sandy Jones of the Air Force Band took over "the Denny band,"
all the while having a massive impact on the piping standards in the region. In addition to his work with Denny, he also saw to the piping and drumming education of the players in the Annapolis and Peary High School (now Rockville H.S.) juvenile bands, both of whom would eventually provide key players that would carry the Denny band itself right up into the new millenium. In those mid-70's years, Sandy's efforts paid off as he brought Denny & Dunipace up to the highest standards of Grade Two in those early years of the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association (EUSPBA). No recounting of the 70's decade would be complete without a mention of the band's 1973 trip to Scotland, where they developed a longstanding friendship with the good people of the actual towns of Denny and Dunipace, as well as the members of their very successful band ... from whom the US Denny band had originally derived their name in 1961.
In 1975 the band underwent another change in leadership.
Sandy Jones retired and one of his students, Ed Krintz, was named Pipe Major. At roughly the same time, Tommy Kee, fresh off his 1974 Grade 3 World Drum Corps Championship fame with the Ogilvy Highlanders, took over the drum sergeant slot from Walt Birtles. It was in the years that followed that the newest generation of vunderkids came onto the scene - some evolving to long-standing leadership positions: Mike Green, Paul Ling, Dan Debuchanany, Vic Frank, Chris Hamilton, Steve Benson, Jon Quigg, Tim Gladden, Pete VanderPoel and Lisa Frazier, to name a few. With this infusion of younger talent, Ed Kritnz led the band through several very successful seasons that saw the band win the Canadian Champion Supreme and North American and Canadian Grade Two Championships in 1976. During this time the band developed a reputation for playing innovative and original music, much of it composed or arranged by P/S Charlie Glendinning. Charlie led the band from 1978 to 1980 while Ed took a position teaching piping in Dunedin, Florida. Upon Ed's return in 1980, the band recorded its first album with Tim Gladden as the new drum sergeant.
The 1980's ...
In 1982, band perenial, Tim Carey took over as pipe major.
Harnessing a new chanter sound and a richer repertoire, Tim led the band to a string of victories in Grade Two in the EUSPBA. In 1983 the band won a sponsorship from a merchant in Annapolis, Maryland and turned out that season with new Black Stewart kilts and a new name: Scottish & Irish Imports Pipe Band. The band competed in Scotland under that name in 1985 and placed 7th in grade 2 at the World Pipe Band Championships. Subsequently the band was upgraded to Grade 1 for the 1986 season.
Charlie Glendinning led the band for the 1986 season, and Tim was back at the helm in 1987.
The drum corps was under the leadership of Jon Quigg and Tommy Kee at various times. The band finished as EUSPBA Grade One champions several times for the remainder of the decade, and made respectable showings in Canada in the Premier Grade. In 1989 the band recorded their second album, "Tunes of Glory", which was released internationally by Lismor. Then in 1989 Tim led the band to Scotland for first place finishes in Grade Two in the Inverkeithing and Bridge of Allen Games. In a controversial move that next week, the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association upgraded the band back to Grade One on the morning of the World Championships, and the band had to withdraw from the contest because it had not prepared the necessary repertoire. Reeling from the disappointment of the 1989 debacle at the Worlds and a shortage of personnel, the band was out of action for the 1990 season.
The 1990's ...
In the fall of 1990, Mike Green returned from academic work in Japan and was named Pipe Major.
Together with Drum Sergeant Jon Quigg he opened a new and highly successful chapter in the band's history. After briefly competing in Grade One under its old name of Denny & Dunipace in 1991, the band was returned in 1992 to Grade Two as part of a EUSPBA realignment of grades to conform to international standards. The 1992 season ended with a major victory at Santa Rosa Games and a new solidity to the band's ensemble.
In 1993 the band continued to dominate EUSPBA Grade 2, and traveled to Scotland again.
