Virginia Scottish Games | Alexandria, VA 1989
lexandria's Pipe Band can trace its beginning to 1971, when a group of pipers and drummers began playing together in Alexandria. Fortunately, the Tourist Council, and several prominent businessmen, took an interest in the group, and were instrumental in obtaining city sponsorship for a pipe band as an appropriate way to celebrate Alexandria's Scottish heritage. The City of Alexandria Pipes and Drums was formally organized early in 1972.
About the band's tartan: Since the city was named for John Alexander, an early landowner, and "Alexander" is a sept of the MacAlister clan, the MacAlister tartan was an obvious choice for the band. When kilts were ordered, however, it was found that this tartan was not available in the required weight, so another choice had to be made. It was recalled that Lord Fairfax, who owned much of northern Virginia in colonial times, was also Baron of Cameron, a parish in Scotland. Cameron tartan was then chosen for the band, to the delight of Louis Robert, the band's chief patron, who was also known locally as "The Mayor of Cameron Street."
Rod Stewart Concert | Capitol Center 1987
In 1973 the band settled in to what would become a yearly round of parades and Scottish games, supplemented by a variety of other performances. Over the years these have included concerts, garden parties, balls, banquets, horse races, conventions, commencement exercises, wedding receptions, and church services. In 1982 the band played for the Governor's inaugural ball, and in 1987 performed at the White House for President Reagan in celebration of St. Patrick's Day.
Clinton, Bush and CAPD | 2005
There was even a performance as warm up band for a Rod Stewart concert, probably the only indoor performance where the audience wasn't startled by the volume of the pipes & drums.
In 2005, the band escorted Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and the United States and international golf teams down the aisle at the opening ceremonies of the President's Cup Golf Tournament.
Drummers warming up their bugles | Alexandria Scottish Walk 2010
In 2010, The decision was made for the drummers to carry and play bugles. The section enthusiastically picked up the new instrument and currently manages a repertoire of 4-5 bugle calls. This is a unique feature of our band. It is historically tied to the British Royal Marines, but as far as we know we are the only civilian pipe band whose drummers also play bugle. At that time the snare drummers incorporated flourishing techniques also similar in style to the Royal Marines.
Every pipe band seems to develop a character of its own. Some bands exist primarily to compete with others at Scottish games, while others never compete. Some pay close attention to dress and deportment while others consider anything other than the music as superfluous. The Alexandria band has maintained the middle-of-the-road approach adopted in its early years. The band competes at Scottish games several times each year in an effort to improve its musical standard, yet parades and other public performances, where there are apt to be few piping experts in attendance, are also taken very seriously.
The band forms a circle | Southern MD Celtic Games, 2008
In an effort to balance a democratic approach with the authority needed to run the band, periodic elections are held for the post of Pipe Major. At present there are two former pipe majors in the band, happily supporting the present holder of the position, John Sprague.
Often, after a performance in Old Town Alexandria, tourists will ask, "Are you from Scotland?" Band members then explain that they are just more-or-less normal people who play bagpipes or drums as a hobby.
Not surprisingly, such people are often in short supply. Because of the area's large transient population the band is constantly losing old members and gaining new ones. Where needed, newcomers to piping are offered special attention to aid in developing the skill needed to join the band. Thus, over the years, through the efforts of a core of veteran members the musical standard as well as the size of the band has shown a steady improvement.