Every Friday, somber sounds of the bagpipes echo at a Waikiki memorial

It’s a way of honoring those lost to war.
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Updated: Jun. 16, 2020 at 6:03 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kim Greeley makes bagpipe playing look effortless. It isn’t.

"You have to build a person up physically," she said. "We can't change the pitch at all, and we can't stop either."

A piper has only nine notes to choose from while maintaining the mournful tone the bagpipe is famous for. That sound made her fall in love with the instrument.

"They call one of the notes, the F note, the crying note," she said.

Greeley started playing the pipes when she was 11, outlasting her father and brother.

"My brother never practiced. My dad never practiced. So I stole my brother's chanter and taught myself the first three tunes out of a book," she said.

Years of lessons from well-known bagpipe instructors followed. She studied for 10 years under Pipe Major Alexander MacDonald of the First Battalion Scots Guards.

“He was the personal piper for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II,” Greeley said.

One mentor taught her that a good piper must be a good musician and a good mechanic.

“There are all sorts of mechanical issues that can go wrong like leaking bags and reeds that go bad,” she said.

The wife of a retired Marine, Greeley has played her bagpipes at military funerals and Memorial Day gatherings at the National Cemetery of the Pacific and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

She's played at ceremonies for sailors of the USS Arizona.

"It makes me feel like I'm thanking them directly for my life and what I have in my life," she said.

For two years running, Greeley has played every Friday afternoon outside the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium to honor Hawaii service members who fought in World War I.

Onlookers also get a history lesson about the Natatorium..

"They want to know about the history, who exactly it honors, and what we're doing about restoring it. There's a lot of interest in that," she said.

Greeley also plays at happy events like parades and St. Patrick’s Day parties.

"On St. Patrick's Day we go over to our Irish side and do a lot of playing for crazy dancing in the streets. That's a lot of fun," she said.

Greeley leads the Celtic Kula Hawaii Pipe Band and is a bagpipe teacher, passing on her passion for the pipes that produce a unique sound of music.

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