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Mark your calendar: Michigan Scottish Pipes and Drums in St. Clair, March 29

Pipe major Mary Beth Nicholson at the First United Methodist Church in St. Clair.

By Jim Bloch

Hang onto your hats and bring your earplugs.

The Michigan Scottish Pipes and Drums are invading the First United Methodist Church on Sunday, March 29.

The band will feature in the neighborhood of 10 pipers and seven drummers playing a bass drum, snares and different sizes of tenor drums matched to the pipes.

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Its first installment of the 2020 St. Clair Cultural Series and it’s likely to be loud.

“Like a rock and roll concert,” said Paul Shafer, producer of the series.

“We’ll have a great complement of all of our players,” said Mary Beth Nicholson, pipe major, who visited the church on Feb. 24 to get the lay of the land.

The band members are talented, many of them multi-instrumentalists, including an oboe player in the Flint Symphony Orchestra, a church organist and a clarinetist.

“They were attracted to the music from a lot of different angles,” said Nicholson.

The band includes a middle school musician, a high school musician, a lawyer, engineers and retired regional manager from the IRS. The age range is 12-70+.

“We cross all decades,” said Nicholson.

The Michigan Scottish Pipes and Drums band. Photo courtesy MSPD.

The Troy-based band is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. It was founded in 1980 by William O’Donnell, who died unexpectedly in 2016, just shy of his 80th birthday.

“I’m the second pipe major to lead the group,” said Nicholson. “Almost everybody in our band took a class at Troy Community Education under O’Donnell.”

Is it unusual to have a woman at the head of a pipe and drum band?

“It’s not entirely uncommon now,” said Nicholson. “Ten or 15 years ago, it was unusual.”

Slightly less than half the band are women.

During performances, the band members wear the orange and green MacDonnell of Keppoch tartan.

The band will play a variety of competition sets, a march medley and a medley of mixed music. Look for a breakout performance by the smaller pipes and a drum solo.

“There might be some singing,” said Nicholson.

The concert is set for Sunday, March 29 at 5 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 415 North Third Street, St. Clair.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $40 for families, $6 for students and include an appetizer afterglow at Anchor Point Bistro in Riverview Plaza. There is a good chance that the smaller pipes will be featured in the restaurant.

Tickets are available at the church, Port Huron Music Center, 2700 Pine Grove, Port Huron,  and the St. Clair Art Association in the plaza, 201 North Riverside, St. Clair.

For details, call 810-985-3719.

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