Bagpiper Plays His September Song on LBI
During September, people living near Dan Eames often notice a very distinctive musical sound emanating from his house.
That’s because a little more than six years ago, Eames became interested in playing the bagpipes.
“Early in the evening, I like to go outside and play them,” he said. “I’m usually trying out more songs to learn.”
A detective for the city of Newark, the 49-year-old has rented a Brant Beach house in September for the past 15 years.
“I love it down here,” he said. “It’s very relaxing. It isn’t crowded like it is during the summer, but the weather is still warm enough where you can enjoy the outdoors.”
Having parents of Irish ancestry, Eames said he grew up listening to bagpipes and other instruments associated with music from the Emerald Isle. But what got him motivated to learn the complex instrument had more to do with his police work.
“When I joined the Newark Police Department, there were a lot of officers who played the bagpipes,” said Eames. “They played at funerals and other special events. But over the years, they retired and nobody replaced them, so I felt should do something about that so I decided I would learn how to play them.”
He said the first step in mastering the instrument is starting off with a practice chanter, or melody pipe.
“It’s like a flute,” he said. “It has holes in which you play the notes. The instructor has you playing that for a year before you put on the bagpipes, which can weigh close to 10 pounds.”
Eames said the bagpipes are equipped with three drones that create a constant humming sound while the melody is played.
“The key to sustaining the sound is wind power,” he said. “You need a strong set of lungs. Not only that, but you’re using your stomach muscles and diaphragm. After a few sessions, I felt like I did a lot of sit-ups like I was back at football camp.
Eames said he has a repertoire of about 30 songs.
“The most requested one is ‘Amazing Grace,’” said Eames. “That’s what they play at the funerals and memorial services.”
Another popular bagpipe tune is “Scotland the Brave,” whose melody is used in Old Spice commercials.
Eames, who plays bagpipes for the Essex County Emerald Society, said some of the Irish songs he plays include “Minstrel Boy,” “Wearing of the Green” and “Dawn of the Day.”
“I’ve learned many patriotic songs, like ‘God Bless America,’ ’America’ and ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy,’” he said. “I’ve also been learning the themes from our military service branches.”
Eames said that while bagpipe music usually has a slow tempo, there are some musicians who use it for playing jigs and reels.
“That’s a lot faster,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to try to get to that level. I’m happy where I am now.”
— Eric Englund