Lone piper on a hot summer day

  • Not just practicePlaying the great pipes is also therapy for John Rinciari, who suffered lung damage in the aftermath of the World Trade Center bombing.

    Joseph McClain

    Not just practice

The bagpipe is too mighty an instrument to practice indoors, which is why a vacationing New Yorker chose the portico of William & Mary’s Jamestown North dorm to practice on one of the hottest days of the year.

John Rinciari, who boasts Scots-Italian ancestry, marches in the Westchester and District Pipe Band out of the Bronx. He’s a recent retiree from the Yonkers Police Department and says piping is helping him recover from lung damage he received at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

“I’ve been playing the pipes for 40 years,” he said, “but I couldn’t do it for a while. My lungs were too bad. In the last few years, though, I’ve been able to do it more and more.”

Around noon on Aug. 11, as the thermometer creeped towards the forecast triple digits, Rinciari stood in the shade, but just barely, facing the sprinklers on Barksdale Field.

After a brief break, he wipes the sweat that’s streaming down his face and continues what he calls his therapy. He draws a deep breath to fill the bag, then grasps the chanter to play “The Gold Ring” and then “The Walrus.”

“Sit down there,” he tells a visitor, “and I’ll play ya ‘The Flower of Scotland.’”

The only other people in sight are a group of equally heat-insensitive soccer players on the far side of the sprinklers, but undoubtedly other people heard him. Rinciari’s rendition of “Macleod of Mull” had been clearly audible on the other side of the Jamestown dorms and “Paddy’s Leather Breeches” could be heard way over at the intersection of Jamestown and Landrum Roads.

His therapy over, Rinciari chats a bit about bagpiping and pipe bands then excuses himself. He’s due to pick up his sons.

“I have a time share here in Williamsburg. I come here each August. Right now my kids are working out, so I thought I’d just take a little time here to practice,” he said.