The City of Chicago Pipe Band’s rapid rise to successful Grade 1 status was one of the better good-news stories of the last 10 years, but all that has come crashing down after a reported leadership struggle between Pipe-Major Patrick Lynch and Pipe-Sergeant Tristan Wilson, and the exit of almost the entire snare line, ultimately resulting in the band ceasing altogether.
While he confirmed that the band has dissolved, Lynch said that the demise might not be permanent. “In time we will return. This is a bittersweet interlude in our history as this marks our 10-year anniversary, but the dream will continue on.”
Two sources described the pipe section power struggle as an “attempted coup,” occurring in a Chicago pub. Wilson denied this report, saying that a meeting was held at the home of piper David Danaher.
In a statement to pipes|drums, Lynch said, “The City of Chicago Pipe Band has decided to cease operations as a Grade 1 band. The circumstances leading to this have been building for some time. As with any large ensemble it is not always possible to make all players happy at all times. In this case, a divide began to form within the pipe corps that essentially made it impossible to field a competitive or even functional Grade 1 band. Irreconcilable differences amongst the pipe corps led to a chain reaction of pipers and drummers leaving the band. At that point, the band was beyond repair and it was decided that it was best to end the program now rather than limp along.”
Tristan Wilson said that he has been away from the band for several months due to family commitments, and commented, “As a result, this was the first period of time where Pat truly was on his own in the last nine years. Apparently it didn’t go so well for him as most of the pipers were very unhappy and the band has folded as a result of his leadership. The incredible thing to me is the speed with which the whole thing fell apart.”
According to Wilson, in January members “demanded that the leaders cancel a trip to the World’s due to a lack of communication of details and poor preparation. Seven days ago the in-town pipers communicated their general frustrations to Lynch, myself, and board of directors. Six days ago [Lynch] threatened to fold the band in front of all of its in-town members. Five days ago [Lynch] appointed me PM and resigned via e-mail to the band. Five days ago [Lynch] sent a follow up e-mail damning all of the band members for stabbing him in the back. Three days ago the drum corps resigned as a result of Pat’s communication. One day ago I resigned from the board of directors and the band was dissolved.”
“I have happily stood beside Pat Lynch for nine years as a player, pipe-sergeant, and fellow board member. The number-one band member complaint submitted to the board of directors was a lack of basic communications,” Wilson added.
Lynch went on to say that the organization’s Grade 4 band, the Chicago Scots, and the attached Chicago Academy of Piping and Drumming, “are strong, and we will continue to build.”
Wilson has reportedly indicated an interest in
taking over joining the Grade 3 Midlothian Scottish Pipe Band, which had lain dormant for several years before being resurrected in 2011.
City of Chicago’s beginnings were in 2004 as a newly-formed Chicago & District Pipe Band emerged from a frequently fractious scene in the third largest city in the United States. The band rose through the grades and was promoted to Grade 1 after the 2010 season.
Lynch added, “I would like to thank all who have helped us throughout the years, and the many players with whom I have had the privilege to perform. I’ve had a blast playing with Chris Barr over the past three years. I want to sincerely thank the band members for such awesome memories; I send my best wishes to them as they continue on in their journeys.”
Pipe band rivalry is common in most areas with multiple bands, but the Chicago region has been a particularly acrimonious over the last 50 years, with numerous band break-ups, melt-downs and mergers contributing to an unstable history and a lack of continuity.