Performance credits: List of notable performances by bagpiper Eric Rigler
A legendary bagpipe player is scheduled to pay tribute to fallen San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremiah MacKay during his funeral Thursday at the San Manuel Amphitheater in Glen Helen Regional Park. Eric Rigler, a 49-year-old Torrance resident, has contributed his talent to movie soundtracks including "Titanic" and "Braveheart," and to Josh Groban's hit song "You Raise Me Up."
He also played "Amazing Grace" before sunset while accompanying President Ronald Reagan's coffin at his 2004 funeral.
"It's an honor," Rigler said, of playing at MacKay's service. "I was contacted by some of his colleagues."
MacKay, a 35-year-old husband and father of two, was killed Feb. 12 in a gun battle with Christopher Dorner in the San Bernardino Mountains.
A decorated detective who lived in Redlands, MacKay was a member of the Sheriff's Honor Guard who played bagpipes at the ceremonies for fallen officers.
Rigler has played bagpipes for 42 years. His parents adopted him, but he has Scottish and Irish bloodlines.
"It was the sound of the bagpipes I heard as a (boy)," Rigler said. "The sound was definitely something I thought was amazing."
Rigler has played at numerous funeral services for officers in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
He hasn't grown numb to providing the soundtrack to a family's most painful moments.
"It doesn't wear off," Rigler said. "It still means a lot to me when I go there to do what I do. I'm being requested to be there as a professional. I don't tend to let the issues bother me. I'm there to do a part. There are occasions, and I'm sure this is one, where it's very tragic, where you hold your head up and do your best."
He is accustomed to watching others melt at the spirit-piercing whine of the bagpipes.
"I've seen the toughest-looking, biggest police officers lose it at many services," he said. "They've come up to me and said `I thought I was gonna be tough until I heard you start playing.' So it definitely touches an emotional note in people."