BATTLE GROUND — Registered nurse Bev Lohrman was understandably worried about her new assignment in the intensive care unit at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.
“This whole coronavirus thing made me anxious about going to work,” she said. “In 20 years of nursing, I’ve never been so nervous.”
Across the street, a couple of Lohrman’s young neighbors were feeling nerves of a different sort. Twelve-year-old Logan Gillespie and 15-year-old Daniel Gillespie faithfully practice their bagpipes and snare drum indoors, but hate the idea of bothering anybody. So they were a bit chagrined last summer when Lohrman contacted their mom, asking whether that pipes-and-drums music was coming from their house.
“Please don’t stop,” Lohrman said. “I love the sound of the bagpipes and it’s so cool that these young guys are doing this.”
Logan fell in love with bagpipes on a family heritage trip to Scotland when he was 9, he said. All it took was witnessing a lone, proud piper on an Edinburgh street and he was hooked.
“There’s no instrument like it,” he said.
His brother, Daniel, was already a drummer. “I like how it provides the backbone for the music,” Daniel said.
For the past few years, the Gillespie brothers have been eager participants in the Portland Metro Youth Pipe Band. Their mom, Mistie Gillespie, said they were pretty disappointed when Pipe Band outings like the Portland Highland Games were canceled due the coronavirus pandemic.
“They are very dedicated,” she said. Her sons kept practicing anyway.
A few weeks ago, Gillespie heard that Lohrman’s new assignment was the night shift in the ICU at PeaceHealth. She texted her neighbor to ask if there was any way she could help, including silencing the noisy music.
“You are on the front lines. If there’s anything we can do, including Logan not practicing while you are trying to sleep, we’ll do it,” she suggested.
Lohrman’s response was emphatic: Crank it up! “This is a time you can bring smiles to people’s faces. Let the neighborhood enjoy your sons’ talent,” she said.
So the Gillespie boys’ father, Ryan, suggested they take the sound of Scotland out onto the street to honor Lohrman and her lifesaving labors. They timed their first brief concert to coincide with their neighbor’s departure for the night shift. Lohrman was feeling increasingly anxious as she got ready to go — until she heard the Gillespie brothers play “Amazing Grace.”
That was Lohrman’s late mother’s favorite song and the soundtrack to her funeral. When the Gillespie brothers played that song, what she heard was her mother telling her, “Everything is going to be OK.”
“It gave me a lot of confidence,” Lohrman said.
Mom turned out to be right. Lohrman’s overnight ICU shifts have gone better than she feared, and the Gillespie brothers’ weekly concerts have become popular neighborhood outings. Upwards of 40 people turned up — and maintained social distance — Wednesday evening while the brothers played an extra-long concert of four songs.
“They are both so good. We are really amazed,” said Bob Moody, who pushed his wife Mary over in her wheelchair from a couple of blocks away.
“It’s just nice to get out and hear the music and see the neighbors. It’s helpful,” Mary Moody said.
“It’s a scary time. It’s a dark time,” Logan said. “We all need a little more happiness.”
Therefore, he said, the concerts will continue — until somebody complains.
“The boys are so humble, they really had to be convinced they’re not annoying anybody,” said neighbor Kari Bryant. “Every time I hear them play ‘Amazing Grace’ it’s like, ‘OK, don’t cry.’”
Lohrman (who wasn’t actually headed for work Wednesday night) shared that feeling while standing on her porch, listening to the latest rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
“They are so great,” she said. “Every time I hear that song, I’m a mess.”