OPD officer has unique talent
Among the sounds in one Orange neighborhood are not only the sounds of lawn mowers and children playing, but also of the bagpipes being played.
Eric Ellison, Capt. for the Orange Police Department, practices at his house and often outside. He said neighbors don’t complain but instead stop to listen to his unique music which fills the air for all to enjoy.
Ellison, who has been a police officer for nearly 18 years, is self-taught on the bagpipes and started with a chanter in July 2009. The chanter is the melody pipe, played with two hands.
After he mastered it, he moved to the pipes in October of the same year. Hard work,dedication and endless hours of practice has lead him to where he is now. The bagpipes are composed of a nine note chanter, a bass drone and two tenor drones which are winded by the player through a valved blowpipe into a sheepskin bag. However, the bag Ellision uses is more contemporary and made of plastic.
It was in the Buna Junior High School band where he first discovered his love for music and how to read sheet music. He continued through high school as part of the band. Later as an adult he would once again be in a band but this time it would be the Lonestar Pipe Band.
Since 1987 the band has been making people in Southeast Texas happy with their unique sounds. They have played at many community events and various ceremonies. The music played is commonly known traditional tunes people would normally associate with bag pipes. But, they also play other instruments such as the Irish Drum, tin whistle, and the didgerido which leads to forms of Celtic music as well.
During the holidays the band plays at the “Dickens on the Strand” in Galveston. More locally they can be heard at the Log-On Cafe in Beaumont, especially on St. Patrick’s day to celebrate the luck of the Irish.
Ellison’s interests didn’t stop with just playing the bagpipes. He did some research and now wears a combination of the traditional bagpipe uniform in addition to his shirt from OPD. He wears a kilt, a glengarry which is more commonly known as a hat, spats to cover his ghillie brogues which are his shoes and hose.
“One of the few things you see in Texas is a guy in a kilt,” Ellison said.
Sometimes other officers may joke with him about wearing the kilt, but in the end he is respected for a job well done by providing a service to their fellow men in blue.
‘This is something I have always wanted to do,” Ellison said. “I wanted to give back and help people through the grieving process.”
Ellison voluntarily travels to perform during funerals for firefighters, ex-military, and any other uniformed personnel. However, he is known to play for civilians as well. The sounds of the bagpipes are what people long to hear at solemn occasions which stirs deep emotions. However, they can be a celebrated sound as well at weddings and parties. The bagpipes with their unique harmonics and steady sound of the drones have people always wanting more. Ellison’s most requested songs are “Going Home” and “Amazing Grace.”
“They are like a final goodbye,” Ellison says of his tunes.
One recent funeral where he played the bagpipes was for beloved fellow officer, Robert “Pop” Boudreaux. It is times like these it brings it all a little closer to his heart and reminds him why he plays the bagpipes.
Bagpipes have been around for centuries. There is evidence of its’ existence during the time of the ancient Egyptians. The Romans are credited with bringing it to Scotland where it developed into the form it is today.
At one time, Pipers were important men in a clan. Therefore, the senior Highland regiment can be credited to helping to establish the position of pipers in the British Army. As a result, a tradition was born and remains synonymous with the Scottish soldier, according to the College of Piping Tutor Guide.
PHOTO: Eric Ellison plays the bagpipes during a funeral.