BY JOSIAH LOCKLEY
If you celebrated St. Patrick's Day in a bar, odds are that you were treated to some Black and Tan.
And you probably drank the stout lager mix of the same name, too.
Yesterday, the bagpipe duo known as the Black and Tans did triple duty on St. Patrick's Day. They performed at Quaker Steak and Lube in the afternoon; The Elephant Bar and Grille in Grove City in the evening; and 26 Bar and Grille late last night, serenading revelers with a unique brand of up-tempo, bagpipe music.
During the 20-plus happy hour that is more commonly referred to as St. Patrick's Day at Quaker Steak and Lube, the duo tore through traditional bagpipe and some original bagpipe compositions. Onlookers raised their glasses and shouted in approval on the upper level of the restaurant.
"That went really good," Ryan Stauffer, one half of the Black and Tans said as Joshua Hassan, 18, took in deep breaths in the smoke-filled bar.
For Hassan, a senior at Shenango High School, bagpiping has provided him with the opportunity to hang out in bars more often than average minor probably should.
Another anomaly is his name. "Hassan" doesn't exactly conjure up an image of your average bagpipe player. MacGregor, maybe. But Hassan?
"I'm part Syrian and part Scotch-Irish," he said. It was his uncle who first started him with bagpipe lessons when he was 12.
Was his uncle on the Scotch-Irish side?
"He's Syrian, too," Hassan said, laughing. "My uncle and I are the only (Syrian bagpipers) around here."
Eventually, Hassan began to pass his uncle's skill level on the pipes. He started taking lessons from Stauffer, who teaches bagpipe instrumentalists as well as making them. Soon, Stauffer went from rehearsing with Hassan to performing as a group.
Eventually, the idea of visiting Scotland came up, and Hassan and Stauffer formed the Black and Tans as a way to raise money for the trip.
The name of the group has its origins from across the way. Black and Tan is also the nickname for the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, a paramilitary outfit that was used to quell the revolution in Ireland in the early 1920s -- a sensitive subject for many Irish.
"We're very apolitical. We named it after the drink, but 20 years ago a lot of people would not have liked that name," Stauffer said
Between playing bagpipe gigs in the area, the group saved enough money up for a two-week trip to Scotland. There they soaked up the atmosphere of the country and played at two or three pubs a night.
"If you just wanted to go over (to a bar) and set up and play, they'd say 'go ahead.' People are very receptive to it over there. "I was offered a lot of drinks," Stauffer said. "But I don't touch it when we play, and Josh couldn't touch it all."
"I deny offers for drinks all the time," Hassan said.
As they finished up their first set, they began to head over to the Lube's other restaurant, Tully's, where they would play a second set before heading to Grove City and then to New Castle.
Stauffer said he was looking forward to the New Castle show.
"It should be great," he said. "New Castle is a green town."
BY JOSIAH LOCKLEY