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St. Pat's meets bagpipes

In the mood for a little St. Patrick's Day music? Catch the TVF and R Pipes and Drums band tonight at various locations
by: Jaime Valdez MEN IN KILTS — Timm Birr (left) and Brad King, two members of the TVF&R Pipes and Drums band, will be playing at several venues on St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish holiday is one of the few times a year that the band performs publicly.

Tim Birr looks completely at home in a kilt.

Clad in a black T-shirt and beret, Birr stood in a corner of J.B. O'Brien's Pub in Tigard Tuesday with one of his favorite things: a large Great Highland bagpipe.

He puffs a few breaths into the bagpipe, filling the odd looking instrument with air, and the room is suddenly filled with the unmistakable sound of Irish music. The small lunch crowd stares as he plays a few notes.

'That's full power,' he said, smiling.

Birr and the rest of the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Pipes and Drums band will be making the rounds today and tonight playing at Irish pubs and celebrations throughout the Tigard and Sherwood area in celebration of St. Patrick's Day.

Since 2000 the Pipes and Drums band which bears the TVF and R name has been playing at about 100 public service ceremonies a year, everything from awards ceremonies to the funerals of police and firefighters.

'So much of what we do is serious stuff,' Birr said. 'We play a lot of funerals and memorial services. St. Patrick's is a nice (change) to that. We can get out and kick back a little bit.'

Although the patch on Birr's jacket says TVF and R, the band is made up of representatives from about 12 different agencies, including police departments.

'There's that old rivalry between police and firefighters? That doesn't exist here,' said Brad King, a retired captain with the Tualatin Police Department who serves as the band's drum major. 'We are all friends in the band and get along well together.'

When Beaverton Police Officer Gardner Smith died while jogging on New Year's Eve in 2002, they called TVF and R Pipes and Drums instead of the Portland Police Highland Guard.

'(Beaverton police) said, 'You're our fire department. We don't know the guys in Portland,' Birr said. 'They wanted us to play at his funeral.'

Birr's love for the bagpipes began at an early age.

'Every so often in life you encounter something that's just like 'wow.'' He said. 'There was a pipe band that toured the country in 1966, and I thought that was the coolest thing I'd ever heard.'

The band was started by Birr and firefighters at TVF and R, but it receives no funding from the organization. He started it while heading the public affairs department there.

'I've been playing since I was 13,' he said. 'And in 2000 I had a guy who wanted to learn how to play, so I taught him. Then people from all over the place wanted to learn.'

When the band played its first performance in 2001 they were the only public service pipe and drum band in the Northwest.

Today there are more than a dozen similar bands, including bands in Seattle, Portland and Eugene.

The band has gotten quite a name for itself performing for the president of Ireland and opening for the Dropkick Murphys.

The band has been invited to play for the 150th anniversary celebration of the Dublin Fire Brigade in Ireland next year.

Of all of those performances, though, the St. Patrick's Day celebrations are some of the most fun, Birr said.

'St. Patrick's is the one night a year where people really want a piper to show up at the party,' Birr said, laughing. 'It's a very special time of the year for us. It's a chance for us to get out and just have fun.'

The band will be performing at several Irish pubs tonight, including Clancy's pub in Sherwood and Maher's Irish Restaurant in Lake Oswego. But they will end their night at J.B. O'Brien's pub in Tigard.

'O'Brien's is the place we all come for a pint after band practice,' Birr said. 'So it's great that we end the night here.'

Want to see the band?

The TVF and R Pipes and Drums will be playing at several venues today:

> Noon - Clancy's pub and restaurant. 16066 S.W. First St., in Sherwood.

> 4:45 p.m. - All-Ireland Cultural Society's 70th Annual St. Patrick's Day Celebration. 376 N.E. Clackamas Ave., in Portland.

> 7 p.m. - Maher's Irish Restaurant, 352 B Ave., in Lake Oswego.

> 8:30 p.m. - Clancy's pub and restaurant. 16066 S.W. 1st St., in Sherwood.

> 9:30 p.m. -J.B. O'Brien's Irish Pub, 11555 S.W. Durham Road, in Tigard.