Since the Denny & Dunipace Pipe Band from Scotland would also be in the World Championships, the band decided to rename themselves as The City of Washington Pipe Band - aka "CoW." The results in Scotland were disappointing, but the experience was important and the band built on what it learned to climb to the top of Grade Two international competition over the next few seasons. In 1994 the band fended off a strong challenge by the Lehigh Valley band to retain the championship title in EUSPBA and finished second in the North American Championship at Maxville, including first in piping. In addition, the City of Washington 'B' band was EUSPBA Grade Four Champions. In 1995 the band won the North American Championships in Grade Two, defeating the reigning Canadian champions.
In 1996 the band returned to Scotland and took first place at Perth and Second in the World Championships the next week. It was also in 1996 that Icelandair began its generous sponsorship of the band, allowing regular trips back to Scotland so that the band could establish itself as an international competitor. In 1997 the band won all its domestic competitions in Grade Two and returned to Scotland for a somewhat disappointing fifth place finish out of 31 bands. In 1998 the band returned to Scotland and took second again in the World Championships, closing in on the prize. In that year the band also won the Grade One March Strathspey and Reel contest over Halifax Police at the Antigonish Games, showing potential to compete at a higher level. Then in 1999, the band did it: first place and World Champions in Grade Two.
The 2000's ...
With the new millennium, the band geared up for the intense competitive environment of Grade One. A Second Place in the North American Championships at Maxville in 2000 showed that the band was indeed ready for the big league. That August the band took tenth at Cowal, making an early mark on the Grade One scene in Scotland. In 2001 the band made the finals in the World Championships and took 12th overall. Firmly ensconced now as a competitor in Grade One, the band embarked on a new project with Scottish fiddler Bonnie Rideout. Drawing on collaboration with Bonnie on the 1999 CD "Scottish Rant," the band signed up for a concert series that included performances at major halls such as the Kennedy Center and the Michigan Arts Festival. These experiences have brought the band's music to a whole new audience and a new level of professionalism to the band's technique, even as the band has continued competing in Grade One in Canada and Scotland.
A period of transition began in 2005 when Jon Quigg stepped down as drum sergeant after 16 years, and Mike Green stepped down after the 2007 season, ending his own tenure at the 16 year mark as well. Up-and-coming Baltimore piper, Dan Lyden took over as P/M, while the corps was helmed effectively over the next several seasons, first by Bill Saul (ex-Triumph Street Pipe Band), then Jason Hoffert. In 2009, Jon returned to the D/S slot for two seasons, overseeing a couple wins at Kansas City's Winter Storm drum salute contest in 2009 and 2010. 2010 was a busy year for the band, highlighted by a St. Patrick's Day performance for the President & Mrs. Obama at the White House in March. The band also made a trek to Scotland for the World Pipe Band Championships. Controversially, at the end of the season the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA) opted to downgrade the band to Grade 2. In spite of this, the CoW's home association, the Eastern US Pipe Band Association (EUSBPA), agreed with the band's contention that competing in Grade 1 in North America was the best use of the band's abilities.
As the band was adjusting repertoire and rehearsing weekly through the 2010-2011 off-season,
it was agreed that Army SSG Alex Kuldell, with CoW since 1998, would step into the leadership position for the drum corps. A snare drummer with the Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps, Alex is in a prime position to maintain the band's reputation for a fusion style of percussion arranging, while maintaining an ear for the nuances inherent in the contemporary pipe band drumming idiom. He and P/M Dan Lyden are bringing a youthful and detail-oriented attention to precise unison that promises to keep the band in the strongest possible position while they contend with some of the best bands in their grade.
As the City of Washington Pipe Band moves into its fifth decade, the faces have continued to change, yet the tradition of producing some of America’s finest piping and drumming is soundly intact. Dan and Alex have their work cut out for them in the world of ever-higher pipe band standards, but as luck would have it, they’re the right guys at the right time … so stay tuned for our next installment in the City of Washington Pipe Band saga.
Contact the band and find out how you can help the band of the Nation's Capitol go to the 2013 World Pipe Band Championships!!
Many of our players are currently taking on private students that would like to learn about piping and drumming in a world class organization. Please contact the band if you are interested in pursuing that dream.
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