ALLENDALE, N.J. — Irish eyes certainly are smiling every Wednesday night when the Clan Na Vale Pipe Band rehearses at Calvary Lutheran Church in Allendale .
“We all love the music or we wouldn’t be here,” said Ed Jackson of Paramus.
“We could go to other bands, but we’ve gotten to be old friends,” he added. “Kevin (McCann) and I have been here since almost the beginning.”
Clan Na Vale, which means “Clan of the Valley,” was formed in 1973 in Norwood in the Northern Valley. It was based there its first 20 years.
Since then, its rehearsal base has moved to New Milford, then Oakland, now Allendale.
Today its 24 members also hail from Allendale, Dumont, Ringwood, West Milford, Caldwell, and East Brunswick. Brothers Mike and Sean Moyna live in Maywood.
The sound of Clan Na Vale bagpipes is a local tradition at many events, including Northern Highlands Regional High School graduation in Allendale, which is apropos.
“They’re known as the Highlanders,” said McCann, a Bergenfield native who is now pipe major. “We play a fundraiser every November at West Milford High School, which also has a band known as the Highlanders.”
The band plays 40 gigs a year, with March being its busiest season. It plays six St. Patrick’s Day parades, including the one in New York City, as well as church, VFW, and Catholic War Veterans dances, McCann said.
It also is featured in local Memorial Day, Labor Day, and fall parades.
Outside New Jersey, Clan Na Vale has played at Disney World; Estes Park, Colorado; Carnegie Hall; Malcolm Forbes’s birthday party; and halftime for a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden.
Today, it stays true to the values of the man who founded it – the late Pat McKenna of Ringwood, who gave pipe lessons for free to those interested in joining.
Every Wednesday, the bagpipers give a free one-hour lesson to anyone who wants to learn and is interested in joining. The lesson starts at 6:30 p.m., the band rehearsal at 7:30.
The band is actively looking for pipers and drummers now, said member Nicole Heuer.
In the meantime, the ancient sound of pipes and drums goes on.
“Being a drummer, I could go to a wind ensemble or an orchestra or even a Broadway pit,” said Steven Lawson of Dumont.
“But I like being in a bagpipe band and seeing everybody on the streets when we march in a parade,” he added. “It’s something to live for.”
“Contrary to popular rumors,” he joked, “we love our drummers.”
Catch Clan Na Vale 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12 for the 17th Annual Military Concert and Tattoo at West Milford High School. The event is a fundraiser to benefit the West Milford Highlander Band.
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