Published: April 30, 2012

On the road with Pipes and Sticks On Route 66

The group of world famous pipers and drummers who hit the road last week on the “Pipes & Sticks On Route 66” tour have embarked on a one-of-a-kind journey, and members of the team have offered to provide pipes|drums Magazine readers with an exclusive travel log on the adventure.

Drummers Mike Cole and Jim Kilpatrick and pipers Stuart Liddell, Angus MacColl and Willie McCallum are taking three weeks to traverse the old US Highway #66, playing recitals and conducting workshops along the way. In this first instalment, Willie McCallum brings us up-to-speed on the final preparations for the trip, as well as observations on getting on the road and hitting their first destinations.

pipes|drums readers can look forward to several more updates to the travel log as the Pipes & Sticks group winds its way from Chicago to LA – a historic first for piping and drumming along a highway paved in American history.

On the road with Pipes and Sticks On Route 66

By Willie MacCallum

The prelude to the trip

The guys met up late on Tuesday night, April 3, 2012, in Chicago, the Windy City. Wednesday was spent getting used to the time difference for the Scottish members of the group, sorting out logistics for the concerts, sorting out merchandise and importantly, trying to put together material for the concert and the running order. Lots of small detail in all of this.

Unpacking the new instruments from Pearl Drums, McCallum Bagpipes and Premier, we are all impressed what we have for the road. We need to get some air through the pipes, new chanter reeds and chanters need some playing. Moisture is a challenge as there is much lower humidity than the pipers are used to at home . . . we’ll get used to it. Jim and Mike are setting up their new drums. All the instruments are uniquely made for the trip.

Wednesday evening we meet up at the fire station at Midway Airport in Chicago, where we will be part of an ensemble welcoming back the veterans from the Honor Flight Chicago. We are playing along with the Pipes & Drums of the Chicago Police Department, Chicago Fire Department Pipes & Drums and Fire Fighters Highland Guard of Naperville.

We have never been transported through an airport this quickly – same please from now on! This is an amazing experience with a huge crowd turning out to welcome these heroes back from a day trip to the WW2 Memorial in Washington, DC. It was a hugely humbling experience for us all.

Thursday we had some more rehearsal and out at night to play an in formal pub gig. With the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team having made the playoffs, there is a large crowd there to see the game. We’re not going to argue with these bears! We start a little later than planned but it’s a good night and we meet some familiar faces.

Friday we are on the road downtown to do the Chicago Architectural Boat tour. This is a great way to see the city and the views of the skyscrapers. The Sears Tower (now has a new name) is particularly impressive.

The boys have sore necks looking up so it’s off to Harry Caray’s for lunch and a small refreshment. Harry was the famed baseball announcer for the Chicago Cubs.

Next stop is walking to the start of Route 66 in Chicago, at Michigan and Adams. We’re now getting a feel that the journey will begin soon, this is the first step and one we’ve been planning for some time. Yes!

Saturday night is the first concert at the Irish Heritage Center in Chicago. We’re all ready and we are happy with the way the concert goes in general, with some minor niggles to sort out in the future. Good to see some well-known piping and drumming faces there.

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