The Hippo


May 29, 2020








The New Hampshire Police Association Pipes and Drums. Steve Hastings photo.

NH Police Association Pipes and Drums concert

Where: On Hanover Street, outside 
Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
When: Saturday, June 28, at 6:30 p.m. (seating starts at 5:30 p.m.)
Admission: $24.50
Contact:, 668-5588

Saturday street music
NH Police Association celebrates 20 years of pipes and drums

By Kelly Sennott

 When Bob Freitas became a founding member of the New Hampshire Police Association Pipes and Drums years ago, he had no idea the band would someday celebrate a 20th anniversary. 

“I don’t know if we had any expectations at the time,” said Freitas, who served as a police officer in Manchester and currently works full-time as an investigator with the New Hampshire Department of Justice. “I don’t think anybody had any idea the band would last as long as it has, and I don’t see it coming to an end.”
In celebration of these 20 years, the band is presenting the biggest Manchester concert in its history this Saturday, June 28, at 6:30 p.m. The concert takes place on Hanover Street just outside the Palace Theatre and will feature a number of very special guests, including the New York City Police Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, the Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums, the Police Pipes and Drums of Bergen County, N.J., and the Glengarry Bhoys, one of Canada’s premier Scottish rock bands (which also has a few retired officers).
The band has grown tremendously since 1994, not so much in size, but in quality, said Londonderry Police Sgt. Patrick Cheetham, who currently serves as band master. The band, which has consistently maintained about 25 members throughout the past 20 years, has been challenging itself more than ever.
“We’re not professional musicians — we’re all full-time [or retired] police officers,” Cheetham said.
But they take what they do seriously; they’ve practiced at the Alpine Club every Tuesday for the past 10 years. They perform at about 100 events a year, including concerts, parades, weddings, funerals, retirement parties and more. (In fact, at the time of Cheetham’s interview, the band was preparing for a parade the next day.) 
It’s because of one of these occasions — a funeral — that a group of officers started it in the first place. It was in 1994, just after State Police Sgt. James Noyes died in the line of duty.
“At that time, there was no police band in New Hampshire to play at his funeral. His death motivated the officers around the state to form a band,” Cheetham said.
Specifically, one with pipes and drums.
“There’s something about the bagpipes that is so unique and different from any other instrument. There’s a solemn feeling in them, especially when playing ‘Amazing Grace’ or ‘Going Home,’” Cheetham said.
The band has come a long way in the past 20 years. Few, if any, members had experience, and it took two years of practicing — in those days, practices were held at Memorial High School — before they were ready for their debut performance in 1996 at the New Hampshire Police Memorial in Concord.
Cheetham thinks part of the reason these bands have staying power is the Irish and Scottish heritage in the Northeast; many families, like his, contain first- and second-generation immigrants. Freitas thinks it has to do with their day job.
“If we were a regular Scottish pipe band, I don’t think we’d get the same interest. Everybody has this perception of police officers, that they stop cars and write tickets, and that they come to your house when bad things happen, but this is another side of police offers. They’re regular guys who happen to be cops and play music,” Freitas said.
Right now, there’s an influx of younger officers joining. It’s a bit more difficult to jump into today, as there’s a bit of a learning curve, but the number and quality of events have encouraged newer officers to become members.
“NHPA plays at every Police Academy graduation, and they played at mine November 2002. I was never more proud, graduating from the Police Academy in Concord. … After I saw their performance, I was so proud that I decided to take bagpipe lessons privately,” Cheetham said.
One of his most vivid memories performing with the band is the 2006 funeral of Officer Michael Briggs. 
“Being part of this allows us to give something back to fallen heroes, allows us to play in honor of that sacrifice made, and we take our responsibilities very seriously,” Cheetham said. “But it’s as much about the friendship and camaraderie as anything else.” 
As seen in the June 26, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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