Attorney General William P. Barr broke out a set of bagpipes and jammed during a Justice Department conference Wednesday.

Mr. Barr grabbed the bagpipes and played a song alongside the Emerald Society of the New York Police Department’s pipe band, which had already begun performing.

The surprise performance occurred just moments before Mr. Barr addressed the U.S. Attorney’s Conference at the Justice Department’s headquarters in Washington.

“How’s that for an icebreaker?” Mr. Barr said, receiving loud applause from the crowd.

Later, Mr. Barr quipped that he uncovered his staff’s effort to surprise him by having the Emerald Society pipe band come to New York.

“As you know I’m very proficient at — dare I say the word — spying,” Mr. Barr joked.

He then said he planned “a counter-surprise” by playing the bagpipes himself.

The name “Barr” is common to this day in Scotland, the national home of the bagpipes. It is believed to be derived from the Scottish Gaelic word “barre,” meaning “a hill or other height,” and its earliest known use as a family name was in the western county of Ayrshire during the Middle Ages.

Mr. Barr said the last time he played the bagpipes was Dec. 8 at his daughter’s wedding.

The wedding occurred one day after his nomination was announced. He told the crowd that she joked he would “upstage her” at her at the wedding. And he responded that she is changing her last name just before “it is dragged through the mud.”

During the speech, he reaffirmed the department’s commitment to fighting violent crime, drugs and national security threats and to increasing border security.

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