Music from the tied pipers

By Trina Trice

Not many people would think bagpipes would bring together two lovers, but Becky and Tom Roberts are proof that it's possible.

Becky Roberts, a former Henry County music teacher, met Tom Roberts when they joined the Atlanta Pipe Band, scheduled to play at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center in Jonesboro.

"When she became a member of the band, she met Tom Roberts," said Floranne Sanders, Becky's mother. "It was love at first sight. A year later they were married with the full pipe band in attendance. The happy couple and the entire congregation marched through (with) the bagpipes and drums after the ceremony. Needless to say, this stopped all traffic in the area."

The Roberts joined the Atlanta Pipe Band two years ago. Both were music majors while in college. Becky Roberts, who grew up playing the flute, currently teaches music at an elementary school.

"The bagpipe is much harder to play," Becky Roberts said. "It's more physically demanding. Technically it's pretty difficult."

Tom Roberts played the trombone when he was in high school.

"It's much more difficult," he said. "It's like wrestling an octopus."

So why would either of them take on learning and playing the bagpipe?

"It's a satisfaction of playing a challenging instrument while still making music," Tom Roberts said.

The origin of the bagpipe is still being debated, but it is strongly associated with Scottish culture.

The sound of the bagpipe is unique.

"People are in one of two camps," Tom Roberts said. "They either love it or hate it. It's such an emotionally powerful instrument."

The Atlanta Pipe Band began in 1970 and performs in traditional Scottish dress, including the kilt.

The group wears the distinctive tartan of the 78th Fraser Highlands, and is the only band in the United States allowed to wear it.

When asked what it's like wearing a kilt, Tom Roberts said while laughing, "It takes a lot getting used to."

The band's 33-year history includes performances for Presidents Jimmy Carter and George Bush, Prince Charles, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Dalai Lama.