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Bagpiping on a Beautiful Day

by ARLnow.com May 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm 2,010 5 Comments

Around 12:30 this afternoon, outside the Courthouse Metro, it was a springtime scene to delight the senses.

The warmth of the sun reflecting off the sidewalk. The smell of Cubano sandwiches wafting over from the Rebel Heroes truck. The sight of smiling, sunglasses-clad people, taking in the perfect weather after an extra-dreary start to the week.

Then, there was faint wail of Amazing Grace playing on the bagpipes.

It was coming from the small park across the street from the Jerry’s Subs shop. Eric Rice-Johnston, an employee in the Arlington County community planning office, was practicing.

Rice-Johnston has been a piper since the early 70s, when he was working as student firefighter at the University of Alaska.

He began practicing during his lunch hour last year, and has just started up again now that the weather is warmer.

Rice-Johnston’s practice session today — he’s getting ready to participate in some bagpiping competitions — included Amazing Grace and the other classic bagpipe tunes, which are usually known for being played at parades and funerals. But there were also a few unfamiliar and upbeat melodies in his repertoire.

Rice-Johnston was not fazed by the confused glances from passersby. He did, however, acknowledge the one individual who applauded.

  • Todd

    I’ve caught him on at least one prior occasion practicing in the same park. Very nice to hear. My wife and I had bagpipes at our wedding and then again oddly enough again while floating just a few feet away from lava flowing into the pacific off the Big Island of Hawaii. Just the sound brings back those happy memories!

  • I’ve heard him quite often lately but today was the first day I actually saw him – while walking to Ragtime for lunch. The music truly is a delight to hear but today I wondered if it ever bothers anyone. For instance, the thought occurred to me that maybe he had been hired by the county to chase away the homeless folks that tend to gather in that park. 😉

    • Eric

      No, I’m out there terrorizing pigeons just for fun. I try very hard not to chase away anybody who is already at the park, and it is gratifying to note the folks who come to listen.

  • Better be careful Eric. I got hauled into the Principal’s office, because a secretary thought she heard me practicing in the park near the school. But it was Ed Krintz. She swore it was me and I was warned not to practice on school time. That would include the lunch hour.

    • Eric

      Thanks. There are a bunch of other pipers in Arlington. Many play funeral services at Arlington National Cemetery; once in a while, one of them gets away. However, now that I’ve been caught in the act, it’ll be harder to point fingers elsewhere . . .


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