Warble Family

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A Carrick family of musicians honors our fallen heroes, year after year

Starting in 1993, they perform moving tributes on Memorial Day

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

By Michael A. Fuoco, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Warble family.jpg Bob Donaldson/Post-GazetteThe Warble siblings (from left): Alexandra, Andrew, Adam and April.

Adam warble.jpg Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette Andrew Warble plays Amazing Grace on his bagpipes at South Side Riverfront Park.

They have been playing bagpipes and trumpet for the memorial services at 14 sites on Pittsburgh's South Side for years.Graying and stooped, their service more than a half century in the past, U.S. military veterans held steady their salutes for fallen comrades as veterans of a different sort and generation concluded the Memorial Day ceremony.

Trumpeter Adam Warble, 26, provided a moving taps. A distance away, his sister, Alexandra, 19, played a mournful taps echo. And then, their brother, Andrew, 24, offered a haunting "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes. A fourth sibling, April, 18, stood awaiting her turn to use musical talent as a sign of respect.

The Warble siblings are longtime veterans of honoring fallen veterans. Since 1993, at least one of them has performed at Memorial Day services in south Pittsburgh neighborhoods. And throughout the year, the Carrick residents play taps and "Amazing Grace" at veterans' funerals. They ask nothing for their time and talent.

In an age when misdeeds get more attention than good deeds, the Warble siblings are a reminder that at its best the American experience involves selflessness.

"It's just something to pay back the veterans who have done so much for this country," Alexandra said. "They put their lives on the line for us. It's the least we can do to put on a ceremony to honor them."

But it wasn't just one ceremony the Warbles participated in Monday, it was 14. Thirteen of those were sponsored by the South Side Hill Top Memorial Day Parade Committee, which in lieu of a parade laid wreaths and fired rifle salutes at various monuments and churches throughout south Pittsburgh neighborhoods. The services began at 8 a.m. at South Side Riverfront Park and moved throughout the South Side, Mount Oliver and Arlington before ending with a final ceremony at 11:30 a.m. at the bandstand in South Side Cemetery.

But after that, the Warbles had one more ceremony, at the American Legion Post 694 in Mount Oliver.

"It's something to give back to the veterans," Adam said Monday after playing the lead taps at Riverfront Park. "It's something we can do to say 'thank you' for what they've done."

Edward W. Skeehan of the parade committee said he and his fellow veterans are appreciative of the Warbles' service.

"The Warbles are a very patriotic family. They are unbelievable and everything they've done is without remuneration."

The tradition began with Adam, now an elementary school music teacher for Pittsburgh Public Schools. When he was 8 and a trumpeter himself, he was intrigued by the playing of taps at a Memorial Day service by a female Navy officer. The next year, she had been called to active duty and there was no one to play taps.

"I said, 'I'll do it,' and they told me to go home and get my trumpet. It's just happened every year since," he said.

Two years later, Andrew joined his brother and played the taps echo. Years later, the younger sisters joined in and the siblings began a tradition in which two of them play taps on the trumpet -- the lead and the echo -- and a third plays "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes. During the Memorial Day services, they switch which three play which instruments.

In addition to trumpet and bagpipes, the Warbles play a variety of other musical instruments. Adam and Andrew, both Eagle Scouts, each graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where they played in the band. Alexandra is a Pitt student and band member. April, who will graduate from Carrick High School next month, will join her sister at the university and in the band in the fall.

They come from a Carrick family where music, patriotism and volunteerism are important.

Their father, Barry, a veteran city medic, is a musician who plays several instruments. Their mother, Linda, sings in the St. Basil Church choir. The family has volunteered for community litter cleanups, garden plantings and, since 1999, at the Carrick Food Bank. Both of the Warble children's grandfathers served in World War II.

"We're very proud of what the veterans have done for our country, and my kids are very passionate about that," Mrs. Warble said.

Indeed, April's friends were going away for the holiday weekend as an adjunct to last week's Carrick High School prom, but she declined an invitation to join them because she felt a duty to perform at Monday's ceremonies.

"I wouldn't feel right going away," April said. "They are really nice guys and really appreciate all we do for them. It feels good to do it."

Andrew agreed: "I do look forward to spending my entire day doing this. ... I never realized when I started in fourth grade how much it means to these guys.

"It's very moving. It actually brings tears to my eyes. It makes me feel very good to honor them."

The final plaintive note from "Amazing Grace" drifted away. The veterans lowered their salutes. The Warbles moved on to the next ceremony.

First published on May 31, 2011 at 12:00 am

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